In this writing Ben asks questions about a rail development that is destroying the natural world. He asks what it would take to stop the development and why we are not all talking about it.
Is high speed rail the pinnacle of civilisations’ insanity?
By Ben Warner
Probably not, unfortunately, but it is an excellent example. Standing in the same place for centuries should mean something. The men must have made a mistake. They have destroyed a National Asset. The National Heritage has a list of criteria for granting protected status that includes being in the same place for centuries. Why have they just demolished a possible candidate for the National Heritage List for England? The answer is, it was a tree who was razed to the ground and not a building. The tree was in the way of “progress” and those who get in the way are often crushed.<
Imagine a country so insane it would spend £100 billion during a pandemic and one of the worst recessions in human history, just to speed up a journey by 20 minutes. That’s 5 billion a minute. Imagine the same project would destroy over 700 wildlife sites including sites designated by that same culture as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSI) and not be carbon ‘friendly’ for at least a hundred years.
Imagine it would simultaneously threaten the water supply of its biggest city and use between 6 and 10 million liters of water during its construction. Now imagine the same project has been made obsolete by a virus that has stopped people travelling for business. Of course you do not have to imagine it. The country is the UK and it is as insane as the culture it is part of Industrial civilisation.
High Speed Rail (HS2)
The first stage of HS2 will make the rail journey from the UK’s London to Birmingham 1200 seconds quicker. That is for people who can afford the tickets, which are likely to be in the region of £50. What are people going to do with these 20 minutes? If they were commuting there is probably little they can do at work that they could not have done on the train.
The rational arguments for HS2 do not exist. There are none. But the project will continue. Why? Because it has already started, too much money has been spent and too much embarrassment will be caused, if it stopped. For a culture that prides itself on its rationality, this is baffling. Even when the evidence is so strong, it is hard to accept that our own culture is insane.
Right now there are brave people occupying woods and sleeping in tree houses attempting to slow down the HS2 project and the pointless destruction it is causing. Their efforts are courageous and valuable. Their resistance probably won’t stop HS2, but their actions will not be in vain because the morality of what they are doing is clear for all beings who care to learn about it.
What would it take to stop HS2?
The people in the camps are above ground and peaceful. But what if there was another, completely separate, group of militant underground activists using the hit and run tactics of successful resistance groups? Would sabotage stop HS2? Would sand or water or bleach in the engines of their destructive machines stop them? Would constant, relentless physical intimidation of the workers make the project impossible to complete?
What would a truly effective campaign look like and why are we not talking about it?
Ben Warner is a longtime guardian with DGR, a teacher, and an activist.
Featured image artist unknown via Stop HS2 campaign. There are suggestions of how you can help resist the destruction on their website: stophs2.org.