Directors: Doug Hawes-Davis, Drury Gunn Carr
Synopsis (PBS): Libby, Montana is first of all the story of an ideal American community in what early explorers called “the land of the shining mountains.” Nestled below the rugged peaks of the Northern Rockies along the crystal-clear Kootenai River, Libby is the archetypal backpacker’s, hunter’s and angler’s paradise, as well as a picture-perfect example of the American wilderness that environmentalists want to save. At the same time, the town’s remoteness and its logging and mining economy nurtured conservative, self-reliant family and community values.
But Libby, Montana is also the story of an ideal betrayed in a way that crosses political lines and raises alarming questions about the role of corporate power in American politics and the environmental pollution that extracts its highest costs from ordinary citizens. In Libby, 70 years of strip-mining an ore called “vermiculite” and marketed as the wonder material “Zonolite” exposed workers, their families and thousands of residents to a toxic form of asbestos, creating what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called the worst case of industrial poisoning of a whole community in American history.