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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: July, 2016
Jul 29, 2016

It’s Dominic’s birthday and he’ll cry if he wants to. Your co-hosts first talk green virtue and anthropocenic temperance and Cymene’s childhood close encounter with a tiger. We then (9:02) welcome to the podcast a very distinguished guest, Dale Jamieson, Professor of Environmental Studies and Philosophy at New York University and author of Reason in a Dark Time (Oxford University Press, 2014). We talk at length about his moving collaborative project with novelist Bonnie Nadzam (author of Lamb and Lions) and their recently published collection, Love in the Anthropocene (http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/love-in-the-anthropocene-by-jamieson-and-nadzam/). Dale posits love as the antithesis of narcissism and describes why contact with the real is so much more important than enveloping ourselves in fantasy. We talk hierarchy and class and why the Anthropocene will be better for some than for others. Yet, Dale emphasizes the newness of our present situation and says we should spend more time thinking and trying to understand our problems and less time relying on familiar categories and chasing solutions. Tracking back to Dale’s earlier work, we touch on the virtues, our need to recover agency, why we should tax email, and the intergenerational ethics of climate change. Then we turn to his current research on how the Anthropocene has challenged the categories and practices of liberalism, eroding both our traditional agency presupposition and public/private distinctions. The point being that we really don’t know how to govern in the Anthropocene—and, maybe we didn’t in the Holocene either! But in any case we live in a time in need of a great deal of political experimentation. We close with how surfing brought Dale to Environmental Studies and why philosophy matters in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Do you think we have too much populism and not enough democracy? Listen on!

Jul 21, 2016

Cymene and Dominic briefly highlight the plight of refugee polar bears in Iceland and pitch PolarBearLand as a creative response. Then (9:34) we welcome to the podcast celebrated Icelandic actor and director, Benedikt Erlingsson. We talk about his first feature film, Of Horses and Men (Hross í Oss, 2013), Iceland’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, and what he finds fascinating about human-horse relationships. We discuss the differences between Icelandic and American horse cultures and what he thinks horses reveal about humans as dangerous animals. Then Benedikt gives us a glimpse of his current film project, A Woman at War, an “action-arthouse-ecological thriller.” It concerns a middle-aged musician who takes it upon herself to save the world by sabotaging the electricity to Iceland’s aluminum smelters. This leads us to a conversation about self-sacrifice, dangerous ideas, and what he views as an inevitable coming radicalization of politics. Benedikt discusses the struggle to change our environmental doomsday trajectory and why he finds the myth of Prometheus such an apt analogy for our present situation. He also shares his reaction to a remarkable meeting with the World Bank in which they asked filmmakers to do more to change popular attitudes about climate change. In closing we discuss his support for a landmark project to limit further development in the Icelandic highlands and how to find the stories that will inspire people to accept radical change. Our thanks again this week to Iceland’s national broadcasting service, RÚV, for graciously allowing us to use their studio space and to CENHS fellow Magnús Sigurðsson for engineering and editing the recording.

Jul 15, 2016

Water, water everywhere. The human sciences have become animated by the politics, ethics and materiality of water of late and for good reason. Our guest (11:13) on this week’s Cultures of Energy podcast was one of the first to get this conversation started. Anthropologist Veronica Strang, currently Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Durham University, is the author of The Meaning of Water (Oxford, 2004) and Water: Culture and Nature (Reaktion, 2015) and a recipient of UNESCO’s International Water Prize. We talk about how the transgressive and transformative properties of water cut across cultures and how its material liquidity complicates our cultural and legal understandings of ownership and property. Veronica explains why we have to think water across scales, from its mediation of individual bodies to how its flows form communities. We talk about the infamous case of Bolivia’s water privatization, efforts to enclose water resources across the world and how contemporary politics of water are undermining democracy. Veronica also reminds us though that efforts to centralize control over water are ancient and that the movements that are now seeking to decentralize water resources also have hope. In closing we discuss cosmological and mythological water beings ranging from rainbow serpents to Chinese water dragons to the Lambton Worm, reputed to live in Durham’s own River Wear. Is our concern with hydration and floods these days informed by the moral economy and sacred vitality of water? Has urbanization caused us to lose touch with the hydrological cycle that so powerfully informed the cultural imaginations of our ancestors? Pour yourself a glass of water and listen on.

Jul 8, 2016

Dominic and Cymene may or may not enjoy an evening cocktail on a perfect Berlin evening on this week’s Cultures of Energy podcast. Then, we turn (4:05) to a lively and fascinating conversation with legendary anthropologist and philosopher, Annemarie Mol, author of The Body Multiple and The Logic of Care and recent winner of the Spinoza Prize. We talk with her about nature as process instead of object and knowledge as technique. She explains her interest in practices and why taking technologies seriously explodes “the human.” We talk about why “eating bodies” are good to think with and about why she wants to rethink embodiment via metabolics beyond older neuromuscular models of bodies. But she also wants to push metabolics beyond the legacy of 19th century energetics (think calories). From there we talk about the difference between logics of choice and logics of care and why she views her work as resolutely political. Why should we attend to ecology and care today? Listen on!! PS: Special thanks to Catherine Alexander for opening her home to us for the conversation!

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