Carbon afterlives: coal landscapes, addiction and the end of mining in Fife (2021)

Richard Denis Gerard Irvine and Dr Laura Roe, University of St Andrews

Image: Frances colliery © Dr Laura Roe

Project summary

This project examines the former mining landscape of Fife to understand the ongoing social relation with coal and the end of mining. It does so in the face of a moral dissonance: from the perspective of our planetary climate, the closure of mines, leaving fossil carbon in the ground, is an unquestionable good. Yet the impact of these closures is seen locally as a source of continued harm, the resulting lack of skilled employment and loss of identity having corrosive social effects.

By placing Fife’s industrial heritage in a deeper context – its economic geology – we will shed new light on the historical specificity of current social issues: in particular, Scotland continues to have the highest rate of drug-related deaths in Europe, roughly 3.5 times higher than the rest of the UK (National Records of Scotland 2020), with Fife recording the highest rate of deaths among problem drug users in a populous area, and the highest rate of cases where prescribable Benzodiazepines and painkillers contributed to the cause of death.

Working with a multi-disciplinary team and local practitioners and the local community within this landscape, we will focus on the historic roots of such problems, generating conversation about possible futures.

LRG’s funding will enable field workshops within the former mining landscape and workshops with its local community including former drug users in recovery. It will also fund a soundscape installation combining field records and sound archive material.

Image: © Dr Laura Roe