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TCD Provost's Award - Peat mining as an unwritten chapter in the fossil fuel age

Peat mining as an unwritten chapter in the fossil fuel age

Principal Investigator: Dr Katja Bruisch

How has the fossil fuel age transformed lives, identities and landscapes in places of fuel extraction? And how do these historical legacies shape present and future choices about the relationship between humans and the environment? This project explores a largely unknown chapter in the history of the fossil fuel age: industrial peat mining and its impact on the social and physical world. Through case studies from Ireland and the European part of Russia this research seeks to improve our understanding of the intertwined social and environmental dimensions of resource extraction and resource use and highlight the multiple manifestations of the fossil fuel age at national, regional and local levels.

The project pursues four main objectives:

1. To analyse how the production, transportation and consumption of peat fuel transformed rural regions;

2. To examine the link between the peat fuel industry in Russia and Ireland and visions of national development following WWI;

3. To conceptualize the rise of the fossil fuel age as both a local and global process;

4. To develop a historically informed understanding of the challenges facing efforts to implement sustainable uses of peatlands (including climate change-mitigation measures) in the present.

This project is funded through a Provost’s Project Award.

PhD student Lily Toomey will focus on the Irish case, analysing how in the 20th century historical actors negotiated their various, partly conflicting interests in peatlands; how industrial peat mining changed local environments and cultures; and how the intertwined histories of peat mining and rural development shape the prospects of transitioning to post-extractionist futures in Ireland.