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Cultures of Energy

Cultures of Energy brings writers, artists and scholars together to talk, think and feel their way into the Anthropocene. We cover serious issues like climate change, species extinction and energy transition. But we also try to confront seemingly huge and insurmountable problems with insight, creativity and laughter. We believe in the possibility of personal and cultural change. And we believe that the arts and humanities can help guide us toward a more sustainable future. Cultures of Energy is sponsored by Rice University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS, pronounced ‘sense’). Join the conversation on Twitter @cenhs and on the web at culturesofenergy.com
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Now displaying: May, 2016
May 27, 2016

Live from Ithaca NY, we talk (8:35) to OG energy humanist (and sometimes rockstar) Karen Pinkus, Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature at Cornell, about what attracted her to writing about energy and fuel. She introduces us to her remarkable forthcoming book, Fuel: A Speculative Dictionary (https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/fuel) and its cornucopia of real and imagined fuel forms. We talk bad faith futurity, the need for expansive reading and radical thinking, and why "sustainability" is one of the most pernicious words circulating today. Karen explains to us why it’s so important to distinguish “energy” from “fuel” and how that move helps us to move past a discourse on energy conservation. We talk about Jules Verne as her greatest inspiration, her new research on geoengineering and why the future belongs to small people. Finally, she shares her reflections on COP 21. What does rock and roll have to say to climate change? Listen on!

May 20, 2016

It’s a deep dive into “degrowth” this week on the Cultures of Energy podcast. We welcome (6:57) Giorgos Kallis, a political ecologist and ecological economist based at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, who has authored several influential papers on the theory and practice of degrowth as an antidote to contemporary notions of green economy and sustainability (http://www.degrowth.org/giorgos-kallis). Giorgos talks about the birth of the degrowth concept in the early 2000s and how it confronts the fetishism of growth in economic theory and political culture today. He explains why “green growth” is a fantasy and how attempts to provide technological solutions to social problems usually backfire, displacing and amplifying negative effects elsewhere. We get his take on Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything and hear why changing the nature of work and paying more attention to care have to be cornerstones of our way forward. Can there be prosperity without growth? Are we living through a second edition of the 1930s or the 1940s? Listen on!

May 13, 2016

Welcome to a special bonus double episode of the Cultures of Energy podcast! This week we offer new perspectives on two countries—China and Denmark—that have become touchstones for contemporary debates over energy futures. But before all that serious business, Cymene explains why it’s advisable to wear sunglasses underground. We then (7:57) talk to Michael Hathaway, an anthropologist from Simon Fraser University and author of Environmental Winds: Making the Global in Southwest China (University of California Press, 2013). Michael offers a different perspective on Chinese air pollution; we talk about wind as medium, metaphor and material force and about how the rise of environmental sensibility is changing politics and society in China today. What is China’s role as a global citizen? Then (56:15) we welcome Brit Ross Winthereik to the Houston studio. Brit is based at the IT-University of Copenhagen where she organizes the Alien Energy project (http://alienenergy.dk/). With Brit, we talk about the history, complexity and contradictions of “green energy” in Denmark and learn about the secret history of Danish energy powerhouse Vestas. Brit makes a case for thinking about the environment at different scales and then discusses the Land Art Generator Initiative (http://landartgenerator.org) a project that seeks to make renewable energy beautiful.

May 6, 2016

This week Cultures of Energy welcomes the brilliant (and fully certified) sound artist and composer Lawrence English (http://lawrenceenglish.com) to the podcast. Lawrence explains his relational approach to listening and how he became interested in the practice of field recording. We discuss the difference between hearing and listening, field recording as a political act, aesthetics of signal and noise, and how different ears have different horizons of listening. As a non-linear medium, Lawrence emphasizes the endlessness and promiscuousness of sound and how listening can help us reconnect to our immediate environments and to the world at large. Relish the incidental! In our final segment, (63:18) we mix for your audition and pleasure several clips from Lawrence’s 2012 field recording collection, Songs Of The Living And The Lived In (http://emporium.room40.org/categories/lawrence-english-editions). See if you can recognize the Antarctic fur seal sleeping, Amazonian howler monkeys, Cormorants flocking at dusk, Australian chiroptera, Adele penguin chicks, Antarctic fur seals very much awake, white-throated toucans’ dawn display and a trigona carbonaria hive invasion.

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