In the 19th century, trains ushered in the transcontinental transportation of raw materials, commodities and people on a scale never seen before. While redistributing cargo like lumber, steel, coal, and crude oil over continents, trains were unwittingly laying the tracks for a new geological network of asphalt and concrete that would all but supplant them.
Today, America alone has 3.9 million miles of highways and roads over which 90% of travel occurs. In part to maintain, expand, and power this transportation network, strip mining of the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada has commenced, and hitherto uneconomical crude oil is now heated and squeezed out of the the clay and sand of the Athabasca earth, which once depleted is redeposited in the mine.
In Boreal Express, a train whose freight cars have been transformed into planters for a forest of fir trees circulates through a barren, terraced landscape that is concurrently in the process of construction and excision, suggesting the landscape of a strip mine like the Athabasca Oil Sands, where in order to extract an economically valuable substance from the earth, we first clear away the entire biological community – called overburden by the mining industry.
In place of the overburden, one finds the meandering Boreal Express; a train that was once displaced by more mobile vehicles now gives the forest its own novel mobility.
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