COLLABORATORS: Sekhar Bhattacharyya, Benjamin Bishop, Audrey Buck, Ken Davis, David Dekok, Nicoletta Filippidou, Daniel Lopatka, Natasha Miles, Scott Richardson, Ashley Shade, Can Sucuoğlu, Emily Weinert, Cynthia White, Xi Jin, Mary Ann Victoria Bruns, Penn State Microbiome Center

Rouse Gallery
January 30 - March 4, 2022
The Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Penn State University

This project explores the vertical nature of the environment through the intimate relation existing between the economies of extraction and climate change. Human action ignited the Buck Mountain anthracite vein in Centralia in 1962. As a result, the former abandoned mines will continue smoldering in the following decades if not centuries. Far from unique catastrophic events, coal mine fires are a constant in human history. However, the number and impact of these fires increased significantly during industrialization, releasing methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur, and particles to the atmosphere on a regular basis. Together, they contribute to the greenhouse effect responsible for climate change and global pollution affecting the planet. Given the difficulties to file liabilities and to measure the effects of these fires, they usually fall under the category of unmitigated risk.

In addition to aboveground effects, resulting in the abandonment of the nearby urban settlements, coal mine fires change dramatically the microbiota of the soil of the region, activating dormant microbes due to changes in underground temperatures.This proposal aims at visualizing the complex nature of human and non-human environmental interactions departing from the case of Centralia.

Dysfunctional Safety Lamp, on location in Centralia, PA