How Brown-Coal Mining Affects the Lives of Older Long-Time Inhabitants of the German Lusatia Region

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 1:15 PM
Room: F205
Oral Presentation
Bernadette JONDA , Sociology, Martin-Luther-University , 06108 Halle, Germany
Not only the profound shock of events such as war that can shake societal structures and with that throw people of every age off their accustomed paths. Also events like natural catastrophes (floods, fires, storms) can threaten people’s physical and spiritual health.

Another different form of serious influence on human lives is represented by events that emerge neither as a result of war nor through the forces of nature, but solely through the decision-making power of hierarchies. As when the Olympic Games required new sports venues to be built, and whole city quarters had to be flattened, or superhighway construction causes many houses or even whole localities to disappear, a severe, all-encompassing form of violent intervention acts on and against the existence of the people living in these areas. It is the same for people who live in mineral-rich regions.

In my contribution I examine the influence of renewed coal strip-mining and the resettlements necessitated by it on the lives of older people in the Lusatia region. Many of them will soon have to experience being uprooted from their homes for the third time in their lives – after the first time in the Second World War, then in consequence of strip-mining in GDR times, and now through renewed plans to mine extensively on what they thought was an area secure from future extraction.

How do older people react to the loss of their familiar environment? How does the necessity of resettlement affect their health, spiritual well-being as well as their sense of security in old age? What strategies do they develop to face the impending physical and mental effects of the threatened uprooting? The variety of responses to these questions – based on my research interviews carried out from 2010 in the region – is formulated in my presentation.