Toward a political ecology of infrastructure standards: Or, how to think about ships, waterways, sediment, and communities together
Number of Authors: 2
2017 (English)In: Environment and planning A, ISSN 0308-518X, E-ISSN 1472-3409, Vol. 49, no 1, 9-28 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Scholars have shown that technical standards play an important role in building global transportation and communication infrastructures, but the environmental standardization efforts associated with infrastructures have received far less attention. Combining scholarship from transportation geography, political ecology, and science and technology studies, we show how global connection is made, maintained, and contested through environmental management practices pegged to infrastructure standards. The Panama Canal expansion, completed in 2016, is a revealing illustration. The expansion has established the New Panamax shipping standard: the maximum allowable dimensions for vessels passing through the canal's massive new locks. The standard has become a benchmark for port modernization and channel deepening projects along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States and beyond. Because the maximum underwater depth, or draft, of ships transiting the new locks is much deeper than before (50 rather than 39.5 feet), geographically dispersed governments, firms, and port authorities have scrambled to reach that standard in hopes of attracting New Panamax ships and associated revenue streams. As this case shows, global transportation depends on the expensive, ecologically destabilizing, and often-contested practices of dredging and disposing of large volumes of sediment and organic matter. By showing how shipping networks and situated politics converge around infrastructure standards, we foreground the uneven environmental burdens and benefits of transportation.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 49, no 1, 9-28 p.
Transportation, infrastructure, political ecology, shipping, water
Social and Economic Geography Environmental Sciences Ecology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-141296DOI: 10.1177/0308518X16663015ISI: 000393666000003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-141296DiVA: diva2:1086834