Publications & Reviews

A green extractivist railway? Exploring the political ecology of Europe’s largest infrastructure project

Abstract: 'Environmentalists' tend to enthusiastically embrace new railway projects as desirable alternatives to more carbon-intensive aviation and road infrastructures. Yet, across Europe and beyond, communities and campaigners have resisted the building of high-speed railway projects and the violence they entail. The UK government's High-Speed Two (HS2) trainline, currently under construction, is one such project – Europe's biggest infrastructure project since World War II. While the British government continues to defend HS2 as 'green' and necessary, the project comes at enormous ecological and social costs, cutting through over one hundred ancient woodlands, exceeding its budget, and necessitating the eviction and resettlement of human and nonhuman communities along the line. Drawing on recent work in (anarchist) political ecology, (green) extractivism, and infrastructural colonization, and embedded in the history of colonial railways and extractivism, this article argues that the project should be conceptualized as a green extractivist megaproject. In the face of determined opposition, HS2 serves to profit the British construction industry, political (economic) elites, wealthy commuters, and the City of London, and to uphold 'zero-carbon' imaginaries while expected to exacerbate the North-South divide and degrade environments. Green extractivist megaprojects, this case study shows, can reproduce the same injustices, violences, and social and ecological harms as other types of industrial developments.

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