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Accepted Paper:

When a mountain loses its water: the perception and articulation of a future disaster in the Alps  
Gabriel Popham (School of Global Studies, University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

How does the perception of environmental harm fuel ecopolitical resistance? This paper looks at the effect of tunnelling on the loss of groundwater in the Western Alps, exploring how expert knowledge, memory, and political action are mobilised.

Paper long abstract:

The new Lyon-Turin railway line (NLTL) is a major infrastructure megaproject that includes a 57-km long tunnel beneath the Western Alps, across the border between France and Italy. For decades, campaigners on both sides of the border have mobilised to stop this project from going ahead, pointing to a range of environmental harms, as well as other social, economic and political issues. One of the major forms of environmental damage is the loss of groundwater sources, which is one of the main conditions for life at high altitudes, not only for humans but also for entire ecosystems that have adapted to mountainous environments.

The risk posed by underground tunnelling to groundwater marks a permanent threshold of liveability, an issue that is at the forefront of the minds of activists and local residents, both as something that is projected in the future, and as a well-known consequence of previous tunnelling operations. This is true on both sides of the border, where several sources have already dried up as the result of past tunnelling work. It is widely expected, however, that the consequences of NLTL on groundwater sources will be much more severe.

This paper seeks to account for how this anticipation of loss is put to work in the ecopolitical resistance against NLTL. It does so by exploring how expert knowledge, memory, and everyday perception are mobilised, enabling groundwater to emerge as a vulnerable site of permanent ecological harm that carries consequences for all forms of life in these environments.

Panel P036b
Losing Worlds. On Affectivity in the Time of Environmental Damage and Ecopolitical Resistance II
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -