Just passing through: the risky mobilities of hazardous materials transport
25 May 2012
Department of Geography, University of Illinois, 220 Davenport Hall, 607 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, USA
Abstract. The scientific construction of risk is usually based on the probability of an event occurring in a specific location from a specific hazard. Hazardous waste transport is an example of a risk source that is fixed in neither time nor space, with materials traveling through the landscape. Residents living along fixed transportation routes likely to experience an increase in the amount and potency of hazardous materials traveling through their communities draw on distant places and spaces in order to define the risk they face as they try to make absent places and materials present. However, because those places and spaces are distant and absent, regulatory officials can resist their inclusion by arguing that only what is on site matters. This site of struggle over sources and construction of risks can best be understood through Law and Mol's spatiality of fire space. Using two North American case studies, this paper draws on the concepts of fire space and mobilities to explain the nature of the risk that mobile materials pose, including the disconnect between citizens' objections to increased hazardous materials transport and the environmental review and regulatory processes meant to prevent catastrophes from occurring.