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Bureaucratic land grabbing for infrastructural colonization: renewable energy, L’Amassada, and resistance in southern France


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Governments and corporations exclaim that “energy transition” to “renewable energy” is going to mitigate ecological catastrophe. French President Emmanuel Macron makes such declarations, but what is the reality of energy infrastructure development? Examining the development of a distributional energy transformer substation in the village of Saint-Victor-et-Melvieu, this article argues that “green” infrastructures are creating conflict and ecological degradation and are the material expression of climate catastrophe. Since 1999, the Aveyron region of southern France has become a desirable area of the so-called renewable energy development, triggering a proliferation of energy infrastructure, including a new transformer substation in St. Victor. Corresponding with this spread of “green” infrastructure has been a 10-year resistance campaign against the transformer. In December 2014, the campaign extended to building a protest site, and ZAD, in the place of the transformer called L’Amassada. Drawing on critical agrarian studies, political ecology, and human geography literatures, the article discusses the arrival process of the transformer, corrupt political behavior, misinformation, and the process of bureaucratic land grabbing. This also documents repression against L’Amassada and their relationship with the Gilets Jaunes “societies in movement.” Finally, the notion of infrastructural colonization is elaborated, demonstrating its relevance to understanding the onslaught of climate and ecological crisis.
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1Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo,
Corresponding Author:
Alexander Dunlap, Centre for Development and the Environment,
University of Oslo, 0315 Oslo, Norway.
Email: alexander. dunlap@ sum. uio. no
Original Research Article
Human Geography
00(0) 1–18
© The Author(s) 2020
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DOI: 10.1177/1942778620918041
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Bureaucratic land grabbing for
infrastructural colonization: renewable
energy, L’Amassada, and resistance in
southern France
Alexander Dunlap1
Governments and corporations exclaim that “energy transition” to “renewable energy” is going to mitigate ecological ca-
tastrophe. French President Emmanuel Macron makes such declarations, but what is the reality of energy infrastructure
development? Examining the development of a distributional energy transformer substation in the village of Saint- Victor- et-
Melvieu, this article argues that “green” infrastructures are creating conflict and ecological degradation and are the material
expression of climate catastrophe. Since 1999, the Aveyron region of southern France has become a desirable area of the
so- called renewable energy development, triggering a proliferation of energy infrastructure, including a new transformer
substation in St. Victor. Corresponding with this spread of “green” infrastructure has been a 10- year resistance campaign
against the transformer. In December 2014, the campaign extended to building a protest site, and ZAD, in the place of the
transformer called L’Amassada. Drawing on critical agrarian studies, political ecology, and human geography literatures, the
article discusses the arrival process of the transformer, corrupt political behavior, misinformation, and the process of bu-
reaucratic land grabbing. This also documents repression against L’Amassada and their relationship with the Gilets Jaunes
“societies in movement.” Finally, the notion of infrastructural colonization is elaborated, demonstrating its relevance to un-
derstanding the onslaught of climate and ecological crisis.
climate change, development, infrastructure colonization, land grabbing, renewable energy, resistance
El acaparamiento burocrático de tierras para la colonización infraestructural: energías
renovables, L'Amassada y resistencia en el sur de Francia
Los gobiernos y las corporaciones exclaman que la "transición energética" a la "energía renovable" va a mitigar la catástrofe
ecológica. El presidente francés Emmanuel Macron hace tales declaraciones, pero ¿cuál es la realidad del desarrollo de la in-
fraestructura energética? Examinando el desarrollo de una subestación transformadora distribuidora de energía en el pueblo
de Saint- Victor- et- Melvieu, este artículo argumenta que las infraestructuras "verdes" están creando conflictos y degradación
ecológica y son la expresión material de catástrofe climática. Desde 1999, la región de Aveyron en el sur de Francia se ha
convertido en un área deseable del mentado desarrollo de energías renovables, que ha desencadenado una proliferación de
infraestructura energética, incluido una nueva subestación
transformadora en San Víctor. Debido a esta expansión de
la infraestructura "verde”, se ha dado una campaña de re-
sistencia de 10 años contra la subestación. En diciembre de
2014, la campaña se extendió a la construcción de un sitio
de protesta, y ZAD, en el lugar del transformador llamado
L’Amassada. Basándose en estudios agrarios críticos, ecología
política y literatura de geografía humana, el artículo analiza
Human Geography 00(0)
el proceso de llegada del transformador, el comportamiento
político corrupto, la información errónea y el proceso buro-
crático del acaparamiento de tierras. Esto también documenta
la represión contra L'Amassada y su relación con los Gilets
Jaunes, “sociedades en movimiento". Finalmente, se elabora la
noción de colonización infraestructural, lo que demuestra su
relevancia para comprender la embestida de la crisis climática
y ecológica.
Palabras clave
Cambio climático, desarrollo, colonización infraestructural, aca-
paramiento de tierras, energía renovable, resistencia
On November 15, 2017, at the Conference of the Parties
(COP) 23, the French President Emmanuel Macron outlined
“four priorities” for his battle plan to combat “climate
change” and usher in “environmental transition.”
First priority, to foster and to participate actively in the
nancing of all the interconnections we need between
Germany and France, and also between France with Ireland,
Benelux [Belgium- Netherlands- Luxembourg], Italy and
Portugal. These interconnections will guarantee better use of
renewable energy resources [and] … the acceleration in the
reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases.1
Macron continues by asserting a €3 price oor for CO2 in
Europe, trade policy meeting environmental commitments
and joint transnational research on energy storage to make
renewables a “non- intermittent” energy source.2 Implicit in
Macron’s speech is that “renewable energy,” market- based
mechanisms, transnational energy grids, and technological
development are essential weapons in his so- called “battle
plan” against climate change.
The neoliberal environmental policy mechanisms
espoused by Macron, including biofuels (Borras et al., 2010;
Hunsberger et al., 2017), tree plantations (González- Hidalgo
and Zografos, 2017; Overbeek et al., 2012), conservation
enclosures (Büscher et al., 2012; Dunlap and Sullivan, 2019),
and energy development schemes (Avila, 2018; Dunlap,
2019a; Franquesa, 2018; Siamanta, 2019), are spreading
conicts by grabbing land for “sustainable development”
projects. Environmental policy focus “should not only be on
the climatic events,” write Mirumachi et al. (2019: 8–9), “but
also on the interventions to deal with climate change, whether
for mitigation or adaption.” Examining the construction of
“green” energy infrastructure in southern France, this article
examines France’s environmental mitigation “battle plan”—
with its proposed transnational grid “interconnection”—
arguing that it will spread conict and socioecological
The “green” infrastructure examined in this article is a
substation transformer, which is an interface that distributes,
transfers, and controls the ow of electrical grid networks.
Since 2009, politicians, administrators, and the service com-
pany Réseau de Transport d'Électricité (RTE)/Electricity
Transmission Network have planned to build a 400,000 V
energy transformer substation in the hamlet of Saint- Victor-
et- Melvieu, located close to Millau (Figure 1). RTE, as a
subsidiary of Électricité de France/Electricity of France
(EDF),3 has been developing the project without the knowl-
edge or the consent of the local population or the property
owners whose parcels overlap with the project site, like
Marie- Bénédicte Vernhet. Presenting her concern, she
When you see the advertisements on TV saying: “our energy
is green!” Is it “green?” We do not experience it as green be-
cause everywhere we see massive amounts of concrete com-
ing in for the wind turbines and this awful transformer that
is being built on top of the power lines and high voltage line
that we already have. We already had cancer in the village
around here. So what will it be like with a big transformer?
We feel like complete victims as well because the [old] may-
or and all of them [politicians] have decided rst that they
will allow these projects to settle here without asking us, let
alone telling us.4
Marie identies the presence of hypocrisy through infra-
structural materiality, illnesses caused by existing energy
infrastructure, and victimization of the hamlet’s inhabitants
Figure 1. Map of France, the Aveyron Department, and electrical
infrastructure. Source: Wiki Commons & RTE.
Dunlap 3
by politicians. In 2010, these factors propelled a legal cam-
paign against the transformer, or transfo as it is called locally.
Sustained direct action began in December 2014 with the
establishment of a protest site (Presidio) in the place of the
transformer: La Libre Commune de L’Amassada (Figure 2).
Since the imposition of the substation through claims of cli-
mate change mitigation and energy transition, a conict has
taken hold of the region.
Investigating the transformer, the theoretical and disci-
plinary inuences are extensive. Contributing to the political
ecology of the Global North (Brock and Dunlap, 2018;
Schroeder et al., 2006), this article argues that climate change
mitigation and energy transition are indeed a “battle” against
the environment. This “battle” on the ground, understood
broadly to include the human and nonhuman inhabitants
(Springer et al., forthcoming), is complex and remains cen-
tral to understanding the infrastructural development in
southern Aveyron. Focusing on the birth and early proces-
sual life of an energy transformer (Anand et al., 2018), this
article examines how energy infrastructure’s national, or
proclaimed ecological, “signicance” is used to justify land
grabbing and “prioritize some interests and scales over oth-
ers” (Bridge et al., 2018: 2; Huber, 2015). This includes side-
lining and politically constructing territorial struggles as
not- in- my- backyard (NIMBY) to defuse their extensive con-
cerns (Dunlap, 2019a; Lake, 1993). Infrastructural research
intersects with critical agrarian studies work on land grab-
bing (White et al., 2012), specically with renewed interests
in farmland grabbing in the European Union (Kay, 2016).
Oppositional residents describe infrastructural development
as “a type” of “new” “colonization” leading to the elabora-
tion and development of the term infrastructural
Fieldwork in Aveyron was conducted between March
2018 and July 2019. Participant observation and semistruc-
tured and informal interviewing were employed on three vis-
its to the region, resulting in 32 semistructured recorded
interviews and over 25 informal interviews. There were 30
dierent people interviewed, including interviews conducted
with landowners, mayors, civil servants, and various land
defenders. The St. Victor Mayor, the concerned property’s
land owner, and select land defenders were interviewed
twice, in March– April 2018 and 2019. Secondary and pri-
mary resources were collected: newspaper articles, company
brochures, documentary lms, recorded consultation ses-
sions, and St. Victor town hall’s RTE archive. Most of the
names of the land defenders are anonymized, using cat-
related names to honor L’Amassada’s reoccurring cat theme.
The following section revisits critical agrarian studies
and political ecology literatures to discuss bureaucratic
land grabbing, territorialization, and infrastructural coloni-
zation. The second section begins by framing territorial
struggles in France and the precursors of L’Amassada. The
third section details the arrival process of the transformer,
corrupt political behavior, misinformation, and the process
of bureaucratic land grabbing. The fourth section docu-
ments the repression against L’Amassada, which includes
discussing their relationship with the Gilets Jaunes “societ-
ies in movement” (Zibechi, 2012). This leads, in the next
section, to developing the notion of infrastructural coloni-
zation and its relevance for understanding climate and eco-
logical crisis. The article concludes by asserting that
Macron’s “battle plan” is perversely targeting the environ-
ment by expanding and intensifying infrastructural coloni-
zation, which is the material expression of ecological and
climate catastrophe.
Figure 2. Free commune of L’Amassada: “No to the transformer.” Source: Benoît Sanchez.
Human Geography 00(0)
Infrastructural colonization: “large,
imposed, and useless” territorialization
Land grabbing is the control and capture of land and natural
resources. This involves resource transfers supported by var-
ious international, national, and local collaborations, which
necessitates various forms of “hard” coercion and “soft”
technologies of social pacication (Dunlap, 2019c). This
entails “utilizing a diversity of coercive and/or deceptive tac-
tics to achieve resource control” that are also essential to
ecological distribution conicts (Dunlap, 2017: 18).
Struggles over the distribution of land, natural resources, and
environmental burdens are considered ecological distribu-
tion conicts (Scheidel et al., 2018), which are fueled by cul-
tural and ontological disagreements. Arturo Escobar (2008:
14) recognizes culture as essential to ecological distribution
conicts as “economic crises are ecological crises are cul-
tural crises.” Mario Blaser (2013: 15) describes “political
ontology” as “whichever cultural perspective gains the upper
hand will determine the access to, use of and relation to ‘the
thing’ at stake.” Ontological and cultural relationships to
environments become central factors of environmental
Green grabbing represents eco- ontological distribution
conicts carried out in the name of environmentalism or sus-
tainable development. Originally focused on the impact of
biodiversity conservation, ecotourism, and carbon sequestra-
tion (Corson et al., 2013; Fairhead et al., 2012), this term
also applies to the new resource valuations of hydro, wind,
and solar resources (Avila, 2018; Dunlap, 2017, 2019a;
Franquesa, 2018; Siamanta, 2017, 2019). This article
acknowledges the proliferation of (unsustainable) energy
infrastructure—high- voltage power lines, substations, con-
trol centers, smart technologies, and so on—justied in the
name of the so- called “renewable energy” or “fossil fuel+”
infrastructures (Dunlap, 2018d). Fossil fuel+ recognizes that
renewable energy” necessitates hydrocarbons to extract
large quantities of minerals and hydrocarbons, to process
metals, manufacture various components (Hickel, 2019;
Sovacool et al., 2020; Zehner, 2012), as well as for its trans-
portation and operation of—the +”—energy- harnessing
infrastructure: vital wind, solar, and water resources.
Land/green grabbing, however, does not “necessarily
imply that a transaction is illegal,” writes Sylvia Kay (2016:
4); “many controversial land deals may be ‘perfectly legal’
from a strict law enforcement perspective but considered
illegitimate.” Strict legal interpretation “misses the way in
which powerful actors can shape the law to their advantage”
(Kay, 2016: 4). Bureaucratic land grabbing highlights this
issue, observing processual acts of self- legitimizing, meth-
ods, and practices of democratic authoritarianism exercised
over land and people (Dunlap, 2019b). Bureaucratic land/
green grabbing emphasizes the procedural legitimization of
land theft and examines how unpopular and environmentally
destructive development projects are permitted, which could
be called the democratic conquest of nature. Conventional
energy infrastructures blur the line between land and green
grabbing and are frequently branded as “green” regardless of
various negative socioecological impacts (EC (European
Commission), 2018). Energy infrastructure often leads to
“land articialization” of smallholder farmland (Kay, 2016:
17), which in St. Victor is described as colonization.
Colonization politicizes the process of land territorializa-
tion. The territorialization literature details the intimate
sociopolitical practices of land control (Peluso and Lund,
2011) and exemplies continuity with the colonial process
(Lund, 2016, 2019). Temporal periodization, however, with
“colonial territorialization,” discursively separates continu-
ous processes of land control and degradation organized by
states and their economies (Rasmussen and Lund, 2018:
394). “Colonization,” as a term, implicitly politicizes and
takes a position against the colonial model or the state
(Dunlap, 2018c, 2019a). The state is a highly developed
(computational) evolution of the colonial model (Dunlap and
Jakobsen, 2020; Gelderloos, 2017). Understanding the state
this way can relate to Indigenous struggles for self-
determination and autonomy; their rejection of state legiti-
macy; its modes of political organization and corresponding
methods of extractivism (Churchill, 2003; Dunlap, 2018c),
which extends to dissident non- Indigenous people. Individual
self- identication with state- building, nationalist mythology,
governmental sociocultural engineering, and resource
extraction become central issues (Dunlap, 2018c, 2019c;
Dunlap and Jakobsen, 2020). The state organizes the frame-
work of public–private development, while infrastructural
development is the material manifestation of the colonial/
statist project (Anand et al., 2018; Bridge et al., 2018;
Murrey, 2020). Industrial infrastructures replicate colonial/
statist sociocultural values in the local. In northwest Italy, the
NoTAV movement confronted an infrastructural knowledge/
power regime—a high- speed train (TAV)—that was referred
to as an “infrastructural dispositif” (Leonardi, 2013: 35).
This is the statist and market- oriented material, social, and
political apparatus as well as its corresponding ideological
dogma embodied within infrastructures, expressed in the
equation: “infrastructure = modernization = economic
growth” (Leonardi, 2013). Infrastructure development,
regardless of popular contestation, is always positioned as
the “higher” or national good (Bridge et al., 2018; Huber,
2015). Infrastructures, then, are desired for various—real
and imagined—reasons (Anand et al., 2018; Dalakoglou and
Harvey, 2012), which is where power resides and conicts
While neglecting various analytical “ruptures” (Lund,
2016), colonization discursively challenges the organiza-
tional and structural violence associated with infrastructural
development. Colonial processes are viewed without tempo-
ral or spatial boundaries and are marked by socioecologi-
cally degrading actions by various actors and sociopolitical
regimes. This perspective draws continuity between
Dunlap 5
infrastructures and political regimes, recognizing an infra-
structural “colonial present” both north and south of the
globe. This framing decenters the industrial and infrastruc-
tural dogma normalized into everyday life, which also
extends in academic habitus and research. The next section
turns to the history of political struggle in the Aveyron
Aveyron and territorial struggle in France
Aveyron is a county within the Occitanie region of southern
France. This rural area has been historically “suspicious” of
foreigners and regarded as “backwards” by government
bureaucrats (Weber, 1976: 44–45). It consists geographically
of forest- covered rocky hills, interspersed with lively streams
and the Tarn River. Known for its inhospitable environmen-
tal conditions, this region was exclusively on an agrarian
subsistence economy (MTC, 2019; Weber, 1976), which
continues today, although its economic activities have now
diversied into tourism, slaughterhouses, and artisanal crafts
and service industries. Aveyron is France’s largest producer
of sheep, where dairy products and beef account for 40% of
the agricultural market.5 It is also home to the world-
renowned Roquefort cheese, which is an essential source of
employment in the region. Its energy production has relied
primarily on hydroelectric resources. Since 1999, it has
become a desirable location for wind energy development
(Nadaï and Labussière, 2009). Since then, as Nadaï and
Labussière (2009: 747) tell us, “there has been a growing
opposition to wind power” that has only intensied over
time. However, determined political struggles in the region
are rooted in a much longer history, which in recent times we
can trace to the Larzac military base in southern Aveyron.
On October 28, 1971, French Defense Minister Michel
Debré announced its expansion by 14,000 hectares (Terral,
2011). This project threatened the expropriation of sheep
grazing land—many associated with Roquefort industries—
and triggered what would become a 10- year transnational
antimilitarism campaign on the Larzac Plateau. People
migrated from all over France to support the struggle as it
became a site of international solidarity, serving as a precur-
sor to the process of transnational “summit hopping” associ-
ated with the antiglobalization movement (Sullivan, 2005).
The ZAD (Zone- to- Defend) movement inherited and
advanced Larzac’s legacy (Quadruppani, 2018; Vidalou,
2017). The Larzac struggle had two important inuential
aspects. The rst is the migratory and circulating transna-
tional solidarity networks of resistance, among them anti-
mining and airport struggles in New Caledonia and Japan
(Terral, 2011), respectively. The inux of people coming
from outside of the region inuenced local farmers to become
“open- minded and ready to contribute to wider struggles”
(Gildea and Tompkins, 2015: 582). An important observa-
tion, Gildea and Tompkins (2015: 584) note, was that the
“success of the Larzac campaign depended on the sheep
farmers co- operating with outsiders who had more organiza-
tional power and experience.”
The second was the employment of the term “internal col-
onization” to describe the military base expansion. The
1960s’ revolutionary fervor, especially of the Maoist and
Marxist- Leninist types, was heavily inuenced by anticolo-
nial struggles. Revolutionary solidarity led to identifying not
only common enemies, but also common politicospatial
dynamics. This came in the form of realizing that “peripheral
parts of Europe were also being ‘colonized’ by more
advanced industrial regions in the core of the European
Community” (Gildea and Tompkins, 2015: 589). Investments
were pouring into industrial and urban areas, meanwhile the
countryside—in many instances—were being depopulated,
pillaged, and used as the playground for foreign bureaucrats
and politicians (Gildea and Tompkins, 2015). The term inter-
nal colonization then came to highlight dynamics taking
place between cities and the countryside. Local folklore, lan-
guage, and culture of Occitanism was historically assimi-
lated and suppressed by French state building (MTC, 2019;
Vidalou, 2017), which now is recognized as an important
In French, the term ZAD originally stands for “deferred
development area” (zone d'aménagement différé). This sig-
nied the demarcation and reservation of land for a develop-
ment project. The rst recognized ZAD was in
Notre- Dame- des- Landes. In the mid- 2000s, a 1970’s airport
plan began to be implemented, resulting in various segments
of the population organizing to thwart the displacement and
defend the farmlands of local landowners. People refused to
leave and began converting the “deferred development area”
into a “zone- to- defend” (zone à defendre) (MTC, 2018
[2016]). Refusing displacement and land transformation,
people not only sought to resist the airport construction, but
initiated a pregurative collective autonomous project of
ecological protection and food autonomy (MTC, 2018
[2016]). It was not just about the airport, but as the slogan
goes: “Against an Airport & its World,” a world predicated
on capitalist relationships and destructive ecological prac-
tices. The Notre- Dame- des- Landes ZAD lived through mul-
tiple police–military occupations and demolitions and, now,
has succeeded in terminating the airport project in 2017
(Anonymous, 2019). The ZAD concept simultaneously
spread, igniting a movement of autonomous land projects
blocking development projects, that Le Monde (2015)
claimed totaled 27 in France. ZADs were formed to ght
high- tension wires, highways, dams (Sivens), nuclear waste
dumps (Bure), ecotourism (Roybon), and more (Quadruppani,
2018). While resistance movements like the ones in Larzac
and Plogo remain important inspirations, the Zapatista
struggle in Chiapas was also a foundational inuence.6 From
the Narritia antiairport struggle in Japan7 (1960s) to Álvaro
Obregón/Gui’Xhi’Ro’s struggle against wind parks in
Mexico (Dunlap, 2018b), the ZAD concept has a profound
Human Geography 00(0)
anity with generational territorial struggles across the
world. L’Amassada’s antitransformer struggle falls within
this constellation of autonomous land defense collectives.
The transformer: corruption, land
grabbing, and consultations
The small hamlet of St. Victor- et- Melvieu, with a population
just under 400 people (INSEE, 2016), was engulfed in a
political crisis. “I was a municipal councilor in 2007 and in
2010,” explains Carole, “the mayor told us in a meeting
about a small solar project on the hill.” She and the other 10
town councilors voted against and denied the project, yet
“afterwards the city published a meeting report for council-
ors…, announcing: ‘We refused the construction of a solar
panel park as a way not to disturb the future construction of
a transformer.’” Carole was shocked. The mayor “did not ask
for our view on the matter and did not show us any les or
reports mentioning this project.” Carole, and another mem-
ber of the town council, called a meeting with Daniel
Frayssinhes—the St. Victor mayor from 2008 to 2014—and
“he refused and didn’t want to share information with the
inhabitants.” Only 3 of the 11 town councilors were ocially
against the transformer because, according to Carole, they
“didn’t want to contradict the mayor or conrm that he was
wrong in his actions” because they “might also receive some
benets for their loyalty, like getting construction permits
easily.” Carole confronted Frayssinhes and asked “why he
was hiding this from us and he answered that the director of
RTE told the mayor to keep quiet about it because otherwise
there would be protest from the inhabitants. He was honest
about it.”8 By signing a contract with RTE, Frayssinhes had
“violated procedures.”9 Private transformer agreements took
place between friends, among them Senator Alain Marc and
local industrialists, in and outside the town council.
The denied solar project would have had the same loca-
tion as the transformer. The father of Marie—the land-
owner—was the mayor of St. Victor for 18 years, during
which Frayssinhes was his protégé. Marie’s father was sick
with cancer when he heard the news and was infuriated. The
contract was signed, discord fermented, and Marie’s father
would pass away within 12 months. The Vernhet family’s
land was chosen, according to RTE (2017: 1), for strategic
reasons: “the 400,000 and 225,000 volt networks intersect in
one place: at Saint- Victor- et- Melvieu. It is the best place to
link the two networks by a new ‘interchange.’” Moreover,
“[t]he substation is a strategic node for locally redistributing
energy from national lines” (emphasis added). RTE (2019),
at the same time, on the same webpage, writes:
By 2030, 40% of our electricity will have to be renewable.
Wind, solar, geothermal or methanation are all new energies
to connect to electricity networks. Occitanie has all the assets
to become one of the leading regions in terms of production
from renewable energies.
As a result, RE production is expected to be around 3,000
MW. The 225,000- volt electricity transmission system in
Aveyron, Tarn and Hérault will have to be able to accom-
modate this additional production and transport it to major
consumption centers.
Local here then comes to mean Occitanie region, which
comprises 13 departments, including Toulouse and
Montpellier (Delga, 2017). The “strategic node” and “local”
renewable energy development are the main justications for
the transformer.
St. Victor’s current mayor Jean Capel asserts:
The persons who are in favor of this project all agree to build
it near St. Victor and embrace the project, but they refused it
in the rst place to locate the construction on their grounds.
And this makes me think that there is a great deal of passive
corruption concerning the transformer.10
RTE strategic node is positioned on the border with
another district; meanwhile Melvieu residents (living near
the existing transformer) pressured politicians to place the
transformer in St. Victor. It also relates to tax income dis-
putes and political maneuvering with the idea of “the
Community of Communes.” St. Victor is a wealthy village
with 13 dierent power lines, a hundred pylons, and 2 major
infrastructures (substation and dam) that annually aords its
payments of roughly €500,000 from hydrological resources
and €100,000 from electrical infrastructures.11 Senator Alain
Marc created the Community of Communes, to organize ve
nearby villages into one administrative organization, in order
to “alleviate the nancial constraints of the poor villages.”
People contend, however, that this served Marc’s political
ambitions as the Community of Communes was a tax redis-
tribution scheme that could gain “the support of some may-
ors.”12 After January 2018 a “unique taxation” scheme
emerged, organizing village revenues into the Community of
Communes’ fund, which managed an unfavorable redistribu-
tion system for St. Victor, leading them to withdraw from the
organization.13 NIMBY concerns, the redrawing of tax lines,
and territorial jurisdictions were also embedded political fac-
tors that played into the transformer placement.
The fact that the elected representatives withheld infor-
mation and approved the transformer without a public con-
sultation provoked generalized outrage. Carole and others
began organizing “a petition in 2010 against the project and
it turned out that 80% of the villagers were against” the
transformer.14 After the petition, the civil society group
Plateau Survolté (Overvolted Plateau) was formed. Having
an association enabled them to le lawsuits against compa-
nies, initiating a self- funded information and legal campaign
against RTE. By 2013 the legal campaign was becoming
Dunlap 7
Opposition and legalized expropriation
The legal avenue of protest proved to be restrictive. Not only
were private energy developers supportive of the project, but
so were senators and local mayors. By 2006 there were
already 246 wind turbines and 53 construction permits
granted in Aveyron (Nadaï and Labussière, 2009).
Documenting the governance framework for renewable
energy in Aveyron, Nadaï and Labussière (2009: 752)
observe “wind power planning became more open to devel-
opers than to other parties.” The “institutionalization of rev-
enue sharing with local communities through taxes,” Nadaï
and Labussière (2009: 752) assert, “has undermined the
power of local opposition” in favor of wind developers and
politically ambitious politicians.
While Plateau Survolté was spreading information and
organizing legal defense, the ZAD struggle in France was
gaining momentum. The struggle in Notre- Dame- des-
Landes was intensifying, while outside Toulouse, in Sivens,
another ZAD emerged to block a dam project. The Sivens
struggle was violently repressed and led to the murder of
21- year- old Rémi Fraisse by “ash ball” stun grenade in
October 2014 (Quadruppani, 2018).15 Some people from
neighboring towns, like St. Arique and Camarès, “began
going to the weekly or monthly meetings” in St. Victor and
they said: “Wow, this is great what you are doing, but maybe
at some moment we need to occupy the land where the trans-
former is going to be built.” Almost everybody agreed.16
They began organizing themselves with Plateau Survolté
and members of the Vernhet family: “We talked with them
and thought about building an occupation site on their land,
where the transformer is supposed to be. Then three months
later we launched this project”—L’Amassada, which means
“assembly” in Occitanie.17 The construction of a communal
house began in December 2014 on an exposed and windy
hilltop and within 3 months the rst structure of L’Amassada
had sprouted. L’Amassada began as a presidio (protest site).
The term presidio comes from the NoTAV movement
(Leonardi, 2013; MTC (2018 [2016]) and signies a com-
mon space for events, discussions, and organizational activi-
ties. L’Amassada’s construction was not appreciated by RTE
and led to a law suit against Marie’s aunt. Initially
L’Amassada served as a common space for meetings, events,
and “artisanal” workshops. Nemesh remembers L’Amassada
as a space with “sometimes just boring meetings every
Saturday that” were “really cold and you are suering,” but
at the same time “you are really proud.”18 By 2018,
L’Amassada expanded to three building structures with a
kitchen space, a cobb dorm room, and a meeting hall, with
caravans, dry toilets, a solar shower, a greenhouse, gardens
that used a phytopurication system, chickens, cats, and a
microscale artisanal wind turbine (Figure 2).
Plateau Survolté and L’Amassada underline the three
principal problems of the transformer project: rst, land
grabbing and the intensication of energy infrastructure in
St. Victor; second, the transformer will enable an increase in
the wind, solar, and biomass colonization of Aveyron, in
order to become “energy positive” (Delga, 2017); and third,
its energy use. The transformer, they argue, will not serve for
local use but for distant large cities, which includes forming
an energy corridor or “highway” between North Africa and
the EU (Trieb et al., 2016). Overall, there is a complete and
utter disbelief in the discourse of “energy transition” as a
solution to ecological catastrophe. The transformer and wind
parks were nothing more than a capitalist accumulation strat-
egy “hiding behind a green camouage.”19 Jerry Cat
explained, “rather than a transition, wind energy is an accu-
mulation of more growth.”20 Jean- Baptiste Vidalou recog-
nizes a political- security strategy associated with “ecological
transition,” contending:
The economy wants to keep moving, it does not want dis-
order and the green economy is just there to put some oil
into the global capitalist machine—to put more oil into the
machines so it could be more uid.21
Plateau Survolté and L’Amassada proved to be an obsta-
cle to RTE and energy companies in the region.22 RTE (2019)
contends that they conducted “200 meetings and eld meet-
ings.” Although the location and participatory quality of
these 200 meetings remain unknown, many meetings were
attended by supporters of L’Amassada. The documentary
Pas Res Nos Arresta (2018)23 covers the direct actions and
manifestations, many of which intended to disrupt meetings
associated with transformer development. The Climate
Energy Project Manager of the Regional Park (Parc naturel
régional des Grands Causses), Alexandre Chevillon, remem-
bers an intervention in 2017: “The protestors arrived from St
Victor and occupied the building, insulted everybody and
broke some materials. They refused to speak and debate, and
opted for anti- democratic methods and values.”24 The claim
to democracy is reoccurring among ocials associated with
the transformer and wind energy development. While RTE
sued Marie’s 68- year- old aunt, she was intimidated and
interrogated by police. This induced fear and stress, provok-
ing her to transfer the land ocially to Marie in 2015. RTE
approached Marie’s aunt twice, then ever since RTE never
contacted Marie:
Since I have been the owner I have never met RTE. They
have never been in touch with me and they sent me a letter
that said: “As there is no agreement between you and us, you
will be the object of expropriation.”25
As Marie’s aunt was on trial and a judicial back- and- forth
proceeded, the Vernhet family along with L’Amassada
devised a strategy of parceling out her land to 132 dierent
people to complicate legal land acquisition.
While the trial against her aunt would last until Spring
2019, RTE led a déclaration d'utilité publique (Public
Human Geography 00(0)
Utility Declaration) in 2017. The civil code, article 545,
states that the Public Utility Declaration is “the state sanc-
tioned procedure of land expropriation for reasons of public
utility and with just and prior compensation” (Française,
2018). The procedure begins with a Public Utility Inquiry
(DUP) that determines the “public good” or “national inter-
est” being served by the expropriation, which is followed by
surveying and appraising the land, before a judicial phase of
ownership transferability is initiated (Française, 2018). On
June 13, 2018, a Public Utility Declaration was declared by
Nicolas Hulot, then minister of Ecological and Solidarity
Transition.26 Marie remembers, “in the summer, in July, we
got a letter saying that our lands were expropriated as the
Public Utility Inquiry approved it.”27 “Yet, everybody knew
that it would be ‘yes,’” explains Marie, the Public Utility
Inquiry “is never refused—never.”28 Energy transition and
climate change mitigation form a strong justication for land
expropriation, which ordered permanent land acquisition
from two families that were rejecting the project: the Vernhet
and Montade families. Both resisted the process until the
police invasion. The Vernhet family had 28,311 m2 (2.83
hectares) of land expropriated while the Montade family had
16,970 m2 (1.7 hectares). This also includes land leasing for
4 years from six property owners, among them the Montade
and Vernhet families.
During the DUP judicial phase, the state had to establish
“just and prior compensation.” After notications by RTE’s
land appraisers and lawyer to St. Victor,29 an expropriation
judge came to town. The Vernhet family and L’Amassada
organized a “people’s tribunal,” invited the media, and put
the judge on trial publicly (Lundimatin, 2018).30 Both Marie
and the judge made statements as an Amassada participant
acted as the presiding judge. Marie made a statement, part of
which included: “There was not a price given to this land, we
gave it the value of our ght and this you cannot take. You
can put a price on the land, but you can never take the value
of it.”31 The judge, having little control over the way the
events were unfolding, eventually left. A letter would estab-
lish the price of Vernhet’s land at €18,000, 20% higher than
market value. Marie’s husband calculated that €18,000 is
equivalent to 3 years of harvest and production (of straw,
wheat, and milk).32 The process of land expropriation was
rejected and subverted at every turn by the landowners and
L’Amassada, but the bureaucratic procedure continued. The
presidio became a zone- to- defend, with barricades erected,
during the summer of 2018 (Figure 3). The Public Utility
Declaration is a central mechanism of bureaucratic land
grabbing serving infrastructural colonization.
Consultations, transition, and misinformation
Police invasion and expropriation was looming, meanwhile
energy transition and energy development were being pro-
moted during the consultations of southern Aveyron’s
“Climate Plan” hosted by the Regional Park (ADN (Aveyron
Digital News), 2019). “The Aveyron public inquiries,” that
happened a decade earlier, “proved to be only marginal land-
scape adjusters because of their late position in the [develop-
ment] process and the weight given to public interest and
rational argument” (Nadaï and Labussière, 2009: 751). Since
2010, concerned citizens and L’Amassada participants have
been attending meetings and consultations, accusing them of
denying the impacts of renewable energy transition, which
entails ignoring the structural concerns raised by partici-
pants, neglecting resource extraction supply chains, propos-
ing inadequate measures, and intensifying socioecological
problems by “green washing” regional industry. Between the
years 2015 and 2018, L’Amassada organized to shut down
RTE and Regional Park events with physical disruption and
blockade techniques. De- escalating their interventions in
2018, their consultation participation could be described as
more “respectful interventions,” with an emphasis on
The May 25, 2018, consultation serves as an example of a
respectful intervention. Consultation meetings are usually
advertised through newspapers and Persistent Kitty remem-
bers going to the St. Arique city hall and how “two Le Parc
[Regional Park] engineers welcomed [them] with games,
Figure 3. Barricades on the western entrance road to L’Amassada. Source: Benoît Sanchez.
Dunlap 9
similar to Monopoly, as a way to explain how great the eco-
logical transition is” (Figure 4). Many participants were
insulted by this and perceived it to be “a way for deputies to
publicize their [environmental] commitments.”33 Some peo-
ple mentioned: “The absence of representatives is a continu-
ation of the rst meetings.” Alexandre Chevillon pleads with
them to watch a video which frames the issue of global
warming, repeats existing statistics about energy consump-
tion in the region—“58% of our consumption” was covered
by renewable energy in 2017— and arms the Regional
Park’s commitment “to cover all of our energy needs thanks
to a renewable energy production by 2030.”34 People were
outraged by the presentation of incomplete information as
well as faulty statistics that included the A75 freeway (creat-
ing a negative statistical slant). They confronted Chevillon
with identied lies concerning the wind turbine numerical
cap. They felt betrayed by the process of decision making
without proper public consultation and sensed that every
energy development plan “is thought and decided before
people even know about the projects.”35 Chevillon keeps
encouraging them to play the board game, justies the statis-
tical arrangement, and reminds everyone “about the fact that
representatives you criticize were democratically elected.”
The consultation ends in theatrical, yet pointed fashion:
Citizen (A75): We came here to tell you that we’ve had
enough of your games and tricks and that we are always los-
ing something because of your projects.
Ex-ofcial: You came to this meeting to drag ocials in
the mud. You’ve done this for previous public events related
to the establishment of energy infrastructures. You are dis-
crediting your own movement/claims.
Citizen (A75): The problem is that democracy doesn’t
Ex-ofcial: And it’s because of you.
Citizen (A75): I’ve been ghting industrial wind ener-
gy plans for 14 years now. We’ve managed to prevent the
biggest project from being realized in Aveyron. But now we
are talking about a wider scale plan, encompassing not only
Aveyron but the entire Occitanie region. The ght goes on,
but representatives refused to be with us tonight, instead of
that they organized a [private] meeting on their own at 5pm.
Woman: We do not need your project, we are already
self- sucient regarding our energy production. You are de-
veloping renewable energies in an uncontrolled way.
[People start to leave]
A.C.: “You’ve ruined the meeting, thanks a lot.”
Citizen: No we haven’t, we have raised a major issue
regarding your plans and we must talk about it during a real
public consultation.
While the board game made this consultation particularly
patronizing, this is representative of the quality of delibera-
tion and discussion allotted by authorities. The desire for
adequate scientic assurances regarding energy consump-
tion, local pollution, energy development regulations, supply
chain of raw materials and proposed energy use is denied by
theatrical subterfuge. Renewable energy supply chains and
fossil fuel+ systems have also become accomplices of natu-
ral resource extraction in order to rebrand company images
and power the mining operations themselves (Dunlap,
2019c: 14–15; Furnaro, 2019). The issues raised by opposi-
tional residents are highlighting serious socioecological
impacts and developmental trajectories with geopolitical
implications (Hickel, 2019). The consultation, like others
elsewhere (Dunlap, 2018a: Leifsen et al., 2017), worked to
disregard structural, political, and scientic issues related to
energy infrastructure. The board game deected these con-
cerns while serving as a tool to normalize the infrastructural
dispositif and planning perspective. Local administrators
have been promoting varying degrees of neoliberal environ-
mentalism, which is common practice in France.
Already living with nearby energy infrastructure, health
and transnational energy ows are signicant issues for
oppositional residents of St. Victor. Mayor Capel acknowl-
edges that electrical infrastructure “undoubtedly creates
health issues, and we have several cases of tumors and
Figure 4. The board game of the Parc naturel régional des Grands
Causses. Source: Université Rurale.
Human Geography 00(0)
Alzheimers disease within the population.”36 While the cor-
relation is dicult to prove scientically, the health concerns
raised by people living close to electrical infrastructures
were similar to those felt in La Ventosa, Oaxaca (Dunlap,
2017, 2019a).37 Marie contends that these health issues com-
bine with negative emotional experiences related to the
transformer’s development process as well as the police
repression experienced by some individuals. I spoke to three
retired EDF and RTE employees,38 who worked with them
for over 30 years, yet stood against the transformer project,
acknowledging the lack of social- collective benets, limited
employment, “evacuation of electricity made from wind
energy,”39 and negative health impacts related to oversaturat-
ing the village with energy infrastructure. The interviews
disclosed personal health issues caused by physical proxim-
ity to electromagnetic elds.40 Based on physics calcula-
tions, the European Council’s precautionary principle
requires people “to be at least one meter away per kilowatt
installed,” explains Patrick (EC (European Commission),
2015).41 For a “400,000 volt infrastructure, populations must
be at least 400 meters away, which creates an uninhabitable
area,” explains Patrick, although “there are no laws or legal
rules regarding the distance between electrical infrastruc-
tures and populations. It allows the state to do as it wants.”
Finally, about the construction of a transnational energy
corridor, Patrick asserts that the transformer is “supposed to
raise the tension to 400,000 Volts.”42 This supports the claim
for the need to have an 800,000 V high- tension wire, which
an RTE representative (when asked in person by Marie)
eventually admitted to its “possibility.”43 The ENTSO- E
(2019) map already conrms the transnational importance of
the St. Victor transformer, which connects not only to the
Asco nuclear plant, but also to hydrological, wind, and solar
resources in the southern Catalonian Terra Alta region
(Franquesa, 2018). Documenting Terra Alta resistance
against energy infrastructural colonization from the 1950s to
present, Franquesa (2018) shows how energy transition in
Iberia was a process of energy transaction and accumulation,
not socioecological transition. Energy- capital accumulation
and “successive additions of new sources of primary energy”
were precisely the concern of Plateau Survolté and
L’Amassada (Bonneuil and Fressoz, 2016: 101). In consulta-
tions and interviews, political representatives claim “fossil
fueled energies or nuclear is meant to disappear in the
future.”44 Harnessing antinuclear sentiments is central to
developing wind and energy infrastructure, yet EDF is cur-
rently building a new—and USD 3.6 billion over- budget
(Kar- Gupta and Twidale, 2019)—nuclear power station in
west England (Sullivan, 2013) and, at the behest of France,
is preparing to build six new third- generation nuclear power
reactors over the next 15 years (Reuters, 2019). Political rep-
resentatives emphasize “local” energy production and
regional “renewable energy solidarity,” and ignore that the
so- called “Occitanie local” reaches until Catalonia. Since
2006, there has been some discussion about a transnational
energy super grid between the EU and North Africa (Sarant,
2015), which the new St. Victor transformer could be an
instrumental part. During the consultation, instead of pro-
posing meaningful participatory strategies to enact genuine
energy transition, residents are confronted with board games,
as well as evasive and antagonistic answers from representa-
tives. The actions of representatives discredit their legiti-
macy, suggesting a lack of information, carelessness, and
further investigation of vested interests.
“War of Attrition”: political repression
against L’Amassada
The resources and political repression dispensed against
L’Amassada have been signicant. The transformer struggle,
Picnic Kitty contends, is “a war of attrition” organized with
the “logic to get people tired and disinterested in the cause.”45
This grassroots movement has focused on blocking con-
struction sites and roads for wind energy development and
organizing information awareness campaigns, demonstra-
tions, carnivals, and conferences, while disrupting public
events. Black Cat explains: “We are building community
together—I wouldn’t use the term ‘occupation’ or ‘ZAD,’ as
these labels are those used by the media and the state to cat-
egorize us in a pejorative way.”46 Wind turbine saboteurs, on
the other hand, criticize L’Amassada’s strategy, advocating
“a backlash based on our own desires against those in power”
on the basis of “[m]obility, stealth and unpredictability” to
stop the operation of capitalist infrastructures (Anonymous,
2018). The French state has attempted to criminalize the
ZAD movement, trying to position them as “extremists” or
terrorists. Identifying capitalism and industrialism as the
cause of ecological catastrophe, members employ a partici-
patory, nonviolent, and self- defense- oriented strategy.
Similarly, Indigenous land defenders in Oaxaca have been
slandered as “indigenous Taliban” (Bárcenas, 2016), while
“Zadists” have been called a “green Jihad.”47 The struggle
against infrastructural colonization in Aveyron experienced
similar “soft” counterinsurgency patterns as those in Oaxaca
(Dunlap, 2019a, 2019c), employed to progressively divide
and exhaust opposition with widespread police surveillance,
harassment, and arrest.
It is analytically useful to think about L’Amassada as
being composed of two waves: the presidio (December
2014–June 2018) and a unique ZAD- like articulation (June
2018–present). Besides the generalized police harassment of
people supportive of the ZAD movement, a clear starting
point is Marie’s aunt who, 68 years old at the time, was inter-
rogated by the police for “a few hours and they made her
think that she was a delinquent, a criminal”48 for allowing
the construction of L’Amassada. The trial was annulled in
2019, with the cost of €4,000–5,000 for the family. It “was
intended to split everyone up and it did!” claimed Marie49
who described the disputes that arose. Police checkpoints
Dunlap 11
throughout the village put people on edge. When they gath-
ered in L’Amassada, police would set up check points nearby,
search vehicles, and monitor parked vehicle license plates—
“they check everything that no cop would ever check on a
roadside stop. When there is an event at L’Amassada they
will stop every single person on the main road—both ways—
to check on everything!” Collectively punishing the village
with police controls employed a divisive strategy to erode
support for L’Amassada. Additionally, anti- ZAD specialist
with experience in Notre- Dame- des- Landes, Gendarmerie
captain Antoine Berna (see Beaubet, 2019), was assigned in
the summer of 2018 to the area.
L'Amassada was also subject to frequent helicopter visits
between 2017 and 2019. Marie explains:
Once they ew above my house six times—six times, then
L’Amassada, the little village, the little hamlet there and an-
other house in St Victor [which are all people concerned with
the struggle]—six times. And who pays the kerosene, who
pays for the pilot and what for? What are they checking?50
Carbon accounting rarely acknowledges the operations of
political repression. On a Saturday after drinking a beer,
Nemesh recounts turning around to a helicopter: “And sud-
denly we hear a sound and just above the hill, just next to us,
there is: ‘rwwwwwwwhhh,’ an elevating helicopter—just in
front of us. And they are looking at us and they have cam-
eras, that’s it.” The helicopter was roughly “20 meters” away
to the point where “you see the faces of the pilots inside.”51
Frequent helicopter visits combined with the presence of
Gendarmerie Mobile Platoon Intervention Units (Les pelo-
tons d'intervention de la gendarmerie mobile)52 and police
surveillance. For instance, there were “two cop cars with a
truck and it had a giant antenna with a guy with binocu-
lars.”53 Surveillance was matched with arrests and interroga-
tions. Responding to civil disobedience actions against the
Crassous wind park, police raided 15 houses in January
2018. The aggressive and humiliating action of the raid var-
ied among houses, yet the apprehended suspects were all
brought to dierent police stations between 1.5 and 2.5 hours
away from their homes. People believe this was a strategy
not only to prevent counter- demonstrations outside the
police station, but also to create transportation issues for
arrestees. People were arrested in front of the schools where
they were delivering their children as well as while people
were in bed. One woman recounts:
It was like seven o'clock or something, but then I heard a
voice that said: “Open the door!” I was like, “Ahhhh… fuck
o! I’m sleeping!” Then the man with me was like, “Answer
it, it’s the police.” I was like, “Nahhhh.” Then they opened
the door, I was naked and I was like, “What are you doing
here!?” The chief of the group handed me a letter and I said,
“Just a letter? You come into my home at seven o’clock to
just give me this fucking letter?” And they said, “No, you are
coming with us.”54
A woman police ocer watched her get dressed, and she
had to explain to her son why she was being handcued.
Frightening her son, the police raid was an exercise of intru-
sion, humiliation, and capture.
The intelligence service, however, took a special interest
in arrestees with generational roots in the region. “The local
intelligence agency of Aveyron, DGSI (General Directorate
for Internal Security) came into the interrogation room,”
recounts Farm Cat. He “tried to explain that he was the guy
from the intelligence agency and that I did not have to be
friends with other cops, but I could cooperate with him—
leader with leader.” Farm Cat refused, and the DGSI agent
continued to pressure Farm Cat telling him:
All your fellow ghters have nothing to lose, but you do.
Think of it, you have a baby. You are about to be a dad and
you are running your own farm with your dad. You will be
alone, your friends will have left and you will still be dealing
with these things.55
The police did everything they could to divide opposi-
tional residents from each other and from neighboring resi-
dents. Resources were mobilized to repress opposition to
energy infrastructure. This “war of attrition,” Picnic Kitty
explains “is a repression spread out over time, it gets exhaust-
ing and it demobilizes people. The police knows this and
they play with it, hoping that the movement runs out” of
As barricades were erected, hard times fell on L’Amassada
between January and February 2019. RTE declared a €2,000
ne each day for anyone identied to be present on the site
of L’Amassada (Lundimatin, 2019a). There was a lookout
tower (Figure 2) where they would do rounds: “We wake up
at 6am every day to check if the cops are coming,” explains
Pirate Cat,56 “we were told we would not last past March…
so we were like: ‘Okay, maybe it is tomorrow.’” Police
would come in groups of 5–10 and try to catch people living
there, which created a game of dog and cat. Meanwhile
L’Amassada began making links with the Gilets Jaunes
(Yellow Vest) societies in movement. A larger nationwide
movement, the Gilet Jaunes also reacted against a neoliberal
environmental policy that sought to reduce fossil fuel con-
sumption by imposing a fuel tax (Fassin and Defossez,
2019). “People understand,” say Kneading Cat, “that the car-
bon tax on fuel was not to make a transition, but for taxes to
make money.”57 This policy ignited a viral, heterogeneous,
and riotous movement that came to demand social justice
and democratic renewal in the streets on November 18, 2018.
Initially criticized for being antiecological, the movement
replied: “The end of the month and the end of the world is the
same ght.” Gilets Jaunes, since then, have demanded an
aviation and maritime fuel tax along with the restoration of
Human Geography 00(0)
the high- income “solidarity tax” (Martin, 2019). Both Gilet
Jaunes and L’Amassada are ghting against neoliberal envi-
ronmentalism. “Gilet Jaunes are ghting for more social jus-
tice—even if it is not always clear what is happening,” Travel
Cat explains:
In the ZAD movement the ecological problems are com-
pletely linked to the social problems, so we are kind of doing
the same here: we are not defending a roundabout, but we
are defending a place and practicing direct democracy and
resisting the police.58
L’Amassada participants created connections with the
Gilet Jaunes during assemblies, occupations, and demon-
strations. During those, there were profound discussions
about wind energy development; “RTE says: ‘We are build-
ing the highway of electricity for the future,’” explained
Vidalou, and “‘we are occupying the roundabout of electric-
ity.’” Occasionally, Gilet Jaunes participants from St.
Arique and Millau would do police lookout shifts at
L’Amassada. Both movements disrupted the circulation of
energy and capital ows; both were against socioecological
injustice; and both would be confronted by surveillance, riot
police, and tear gas.
On February 7, 2019, over 100 police raided L’Amassada
and St. Victor, arresting 5 people. Two of the three arrestees
were simply passing by L’Amassada at the time of the arrest.
In court, on July 3, the ve people were charged €650 with
court administrative fees. L’Amassada participants contin-
ued organizing conferences (Lundimatin, 2019b), spreading
information about their struggle against the transformer and
fossil fuel+ infrastructure. Then at 5 a.m. on October 8, 2019,
about 200 riot police, 15 police vans, 2 armored transport
vehicles, and 2 excavators invaded L’Amassada’s hill
(Lundimatin, 2019c; see Figure 5). The police blocked the
roads to prevent outside support; L’Amassada ignited their
barricades and slowed the onslaught of riot police and their
machines. L’Amassada supporters eventually got on the
roofs, but the police removed them one by one. Afterwards,
the excavators destroyed this ecological anticapitalist space.
Within 48 hours, the site was fenced o with razor wire,
security personnel, 24- hour oodlights, as RTE proceeded to
level out the land (Figure 6). On October 12 and November
1–3, 2019, land reclamation attempts and protests were met
by the riot police with tear gas and arrests. The message is
clear: peace is war, environmentalism is electrical
Infrastructural colonization: “NO to the
transfo and its world”
Material infrastructure, especially of the techno- industrial
variety, organize environments to accommodate their exis-
tence. Ecologically speaking, industrial infrastructure is
always the coercive articulation of the calculus of human and
nonhuman casualties in spatial interventions (Sullivan,
2013). The social, however, has variegated impacts: con-
structing dierent imaginations (Dalakoglou and Kallianos,
2018), promises (Anand et al., 2018), and enchantments
(Harvey and Knox, 2012). “[I]infrastructures have become
‘matters’ of the crisis itself,” write Dalakoglou and Kallianos
(2018: 86), pointing to the self- reinforcing and perpetuating
relationship between infrastructure and economic crisis.
Infrastructural colonization takes this another step further,
acknowledging the self- reinforcing and perpetuating rela-
tionship of socioecological crisis sustained by the
Figure 5. Riot police and armored vehicles occupy L’Amassada’s southwest entrance. Source: Université Rurale.
Dunlap 13
exponential growth of both conventional and “green” or fos-
sil fuel+ infrastructures.
On October 08, 2019, 4.7 hectares of land was grabbed in
St. Victor. On October 30, 2019, the Conseil Communautaire
(2019: 9) announced that “200 new wind turbines are planned
out of a total of 1,000 projects,” including a solar park. This
expansion is made possible by the new St. Victor trans-
former. Learned dependence on industrial- computational
systems, legislation enforcing technocapitalist development,
and corresponding political repression enforce a global pro-
cess of infrastructural colonization, which inhabits not only
space, but the minds and life worlds of people. Consider
L’Amassada (Figure 6) after its destruction: the space was
enclosed with fences, armored with razor wire, secured with
ood lights, and protected to produce a legible, symmetrical
(at), and socioecologically degraded construction site.
Industrial infrastructure, and infrastructure systems, projects
embody a sociocultural value system that demands ecologi-
cal domination, the proliferation of technical language (that
transcends dierent languages), speed (production–con-
sumption convenience), mass consumption, economic accu-
mulation, and territorial control that have profound, and
underacknowledged, psychogeographic eects.
Infrastructures organize both physical and psychosocial
space by “rolling- out” an infrastructural dispositif.
Severe dependency leads to infrastructural self-
identication. Infrastructural systems and urbanism are the
new habitat (Vidalou, 2017), causing disconnection and sys-
tematic betrayal of ecosystems and nonhuman populations
(Dunlap and Jakobsen, 2020; Dunlap and Sullivan, 2019;
Springer et al., forthcoming). The psychopolitical power of
infrastructural colonization is “hidden like a sewage system,
an undersea cable, a ber optic line running the length of a
railway” says The Invisible Committee (TIC), 2015: “Power
is the very organization of this world, this engineered cong-
ured, purposed world.” Consider this excerpt from a text
written by L’Amassada:
By creating a “territorial space” to manage, to count, to plan,
to homogenize. The [transformer] device does not work if it
does not cut beforehand, and so to speak at every moment,
parcels of land, to produce them as “pole”, as “zone”, as
“site” separated on which to act in return. And if it is nec-
essary by bringing a war to its inhabitants, by chasing the
undesirables: those who refuse the economic order, who
resist colonization. This is the truly despotic character of
spatial planning. The despot here is not to be taken as pure
constraint, but rather as a control and norm- setting device. It
does not answer so much to the question of what to forbid or
not, but to what does or does not t into the norm, which cor-
responds to it or not…. The despot, this hydra, must normal-
ize the territory as much as the bodies; he must homogenize
them, make them comparable, each portion of beings, each
cut part must have its function, be subject to such or such
mode of production. (Lundimatin, 2019d)
The eco- psychogeographical impact of infrastructure and
the ideology of progress that propels its expansion remain
Figure 6. L’Amassada post police invasion. Source: Marie- Bénédicte Vernhet.
Human Geography 00(0)
the core of the colonial project. The domination of nature,
myth of human supremacy, the “Othering” of dierence, and
the prioritizing of ecological destruction over other (rela-
tively) ecologically harmonious activities embody the colo-
nial/statist system. Infrastructural colonization—despite all
its technological allure—implants its sociocultural value
system, poisons combative ontologies, and enforces its
cultural- spatial regime. Infrastructural colonization is a ter-
raforming or “cratoforming” process: “a kind of social engi-
neering and legibility- imposing architecture” imposed by
state authority to transform “environments at an elemental
and ecosocial level to favor its own proliferation”
(Gelderloos, 2017: 138; Dunlap, 2019c). Cratoforming
emphasizes social control through spatial organization, but
also technological infrastructures that extend to the so- called
renewable energy systems (Dunlap, 2019a; Han, 2017;
Vidalou, 2017). The green economy has renewed the infra-
structural colonizing force that creates more climate change
and more ecological and habitat disruption, but also psycho-
logical fragmentation with the so- called “clean” or “green”
infrastructures. In the end, infrastructural colonization neces-
sitates an insensitivity toward habitats, nonhuman entities,
and people themselves, an insensitivity and carelessness that
root the onslaught of climate and ecological catastrophe.
Conclusion: green colonization
Ecological and climate catastrophe is the result of systematic
infrastructural colonization. Macron’s “battle plan,” operat-
ing in the name of the environment, indeed is a plan of infra-
structural colonization organized around economic expansion
and state control. Discussing the history of territorial strug-
gles in Aveyron, the ZAD movement, land grabbing, and ter-
ritorialization, this article explores the process of bureaucratic
land grabbing and the procedural development of a trans-
former substation as well as the resistance that formed
against it.
The pregurative ecological and anticapitalist vision of
L’Amassada was crushed by riot police, armored vehicles,
and excavators—the execution of Macron’s “battle plan.”
Socially and ecologically friendly degrowth and postdevel-
opmental pathways remain forcefully o the political menu.
The ideology of technocapitalist progress and the infrastruc-
tural dispositif fashion themselves as “ecologically sustain-
able” and “climate friendly” and employ the discourse of
democracy to double- down on the process of energy- capital
accumulation. Severe climate change denial is embedded in
the infrastructures of industrial society, which rejects the
idea that the modality of technocapitalist development is the
cause of ecological and climate catastrophe. Dependence
and addiction on environmentally destructive computational
systems and modes of organization remain the greatest envi-
ronmental policy issue. Political ontology and (geographi-
cal) landscapes, and more so their postdevelopmental
possibilities, must be reduced, attened, and subjugated to
make way for the transformer. The securitizing, leveling, and
compacting of land necessary to build the transformer
reects an insensitive and reductionary political ontology
that hemorrhages negligent and bias statist/institutional
accounting; public/private sector misinformation; nonbind-
ing and theatrical consultation procedures; and systemic
political corruption that supports the current socioecological
direction dictated by technocapitalist development. The tra-
jectory of progress is enforced through multilayered and
scaled coercion and social engineering (Dunlap, 2019c;
Verweijen and Dunlap, Forthcoming), which means recon-
sidering not only what we consider as “green” and “renew-
able,” but also our relationship to our environments.
This article would not be possible without the help and patience
of Jean- Baptiste Vidalou, Nemesh, and the Human Geography
small grant program. Moreover, Marie- Bénédicte Vernhet and
L’Amassada Cats were generous with their time and resources and,
overall, are magnicent people I am honored to have shared my
time with. Special thanks to Vidalou, Nemesh, Adele Tobin, Marie,
Louis Laratteahr, and Louis Bruguerolle with their translation work.
I am also grateful for the editorial comments from Olfee Kitty,
Antoine de Bengy Puyvallée, and Jostein Jakobsen and the general
encouragement and support from the Rural Transformations Group
and SUM administration.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conicts of interest with
respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following nancial support
for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The
authors received funding from Human Geography small grant
Alexander Dunlap https:// orcid. org/ 0000- 0002- 8852- 9309
1. Minutes: 5:11, 6:20–53, available at: https://www. youtube.
com/ watch? v= txl6O2GP0yQ
2. The so-called “renewables” are an intermittent energy technol-
ogy dependent on nuclear and thermal (coal) power plants to
stabilize energy grids.
3. While 83.7% of the company is public, 16. 3% percent is pri-
vate (EDF, 2019).
4. Interview 14, April 7, 2018.
5. https://www. everyculture. com/ Europe/ Aveyronnais-
Economy. html
6. Personal Communications, March 2015.
Dunlap 15
7. See https://www. youtube. com/ watch? v= zJMB01iscM0
8. Interview 4, April 2, 2018.
9. Interview 31, Mayor Jean Capel, May 3, 2019.
10. Interview 10, April 6, 2018.
11. Ibid.
12. Interview 31, May 3, 2019.
13. Ibid.
14. Interview 4, April 2, 2018.
15. Watch the documentary: Teaser La Bataille du Teste
(2015). Available at: https://www. youtube. com/ watch? v=
16. Interview 9, April 5, 2018
17. Interview 1, April 1, 2018
18. Interview 8, April 5, 2018
19. Interview 7, April 3, 2018.
20. Interview 1, April 1, 2018.
21. Interview 26, April 24, 2019.
22. Notably, I walked into an RTE workshop in St. Arique where
they had a L’Amassada poster on the wall.
23. English subtitles version is titled Nothing Will Stop Us: ZAD
Everywhere! Available at: https://www. youtube. com/ watch?
v= 4huoGY91diM
24. Interview 12, April 7, 2018.
25. Interview 22, April 22, 2019.
26. Hulot’s foundation since 2006 has been receiving €460,000 for
5 years from EDF, RTE’s partner company (Bérard, 2017).
27. Interview 22, April 22, 2019.
28. Ibid.
29. Sexist assumptions were made, as frequently a male gure was
30. See the news report: https://www. youtube. com/ watch? v=_
31. Interview 22, April 22, 2019.
32. Field notes, April 21, 2019. Their farm consists of 150 hectares
and 350 sheep that produce milk for Roquefort cheese.
33. Interview 18, April 21, 2019.
34. Consultation Video & Transcript, 0.0, May 25, 2018.
35. Ibid.
36. Interview 31, May 3, 2019.
37. Ibid.
38. Two living within St. Victor and outside, in the Occitanie.
39. Interview 32, May 3, 2019.
40. The interviewed couple both worked for EDF/RTE and be-
gan arguing because their partner refused to explicitly relate
a tumor behind their eye (that caused permanent blindness) to
working around energy infrastructure. Interview 32, May 3,
41. Interview 27, April 27, 2019.
42. Ibid.
43. Personal Communications, October 29, 2019.
44. Interview 12, April 7, 2018.
45. Interview 17, April 21, 2019.
46. Interview 20, April 22, 2019.
47. Interview 9, April 5, 2018.
48. Interview 22, April 22, 2019.
49. Interview 5, April 2, 2018.
50. Interview 14, April 7, 2018.
51. Interview 8, April 5, 2018.
52. Interview 19, April 21, 2019.
53. Ibid.
54. Interview 6, April 3, 2018.
55. Interview 5, April 2, 2018.
56. Interview 19, April 21, 2019.
57. Interview 16, April 20, 2019.
58. Interview 23, April 23, 2019.
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Author Biography
AlexanderDunlap is a postdoctoral research fellow at the
Centre for Development and the Environment, University of
Oslo. His work has critically examined police–military
transformations, market- based conservation, wind energy
development, and extractive projects more generally in both
Latin America and Europe. He has published in Anarchist
Studies, Geopolitics, Journal of Peasant Studies, Capitalism,
Nature, Socialism, Political Geography, Journal of Political
Ecology, Environment and Planning E, and a recent article in
... The authors, moreover, take issue with the use of the terms 'infrastructural colonialism' (p. 2) and 'infrastructural colonization' (p. 6), the latter term I coined (Dunlap, 2020). The most forceful part of their critique explains: ...
... [A] sharp and a careful distinction needs to be made with green neoliberalism being pursued in the European countryside, framed by Dunlap (2020 2022) as 'infrastructural colonization'. While several communities in the west are fighting against the neoliberalization of the energy sector, such categorization ignores the systematic difference between the experiences of the Sahrawis and Jawlanis resisting infrastructural colonization as non-sovereign entities to that of Europeans living in sovereign nations and whose experience, no matter how intrusive, can't be compared to communities seeking self-determination on their colonized lands. ...
... Moreover, the colonial legacy that persists in both the oSGH and oWS is not at all the case for the European context, which hasn't been and is not colonized. Through his several studies on the RE infrastructure in the European countryside specifically in Catalonia, Spain and France, scholar Dunlap (2020 2022) is not taking into account that the indigenous communities are struggling with such an infrastructural colonization as an extension of the settler colonial project imposed on them, of which its mere aim is the replacement ...
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Replying to criticism to the term infrastructural colonization, this commentary article discusses the colonial and how colonization is conceived. Infrastructural colonization, as opposed to colonialism, takes a literal approach to territorial control, landscape and socio-cultural change, exploring the literal colonization of habitats, people, social fabrics and more-than-human networks. Colonization—discrimination, control and extraction—operates on numerous scales and across various actors and places, accumulating into large-scale irreparable socioecological consequences. While it should not be conflated with (settler) colonialism, infrastructural colonization seeks to identify the roots and mechanisms of the colonial model, specifically how habitats and peoples are captured, psycho-politically captivated and together accumulated into an extractivist political economy. As an approach, infrastructural colonization implicitly recognizes state formation as colonialism, statism as (neo)colonialism and the state as colonial model(s). States, in their relative diversity, are understood as a structure of political and socioecological conquest.
... Focusing purely on the local elements of a "wind farm" fails to see the broader economic and political structures and production of geographical differences and uneven developments they create (Siamanta, 2021). Thus, despite their "green" profile, energy infrastructural developments are also a source of social, psychological, and ecological harm (Dunlap, 2020a). The term wind "farm" does not capture the toxic process of developing such infrastructures on an industrial scale, and as pointed out by Dunlap and Arce (2021), the term 'farm' as opposed to a 'power plant' or 'energy factory' subtly performs public relations. ...
... Frameworks such as energy justice often look at technology and the state as a solution to the challenges they cause. When combined with concerns of green colonialism in Saepmi, some scholars argue infrastructure is a crucial mechanism of colonial organization, through infrastructural colonialization and colonial mindset, through narratives of growth development and progress (Normann, 2020;Dunlap, 2020a;Dunlap, 2021b). ...
... Beyond its ability to mobilize forces against resistance, as is witnessed in countries ranging from France (Dunlap, 2020a) to Mexico (Dunlap 2019a), there are also more subtle and bureaucratic, yet violent ways of governing (see Eldridge & Reinke, 2018), which one witness more so in countries such as Norway (Johnsen & Benjaminsen, 2017). ...
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Over three decades since the publication of the Brundtland Report, the world is witnessing changing patterns in forest fires, hurricanes, temperatures, and biodiversity loss at a pace without a previous analogy. These historical events have led many in the public and private sectors to advocate for a "green" future accomplished through technocratic and bureaucratic solutions such as transitioning to lower-carbon energy infrastructures, such as wind energy development. By drawing upon fieldwork conducted in the territory of the Southern Saami peoples (in Saepmi), the Åfjord municipality in western Norway, this thesis explores claims of land grabbing, green colonialism, and infrastructural harm. While powerful domestic and international forces, such as the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and the European Union, advocate the expansion of wind energy infrastructures, Saami herders confront pastureland dispossession, while conservationists fear the "industrialization of the mountains." This article explores how the domestic policies for de-carbonization through "electrifying society" and international agreements for trading energy and climate goals interact with socioecological challenges caused by land-use change. By arguing that an Ecomodernist and "green" growth approach has led to the needs of industrial capitalism taking precedence over the lives of human and more-than-human worlds, this thesis explores-following Achille Mbembe-an energy necropolitics in Norway which determines who may live, socioculturally, and who is let die. It concludes that when evaluated within a whole system approach, the assaults inflicted on the environment by industrial-scale lower-carbon energy infrastructures are not unlike conventional energy sources, questioning whether the Fosen Vind project can claim it is producing renewable energy. These findings demonstrate the need for solutions beyond reformist frameworks such as a "just transition" and thus calls for decolonial Degrowth pathways for combating the climate crisis and building a just, equal, convivial, and joyful society.
... Applying a decolonial lens is thus necessary to identify how the dominant energy model and expansion of large-scale energy projects renew historical colonial injustices, and as such, constituting a useful instrument for imagining alternative visions of a more just energy future. Growing scholarship engages in colonial critique when addressing tendencies of the corporate energy transition, proposing concepts such as "political energy regime" [32], "climate necropolitics" [48], "green dispossession" [49,50], "climate apartheid" [51], "multiple colonialisms" [52], "low-carbon colonialism" [53], "carbon colonialism" [52], "sustainability colonialism" and "resource capitalism" [54], "green colonialism" [29,30,55,56], "infrastructural colonialism" [57], and "transnational colonialism" [58]. Although these contributions are not exempt from controversy [58,59], they concord from different perspectives that the corporate energy transition is based on old colonial relations that enable a continuation of territorial and resource dispossession, perpetuating environmental, cultural, epistemic, and psychosocial harm in Indigenous and rural territories. ...
... This dimension analyses the deployment of infrastructure in space [57] with spatial references to the topologies of high-voltage lines as a clearly colonial element. Likewise, it allows placing the preconditions that have determined the forms of the current corporate energy transition in a historical context [47,49,50,63,64] to evaluate if they are installed to meet the needs of nearby communities or if the energy generated is destined for other countries or distant areas [72] for the production of mining or other extractivist interests [63]. ...
... For example, the rural territories of Spain and the territory of the Saami people in Norway are located within the perimeter perceived as metropolises rather than colonies [47,[91][92][93][94]. However, as shown in other studies, colonial mechanisms and effects may occur in rural areas of Europe [57,63] and on Indigenous Saami lands in northern Scandinavia [29,55,75]. Undoubtedly, the history and location of the four case studies in the global colonial order, as well as the dimension of inequalities and the types of violence impacted communities experience, reveal substantial differences. ...
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This article aims to define the category of energy colonialism in order to analyse the conflicts that are arising due to the deployment of renewable energy megaprojects in the Global South and in the peripheries of the Global North. First, the limits of the corporate energy transition are questioned, and based on an exhaustive bibliographic review, the category of energy colonialism is formulated along with six dimensions that characterise it: geopolitical; economic and financial inequalities; power, violence, and decision making; land grabbing and dispossession; impacts on territories and commons; resistance and socio-territorial conflicts. Based on this framework, we analyse and juxtapose different expressions of energy colonialism in four case studies; the isthmus of Tehuantepec (Oaxaca, Mexico), the territories of Western Sahara occupied by Morocco, the Saami territory in Norway, and the rural territories of Spain. The results from this study allow us to conclude that energy colonialism is a useful concept for understanding and critiquing the effects of the corporate energy transition and establishing a base for grassroots and decolonial alternatives in both the Global North and South.
... urban-rural relations. First, these may be renewed through the infrastructural colonization 3 of marginal landscapes and ways of living, where coercive control is employed to reshape territories and impose socio-cultural changes in order to advance the extractive processes of natural forces and resources [17,46,47]. Second, in articulation with "green extractivism", such infrastructures may enact "green grabbing" practices, where "the appropriation of land and resources for environmental ends" forces the transfer of ownership, binding both capital and primitive accumulation with dispossession [24: 238]. ...
... Research also needs to go beyond notions of proximity [41], exposing injustices across various spatial and temporal scales [45], unpacking unjust 'green discourses' and exploring the social production of inequality [1]. Moreover, despite critical approaches to justice from a decolonial perspective [42,57], the infrastructural colonization of rural spaces in the Global North has been far more neglected [46,47], with energy justice being still rooted in Western perspectives and holding a strong anthropocentric focus [45,53]. Therefore, as the 'green transition' materializes new extractive frontiers [6,34,58], a close examination of how it may deplete and exclude 'other' place-based ontologies becomes urgent, requiring also further engagement with pluriversal and nonhuman ontologies as part of marginalized groups [42,45,53]. ...
... These dimensions of (in) justice are interlinked and mutually reinforcing [1,2,43]. Exclusion from decision-making processes (e.g. through nominal public participation and limited access to information) reproduces structural power dynamics, between core/urban and peripheral/rural regions, which assist the 'green grabbing' and 'infrastructural colonization' of marginal territories [34,46] promising their 'salvation' while enacting their 'disposal'. This relies on the misrepresentation of local concerns, desires and values through a variety of social engineering and counterinsurgency techniques, deployed to impose a coercive control of peripheral regions [17,49], turned into 'green sacrifice zones' by the unfair distribution of Li-mining burdens and benefits [6,30]. ...
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Focusing on a case study in Northern Portugal, this research mobilizes an energy justice lens to unpack multiple forms of violence reproduced by lithium mining projects, advanced as urgent and necessary for the energy transition. Framed under 'green transition' discourses, a 'corporate energy transition' follows a mineral-intensive pathway which increases demand for critical raw materials and expands extractivism to new commodities and marginal territories. Lithium (Li) is central to this transition, with an estimated 1500 % rise in the global demand of this rare earth mineral by 2050. Yet, the socio-ecological impacts of Li-mining remain largely overlooked, despite driving significant environmental conflicts in Portugal and elsewhere. Based on empirical research, this article examines how Li-mining projects in Portugal reproduce distributive, recognition and procedural (in) justices which assist the 'green grabbing' and infrastructural colonization of peripheral territories, turned into new 'green sacrifice zones'. By attending to the voices and experiences of those resisting Li-mining projects, the results present the energy transition as a 'trojan horse' for extractivism, with Li-mining driving multiple energy injustice(s), reproducing violence against local communities and disrupting wider multispecies relationalities in traditionally sustainable rural territories. The research contributes to: (1) unravel the empirical contradictions of a corporate energy transition, problematizing hegemonic socio-technical responses to address the climate crisis, which expand extractivism through depletion, segregation and exclusion; and (2) reveal links between energy (in)justices and the constitution of 'green sacrifice zones', highlighting how territorial struggles embed a clash between different relational ontologies in more-than-human territories.
... Conflicts over mines and quarries, fracking and oil and gas extraction, deforestation and afforestation, reservoirs and dams, wind turbines and solar farms, and various forms of industrial or intensive agriculture all focus in on the interaction of humans and planet in rural economies, and all are entangled in global and rural-urban relations (Bresnihan and Brodie, 2021;Dunlap, 2020;Kenney-Lazar et al., 2018;Szabo et al., 2022). Writing about a forestry conflict in western Canada, Magnusson and Shaw (2003) described the contested logging zone at Clayoquot Sound as a place where distinctions between 'local' and 'global' were collapsed. ...
... Over a longer time period, renewable energy developments for wind, solar, and hydro-power have elicited emotional reactions and divided rural communities (Batel and Kupers, 2022;Dunlap, 2020;Mason and Milbourne, 2014;Phadke, 2011;Wheeler, 2017;Yenneti and Day, 2016;Zografos and Martinez-Alier, 2009). For some, wind turbines and solar panels are urban intrusions, out of place in the rural landscape; for others, they are a continuation of the countryside as a productive space (Anderson et al., 2017;Mason and Milbourne, 2014;Woods, 2003a). ...
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This paper proposes planetary rural geographies to counter the narrative of planetary urbanisation, which has contended that the whole planet has been urbanised and can be understood through urban theory without an outside. Whilst critics have challenged the metrophilia inherent to planetary urbanisation, advanced post-colonial critiques, and posited alternative models of ruralisation, we argue that these responses fall short of fully embracing the radical potential of a planetary perspective. We call for planetary rural geographies that examine rural places as sites of interaction between diverse more-than-human relations that extend above and below the Earth surface and contend that the configuration of human-environment interactions at the 'rural' end of urban-rural relations is critical to addressing planetary crises. We elaborate this argument by focusing on three geographies of planetary rurality: as a space of crisis, as a space of conflict, and as a space of hope, evidenced by examples drawn from the global rural literature.
... Investigating such patterns of spatial violence in the Global North, Dunlap (2020) uses the concept of infrastructural colonization to analyze the proliferation of energy infrastructure in a village in Southern France. The author shows how the ideology of progress under the guise of "green" development is enforcing technocapitalist development that is enabled through state repression and "bureaucratic land grabbing" (ibid., p. 109). ...
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Despite increasing calls for the development of a circular economy, extractive industries are gaining renewed relevance in Europe. The European Commission's plan to expand domestic sourcing of lithium to scale up the production and use of electric vehicles has been met with social resistance from affected communities who mobilize to protect their livelihoods, and nature. The growing conflicts emerging around global battery supply chains highlight the importance of examining justice-related concerns around current decarbonization strategies. This article takes a political ecology approach that combines the concepts of place and anticipation to examine negotiations around a proposed lithium mine in the Barroso region in northern Portugal. Drawing on 27 qualitative semi-structured interviews and ethnographic research in August 2021, we explore how local residents engage in the politics of anticipation around the mine. The study has two main findings: (1) While local supporters hope to benefit from the project economically, opponents expect it to undermine agricultural traditions, counteract plans for expanding tourism services, and as known from mining areas in the past, drive displacement and rural injustices. (2) As opponents feel restricted in their ability to participate in decision-making around the project, they act upon the future through defensive resistance, connecting across multiple scales and drawing on place-based symbols to mark differences from dominant ideas on extractive development. The study suggests that local activists' experiences of being disregarded in their concerns and demands indicate that plans to expand resource extraction in the name of the green economy are giving rise to new sacrifice zones.
This article examines strategies by the Irish state to phase out the extraction and burning of peat as a carbon fuel source in relation to the growing energy demands of data centres. One of the major proposals within the ‘just transition’ for post-extractive peat boglands is to incentivise the construction of data centres and associated energy infrastructures alongside bog reclamation projects to encourage carbon sequestration. These entangled plans for data, energy and carbon ‘storage’, driven by large-scale and transformative relations to boglands, inherit colonial ways of valuing bogs as ‘wastelands’ that must be put to work for industrial capital. We argue that through paired digital and green industrial strategies, the transformative energy cultures and frontiers of capital continue to expand beyond the apparent sites of data and energy infrastructural development, penetrating deeper into the earth and its atmosphere.
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Debates in Post-Development and Degrowth: Volume 2 is now available digitally! Click the link below to request a free physical copy. We will accommodate as many requests as possible. Building off the themes of the first edition, this issue contains three parts - 1) Theoretical Engagements: The Ideas We Need to Challenge; 2) False Solutions and Changing the Narrative; 3) Imagining How to Live in Degrowth. Commentary of the first volume is included, along with a response by Alexander Dunlap. See below for a sneak peak into the editorial introduction!
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The Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of southwest Oaxaca, Mexico, known locally as the Istmo, was identified in 2003 as a prime site for wind energy development. Supported by climate change mitigation legislation, a ‘wind rush’ engulfed the Istmo. Now, La Ventosa sits surrounded by high-tension wires and wind turbines, some only 280 meters from homes. This paper argues that new valuations of wind resources based on market mechanisms and anthropogenic climate change laws are intensifying the destructive trajectory of the industrial economy. There are benefits for land owners and political authorities, and what amounts to token civil works projects for the town. But the majority of people interviewed expressed dissatisfaction towards the existence of wind parks surrounding the town. Instead of collective benefits, the wind parks brought different degrees of health concerns, enormous increases in land, rent, food, and electricity prices, as well as insecurity. The findings here demonstrate that wind energy development, encouraged by climate change mitigation policies, is intensifying pre-existing trends towards inequality and poverty in La Ventosa. Meanwhile, the destructive operations of the global industrial economy are renewed, using market-based approaches to mitigating anthropogenic climate change.
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Much academic research on low-carbon transitions focuses on the diffusion or use of innovations such as electric vehicles or solar panels, but overlooks or obscures downstream and upstream processes, such as mining or waste flows. Yet it is at these two extremes where emerging low-carbon transitions in mobility and electricity are effectively implicated in toxic pollution, biodiversity loss, exacerbation of gender inequality, exploitation of child labor, and the subjugation of ethnic minorities. We conceptualize these processes as part of an emerging “decarbonisation divide.” To illustrate this divide with clear insights for political ecology, sustainability transitions, and energy justice research, this study draws from extensive fieldwork examining cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the processing and recycling of electronic waste in Ghana. It utilizes original data from 34 semi-structured research interviews with experts and 69 community interviews with artisanal cobalt miners, e-waste scrapyard workers, and other stakeholders, as well as 50 site visits. These visits included 30 industrial and artisanal cobalt mines in the DRC, as well as associated infrastructure such as trading depots and processing centers, and 20 visits to the Agbogbloshie scrapyard and neighborhood alongside local waste collection sites, electrical repair shops, recycling centers, and community e-waste dumps in Ghana. The study proposes a concerted set of policy recommendations for how to better address issues of exploitation and toxicity, suggestions that go beyond the often-touted solutions of formalisation or financing. Ultimately, the study holds that we must all, as researchers, planners, and citizens, broaden the criteria and analytical parameters we use to evaluate the sustainability of low-carbon transitions.
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The multiplicity of violent techniques employed to impose land control and extraction remains under acknowledged. This article reviews research conducted between the years 2014 and 2018 and draws on three case studies: wind energy development in Mexico, coal mining in Germany, and copper mining in Peru. The idea of 'engineering extraction' is advanced through counterinsurgency to acknowledge the extent of extractive violence, arguing that the term ‘land grabbing’ is indeed a more appropriate term than ‘land deals’. Engaging with the land grabbing literature, the three cases seek to advance discussions around ‘the political reactions “from below”’ by emphasizing ‘insurrectionary’ positions with resistance movements fighting land deals and extractive projects. This is followed by offering a typology of ‘hard’ coercive techniques and ‘soft’ technologies of social pacification that surfaced in each case. The conclusion reflects on the social technologies of resource extraction, recognizing how social discord, ecological and climate crises are engineered and enforced.
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Offering a thought provoking theoretical conversation around ecological crisis and natural resource extraction, this book suggests that we are on a trajectory geared towards total extractivism guided by the mythological Worldeater. The authors discuss why and how we have come to live in this catastrophic predicament, rooting the present in an original perspective that animates the forces of global techno-capitalist development. They argue that the Worldeater helps us make sense of the insatiable forces that transform, convert and consume the world. The book combines this unique approach with detailed academic review of critical agrarian studies and political ecology, the militarization of nature and the conventional and ‘green’ extraction nexus. It seeks radical reflection on the role of people in the construction and perpetuation of these crises, and concludes with some suggestions on how to tackle them.
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This article identifies an emerging faultline in critical geography and political ecology scholarship by reviewing recent debates on three neoliberal environmental governance initiatives: Payments for Ecosystem Services, the United Nations programme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries and carbon-biodiversity offsetting. These three approaches, we argue, are characterized by varying degrees of contextual and procedural – or superficial – difference, meanwhile exhibiting significant structural similarities that invite critique, perhaps even rejection. Specifically, we identify three largely neglected ‘social engineering’ outcomes as more foundational to Payments for Ecosystem Services, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries and carbon-biodiversity offsetting than often acknowledged, suggesting that neoliberal environmental governance approaches warrant greater critical attention for their contributions to advancing processes of colonization, state territorialization and security policy. Examining the structural accumulation strategies accompanying neoliberal environmental governance approaches, we offer the term ‘accumulation-by-alienation’ to highlight both the objective appropriations accompanying Payments for Ecosystem Services, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries and offsetting and the relational deficiencies accompanying the various commodifying instrumentalizations at the heart of these initiatives. We concur with David Harvey’s recent work proposing that understanding the iterative and consequential connections between objective/material and subjective/psychological dimensions of alienation offers ‘one vital key to unlock the door of a progressive politics for the future’. We conclude (with others) by urging critical geography and political ecology scholars to cultivate research directions that affirm more radical alternatives, rather than reinforcing a narrowing focus on how to improve Payments for Ecosystem Services, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries and offsetting in practice.
Political-economic approaches are increasingly used in the study of low-carbon energy transitions. This article brings attention to two dimensions that have been less explored by this scholarship. First, research on the political economy of energy transitions, which has centered on the fossil fuel industry and to a lesser degree on the residential sector, has not sufficiently considered the role that industrial energy users play in resisting and in shaping energy transitions. Second, empirical analyses have focused on the limitations to a transition toward low-carbon energy systems that neoliberal forms of energy governance generate, thereby leaving unexplored cases in which neoliberal restructurings enacted by the state accelerate energy transitions. By analyzing the relationship between the recent boom in renewables energy investments in Chile and the energy consumption practices of the copper mining industry, I show the importance that changes in energy systems can have in the reproduction of specific regimes of accumulation. Drawing on insights from the political economy of energy and the scholarship on the role of socio-natural reconfigurations in addressing capitalist crisis tendencies, I argue that the recent changes in the energy sector in Chile can be understood as a “socioecological fix” to alleviate the threatened accumulation process of its mining economy. I describe the new energy policy implemented in Chile to show how the neoliberal model for promoting renewable energies and the increased financialization of the renewable energy sector, while successful in quickly stimulating a utility-scale renewable energy sector, has also created socioecological impacts and uncertainties in energy forecasts.