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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: December, 2016
Dec 29, 2016

Cymene and Dominic ring out 2016 by sharing a few energy and environment stories you might have missed. Then (22:11) we welcome to the podcast Annise Parker, three term mayor of Houston (2010-2016), now a fellow at Rice University’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders. As Houston’s greenest mayor, we reflect on the major environmental accomplishments of her administration including making Houston—let’s face it, a city not often associated in the public imagination with sustainability—the largest municipal purchaser of renewable electricity in the country with much improved mass transit and a greatly expanded network of hike and bike trails along the city’s bayou system. Annise talks to us about the important role cities are playing in the fight against climate change, including making markets for renewable energy and pursuing their own “para-diplomacy” with other cities to advance initiatives stalled at other levels of government. She explains why making the economic argument for renewables has been so important in Houston and why she doesn’t view Houston’s oil and gas industry as an impediment to forward progress. She also shares her thoughts on bike programs, automated vehicles, public transportation, migration, and hurricanes. Finally (1:09:46) Annise shares her frank reactions to the election, predicts many broken promises to come, and expresses her faith in the republic. Can she imagine being Senator Parker or Governor Parker down the road? Listen in to find out. Wishing all our listeners peace and love and a happy, fighty new year. Let’s make 2017 better in every respect.

Dec 22, 2016

On this week’s episode of the podcast, Dominic and Cymene relate their fave holiday traditions and identify the one thing that any gift-giving culture should absolutely avoid giving. Then (14:51) to help process our season of hyperconsumption, we welcome to the pod Cindy Isenhour from the University of Maine, co-author of Sustainability in the Global City, (http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=1107076285), to talk about her recent research on displaced emissions from the Global North to the Global South. We discuss how the quest to green energy production often neglects the problem of rising commodity consumption and Cindy tells us her thoughts on whether it is possible to decouple economic growth from ecological harm. We talk about Sweden, the first country to officially recognize their displaced emissions, and how Swedish corporatism and cosmopolitanism contributed to that move. We cover Sweden’s efforts to improve China’s carbon efficiency, and how its new tax incentives to encourage reuse and repair of existing commodities are in tension with the government’s hesitation to restrict choice and consumer freedom. Then we turn to her new research on secondary consumption and the vibrant reuse culture of Maine. We reflect on how cheap fossil fuels make it easy to replace instead of reuse and what we in the North might be able to learn from the repair cultures of the South. And we debate whether cities can be the leading edge of climate progress given their own metabolic rift with respect to where their food and energy comes from. Finally, Cindy shares her own gift giving tips. Wishing all of our listeners a peaceful and beautiful holiday week. PS Here’s a photo of the Cultures of Energy rainbow xmas tree!

Dec 15, 2016

All this Russia hacking talk has Cymene and Dominic thinking about Boris, Natasha, Rocky & Bullwinkle. To set matters straight (12:02) Yale anthropologist Doug Rogers joins us to talk about the intersections of energy, power and culture in Russia. We cover the Russian hacking story and what the American news media gets right and wrong about Putin. We dissect the key factions of capital that operate in a petrostate—finance, oil, real estate, military—and their different temporalities and interests. Doug talks about why low oil prices are such a concern Russia today and why Putin might be interested in steering a geopolitics that manages the prices of fossil fuels more tightly. Then we turn to Doug’s recent book, The Depths of Russia: Oil, Power, and Culture After Socialism (Cornell U Press, 2015) and explore the history of world’s first “socialist oil.” We talk about the differences between petrosocialism and petrocaptalism, and why mining and factory work always had higher social status than oil production in the Soviet Union. We cover Soviet era ecological degradation, the role of environmental movements in the perestroika period and their relative disappearance subsequently. We discuss how the Soviet experience of oil challenges Mitchell’s model of carbon democracy and learn how fear of socialist petrobarter led to the kinds of tax incentives and tolerance for cartelism that western oil producers continue to enjoy to this day. We also touch on the introduction of corporate social responsibility in the Russian oil industry, Lukoil’s recycling of petrowealth into cultural sponsorship, and state-sponsored discourse today about how good climate change will be for Russia. Whether you’re feeling petronostalgia or petrophobia this pod is for you! PS And so you don’t have to Google it, here’s shirtless Putin on a horse. You’re welcome.

Dec 8, 2016

Cymene and Dominic talk fake news and our alleged 'post-truth' condition and then (19:13) we are fortunate enough to welcome to the podcast distinguished Harvard historian of science Naomi Oreskes who—together with her collaborator Erik Conway—has been drawing attention to disinformation campaigns for decades. We talk about their legendary book Merchants of Doubt (http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org) and Naomi shares her opinions about the current manipulation of public opinion and what impact social media and the Internet have had. We talk about journalism’s reliance on “two sides” reporting and how that has contributed to exaggerating the facticity of climate denial. We discuss how her collaboration with Erik originated and how their most recent book The Collapse of Western Civilization (Columbia U Press, 2014) began as something of an accident. Then Naomi shares her thoughts on how to persuade people that climate change matters, especially when they are convinced that climate discourse is being used as a pretext to expand governance. She explains why she thinks satire and science fiction can help the cause and we reflect on why partnership between the human sciences and the natural sciences is so important right now even though we still need to work to balance realism and relativism. Finally, we talk about why scientists need to talk about climate change in the present tense and why we all need to articulate the stakes of climate change in an economic register that people seem to be willing to listen to. Ready to become a citizen journalist? We need you, listen on!

Dec 1, 2016

Dominic and Cymene talk Trumpism vs. Reaganism and whether we are somehow cycling back to the "culture wars" on race, gender and sexuality from the 1980s. We drop a (conspiracy?) theory about climate denial and then (16:15) share our recent conversation with J.C. Salyer and Paige West about their work in Papua New Guinea (PNG). J.C. is a lawyer and anthropologist who works as the Staff Attorney for the Arab-American Family Support Center and as an Assistant Professor of Practice at Barnard College, Columbia University. His legal practice focuses on immigration and his research focuses on migration and human rights. Paige is the Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University, she has conducted research in Papua New Guinea for twenty years and is the co-founder of the Papua New Guinea Institute for Biological Research. Paige talks to us about her latest book, Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea (https://cup.columbia.edu/book/dispossession-and-the-environment/9780231541923), in which she explores how rhetoric of the PNG's alleged "savagery" operates as a mode of dispossession in domains like tourism, conservation and resource extraction. We discuss how racism and imperialism impacted PNG historically and how some of these ideas filtered into classic anthropological theory. Paige explains how the arrival of the natural gas industry in PNG helped prompt her to write the book and how gas has helped transform PNG's capital, Port Moresby, into one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Then we turn to their current collaborative research focused on Australia’s (insane) plan to divert asylum seekers to the Manus Regional Processing Centre in PNG. They explain how this plan activated the long history of colonial relations between Australia and PNG but also miscalculated the extent of PNG’s contemporary connectivity to the rest of the world. We talk about the blurring distinction between different causes of migration (war, economy, climate change) and they argue that the Manus plan should be viewed as an experimental venture that reveals how states like Australia intend to handle increasing refugeeism in the future. J.C. & Paige discuss their sense of why it’s important to develop new categories and ways of thinking for engaging the Anthropocene and the teaching projects they've developed to accomplish that goal. We close on the networks and projects needed to move climate action forward in the Trump era even as we grapple with the genealogies of dispossession and racism that have formed white working class America. One silver lining? Our prediction that punk music is going to come back stronger than ever :) Listen on!

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