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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: October, 2016
Oct 27, 2016

Cymene and Dominic define (finally!) professionalism and offer a brief review of Leonardo DiCaprio’s soon to be released climate change documentary, Before the Flood. Then (11:43) we are very pleased to welcome to the podcast acclaimed novelist, Amitav Ghosh, author of The Shadow Lines (1988), The Hungry Tide (2004) and The Ibis trilogy (2008-2015), among many other works. We talk about his latest work of non-fiction, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (University of Chicago Press, 2016) and why he thinks it has proven so difficult to bring climate change into literature. We discuss the worldview of the novel and how its emphasis on creating believable narratives has excluded precisely the kinds of unlikely anthropocenic encounters that are becoming increasingly frequent across the world. Amitav argues that before an alternate world can become a reality, it needs to become an imaginative reality and this is why the arts are so crucial to coming to terms with the Anthropocene. We also discuss “serious” art’s fear of being deemed merely “illustrative” and how this may be linked to a Cold War aversion to the aesthetics of socialist realism. Now, Amitav warns, the world has risen up as a protagonist even as our means of representation aren’t up to engaging it. He predicts that the mansions of serious fiction will suffer a similar fate to the mansions of Miami beach as our waters rise. We talk about what is really being denied in climate change denial and how the privileges and comforts of a carbon-fueled lifestyle is something which neither the West nor Asia is prepared to give up. We close with Amitav’s own next novel project and how climate change inspires him personally and artistically.

Oct 21, 2016

Cymene and Dominic say hello from Copenhagen and muse about the humanities’ expanding color spectrum. We then welcome (12:12) to the podcast the fabulous Stacy Alaimo, Professor of English at the University of Texas-Arlington and author of the celebrated Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self (Indiana U, 2010). We discuss her new book, Exposed: Environmental Politics and Pleasures in Posthuman Times (U Minnesota 2016), in light of her thinking about trans-corporeality and ethics in the Anthropocene. Stacy shares her concerns that an abstract sense of species identity and pride is too often smuggled into the Anthropocene concept and explains why she thinks material feminism and feminist science studies have become such important resources for understanding our present condition. We discuss why the turn toward materiality and material agency demands that we engage science in new ways. We talk about the unruly agency of xenobiotic chemicals, deep sea creatures, epigenetics, and how to remake human sprawl to take other creaturely interests into account. Stacy explains that she is not in the hope business but that she does support ecodelics—the mind altering exercise of trying to imagine and feel the Anthropocene from nonhuman perspectives. Stacy’s German Shepherd, Felix, kindly helps us grasp this last point and he shares his thoughts on squirrel metonymy and his unease when the postman cometh. The lesson of the Anthropocene? There is no someplace else. So be present for all the species in your ecology, dear friends!

Oct 13, 2016

Fresh off her #SXSL White House appearance with Barack Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio, we welcome (10:54) to the podcast this week atmospheric scientist extraordinaire, Katharine Hayhoe, Professor at Texas Tech, and one of the world’s most active and talented communicators about the dangers of climate change (http://katharinehayhoe.com). We discuss how climate change became such a highly polarizing political issue in the United States and what motivated her to become a climate scientist in the first place. Katharine explodes the myth that only a certain type of person cares about climate issues and she describes her work with evangelical communities in West Texas to counteract the misconception that climate science is somehow anti-Christian. We talk about climate change as a tragedy of the commons, her insights into the schizophrenic character of oil companies, and about corporate cultures that lose sight of our collective responsibility to each other and to the planet. We compare climate denialism and evolution denialism and Katharine tells us why, in her view, anyone who reads the Bible carefully would be at the front of the climate change movement. We close on her media projects like James Cameron’s Years of Living Dangerously (http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com) and her new Global Weirding web series in partnership with KTTZ (http://kttz.org/term/global-weirding). Enjoy!

Oct 7, 2016

We talk art and artistic superpowers on this week’s Cultures of Energy podcast. Our special guests (9:59) are the celebrated conceptual and multimedia artist Tania Mouraud (http://taniamouraud.com) and Allison Myers, the curator of Tania’s new exhibition, Everyday Ogres. The exhibition is composed of three videos, Once Upon a Time, Face to Face and Fata Morgana, which bring to life the immensity and intensity of industrial sites around the world. Fata Morgana, for example, was filmed at an oil refinery in Pasadena, TX, and captures the “invisible death” it sets into motion. We hear the stories behind the making of the videos and Tania explains why she seeks not a documentary process with her work but rather to forge an emotional and sensory connection through our bodies. We go on to cover Tania’s coming of age as an artist, why she burned all her paintings that one time, and why she loves to change mediums. Tania and Allison reflect on death and the Anthropocene as muses and we turn toward how the arts engage our environmental situation today. Tania explains why her view of ecology is not reductive; it is about finding new ways of being a citizen in the world. Everyday Ogres will be shown at the University of Texas-Austin Visual Arts Center until December 10th, http://utvac.org/exhibitions/tania-mouraud-everyday-ogres . Please check it out!

Oct 4, 2016

On this special bonus midweek episode of the Cultures of Energy podcast, we welcome (10:25) qualitative economist and green energy consultant Dr. Woody Clark (http://www.clarkstrategicpartners.net), author most recently of Smart Green Cities (Routledge, 2016) and The Green Industrial Revolution (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2014). Woody shares his long and varied experience in green technology beginning in the 1990s with his work as Manager of Strategic Planning for Technology Transfer Lawrence Livermore Lab, as a renewable energy and financial advisor to California Governor Gray Davis, and later as a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. We talk about the United States’ missed opportunities in renewable energy development, the coming of a green industrial revolution, why agile energy systems may be more important than energy deregulation, the role of China in securing global energy transition, cap and trade vs. carbon tax, and whether what Woody calls “civic capitalism” could be an antidote to the invisible hand economic thinking of the past few decades. Are we looking at a post-grid future? Is the Chinese state really authoritarian when it comes to its energy planning? How sunny is the future of solar? These questions and more answered right here!

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