Filmmaker Adam Levy was commissioned by DeSmog UK to visit local residents living with the UK‘s newest coal mine in Pont Valley, County Durham. He reflects on his experience making the documentary.
As a climate and science journalist with a doctorate in atmospheric physics, I think about fossil fuels a lot. I think about the gases they release when burned and the impact this will have on the global climate. I think about fossil fuels in numbers: the gigatonnes that we continue to dig up today and the temperature rises that burning these fuels will lead to.
But I tend not to think about the actual physical fuels themselves.
The phrase ‘keep it in the ground’ has always resonated with me – I know we need to stop extracting and burning fossil fuels if we’re going to stop the world from warming. But what are the impacts of actually extracting fossil fuels from the ground in the first place?
It was a great privilege to look at one answer to that question. In County Durham, in the North East of England, an opencast coal mine has recently opened. I travelled up to make a short documentary on how two local residents have been impacted. Both fought hard against the opening of the mine, and are still coming to terms with its effects on their lives.
It was surreal for me to see something that I have considered so much in the abstract – a coal mine – in cold, grey reality. And it was surreal to know that at a time when the world needs to be moving away from coal – the dirtiest of the fossil fuels – my country has permitted a new mine to be opened. I hope this film helps us understand the global and local impacts of coal just a little more clearly.