Alexander Dunlap and Andrea Brock: When the wolf guards the sheep: confronting the industrial machine through green extractivism in Germany and Mexico

Working paper published by the University of Sussex.

Cover of the working paper


Deploying an anarchist political ecology approach, this paper compares coal mining in Germany with wind energy development in Mexico. The paper outlines some principles from green anarchy to develop important values for anarchist political ecology, illuminating neglected issues that highlight the colonial nature of the industrial system responsible for the present state of ecological and climate crisis. After highlighting the normalizing and self-reinforcing nature of industrial systems, we turn to examine RWE’s mining operations in the German Rhineland. Here, we discuss the example of RWE’s Hambach mine, the world’s largest opencast lignite coal mine that—while strongly resisted—is slowly destroying large parts of the Hambacher Forest every year. This destruction is justified by RWE’s deployment of green economic recultivation or ‘offsetting’ initiatives and legitimized by their corporate social technologies that attempt to marginalize and pacify militant resistance in the area. After delving into RWE’s attempts at ‘sustainable’ mining, we then turn to explore wind energy development in one of the greatest wind energy generations sites in the world, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca, Mexico—known locally as Istmo. Regarded as a climate change mitigation strategy, wind energy in the Istmo is having similar impacts to traditional extractive industries, not only in how developers acquire land, but also how local indigenous groups that contest the construction of these operations are repressed. The following section will compare and discuss the similarities, differences and relationships between coal and wind energy extraction. Here, we coin the “renewable energy-extraction nexus” to describe how conventional and so-called renewable energy systems are dependent on each other, collaborate, and together expand and intensify industrial development and socio-ecological degradation in a rush to grab all the vital energies of the earth. We conclude by arguing that the green economy is renewing destruction, not only by ‘greening’—thus legitimizing—inherently unsustainable industrial activities but by expanding such activities and relationships at the cost of social health and ecological diversity.

Open the publication on the University of Sussex's website (pdf).


Alexander Dunlap and Andrea Brock

Postdoctoral Fellow Alexander Dunlap
Postdoctoral Fellow Alexander Dunlap


Published Feb. 19, 2021 10:36 AM - Last modified Mar. 3, 2021 12:31 PM