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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: June, 2017
Jun 29, 2017

Cymene and Dominic talk drone dreams, disappearing glaciers and boring sagas and then (13:07) the wonderful Sophia Roosth (Harvard, History of Science) joins the pod to talk about, among other things, her excellent new book, Synthetic: How Life Got Made (U Chicago Press, 2017). We begin with synthetic biology, where it came from and what counts as “life” and what counts as “making” in the field. We then discuss how synthetic biologists think their way between creation, construction, and design, the noise and signal of life, exegesis as an evolutionary force, whether genetically modified organisms are queer lifeforms, and how synthetic biology and maker culture intersected in the amateur DIY bio community. We talk about intellectual property, venture capital and how bioengineering came to be captured by the logic of industrial capitalism. We turn from there to bioterror and why synthetic biology doesn’t make Sophia’s top ten list of things to be scared about. We cover biological salvage and deextinction experiments like Pleistocene Park and Sophia explains how synthetic biology has unsettled scientific understandings of “species.” Finally we hear a bit about her fascinating new work with geobiologists on the origins of life. Listen on!

Jun 22, 2017

Dominic and Cymene expose the truth behind a rabid raccoon attack and then (16:46) former CENHS star Matthew Schneider-Mayerson (now Yale-NUS) joins the podcast to talk about his book Peak Oil: Apocalyptic Environmentalism and Libertarian Political Culture (U Chicago Press, 2015). Matthew reminds us how much the threat of “peak oil” and energy depletion was a topic of public concern and commentary in the late 2000s and explains how he came to study the community of hardcore “peakists.” We talk about the racial and gender dynamics of the movement and whether they echo the anxieties of white masculinity on display in recent right wing populism. Matthew explains how he came to view peakism as a distinctively neoliberal social movement, what the emotional and spiritual landscape of the movement looked like, the difficulty of imagining a positive life after oil, and whether peakism foreshadowed contemporary reckonings with the Anthropocene. Matthew then tells us about his work to help establish the Fossilized Houston art collective (www.fossilizedhouston.com) and a new project, Loan Words to Live By, which will curate a set of ecologically significant terms that don’t exist in English but should. Finally we turn to Matthew’s current research and reflections on Singapore including eco-authoritarianism, sea-level rise, floating buildings, and the paradox of Singapore as a massively carbon intensive "garden city."

Jun 15, 2017

Cymene and Dominic speak ecological truth to nostalgia and then (16:09) welcome to the pod Greta Gaard, Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin River Falls, and, once upon a time, a co-founder of Minnesota’s Green Party. We all know ecofeminism is back but Greta reminds us how it never really went away. She takes us back to the beginning and the diverse intellectual and activist projects and intersectional alliances that helped inform ecofeminism’s birth in the 1980s. We talk about the backlash against ecofeminism’s perceived essentialism and speciesism, the balance between theory and practice that evolved over time, and how to compare posthumanism, animal studies and ecofeminism today. Greta shares her disappointment at the ideas that have been borrowed from ecofeminism without due recognition. And we discuss whether feminism can be relevant today without engaging the environment and environmental justice. We then turn to her forthcoming book, Critical Ecofeminism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), which seeks to recuperate the pathbreaking philosophical work of Val Plumwood. We turn from there to ecomasculinity, ecoerotics and erotophobia, we talk about good and bad kinds of milk/ing, and Greta shares what went wrong with the Green Party of the United States in the 1990s and what she thinks about third party politics now.

Jun 8, 2017

Cymene and Dominic speculate about fonts and life after academe. Then the fantastic Claire Colebrook joins us on the pod. We begin by discussing her recent two volume collection, Essays on Extinction (Open Humanities Press, 2014) and what got her interested in thinking about extinction in the first place. We talk about whether human existence has more than simply parochial value, our attachments to life, why recognition of the anthropocene should be more of a game changer, and how thinking about end times can also make us consider what is really worth saving. Claire explains why she feels the way we live ethics today can be an indulgent practice and why tough ethical decisions are becoming more urgent. We turn from there to how figures of “the caring human,” indigenous culture, and nature are mobilized in reckonings with the anthropocene. She tells us why Deleuze is not a vitalist and takes on popular readings of Deleuze as a “philosopher of becoming” including the lines that are being woven in the blogosphere between Deleuze, accelerationism and, gulp, Steve Bannon. We cover philosophical concepts of life, the roots of contemporary climate skepticism, the everyday violence of affluent western lifestyles, and the possibility of low carbon philosophy. We discover why Claire thinks that the “Trumpocene” has now trumped the anthropocene. And we close by discussing her current project on fragility. Wondering which of Claire’s collies has a better grasp of the anthropocene condition? Listen on and find out!

Jun 1, 2017

Cymene and Dominic process today’s news about the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement as well as yesterday's ExxonMobil shareholder insurrection, which will force the company to start measuring the size of its carbon bubble. Then (18:03) we turn to sunnier places and faces and welcome Amelia Moore from the University of Rhode Island to the pod. With Amelia we talk about the Caribbean as a foundational experimental space—increasingly for energy transition—and the illusions of smallness and boundedness that accompany today’s experimental projects. We focus in on her research in the Bahamas, and discuss the islands’ reliance on fossil fuels, the massive carbon footprint of island tourism, the small island as an iconic anthropocene space, and the solar core of paradise. We talk about the politics and publics surrounding sea level rise in the Caribbean, the ethical quandaries of the tourist industry, and how colonial legacies matter. We turn from there to Amelia’s current work on coral, that wondrous combination of animal, vegetable and mineral. We talk acidification and bleaching and how coral has joined polar bears and glaciers as sentinel beings of the anthropocene. Amelia explains how anthropocene disaster tourism is beginning to become a thing and describes her latest research on new corporate social responsibility initiatives underway in the Caribbean and Indonesia that are designed to help people learn how to care for and help rehabilitate coral communities. We close with a teaser for her latest project on social acceptance of the U.S.’s first offshore wind park project near Block Island. Listen on!

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