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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, 2017
Jul 27, 2017

This week on the Cultures of Energy podcast we do a deep dive into a fascinating project, The Climate Media Net (https://theclimatemedia.net), which seeks to make climate change a bigger part of television comedy and drama in the UK. First, Cymene and Dominic brainstorm their own climate TV ideas. Then (18:45) we’re joined by one of the architects of the Climate Media Net, producer Nick Comer-Calder, formerly of the BBC and Discovery Networks Europe. Nick takes us behind the scenes of television making in the UK and talks about the challenges the issue of climate change poses from the perspective of commissioning programs and project development. Nick explains why he nevertheless feels that climate change represents one of the greatest creative opportunities of our era. We discuss the limitations of the documentary form in terms of changing opinions, the need to create emotional stakes and attachments regarding climate change, and why he thinks turning toward comedies and dramas might be the route forward. He shares the surprising results of his research on how much UK citizens actually know about climate change, his thoughts on bringing climate change into weather forecasts and the reasons why he is generally wary about dystopian narratives. If all this TV talk gets your synapses firing, let us know! It’s time to Trojan horse this whole Golden Age of TV thing :)

Jul 20, 2017

Summer’s a good time to just relax and have a little fun, no? This week we’re introducing a new occasional feature on the Cultures of Energy podcast, a lively discussion of a work of climate fiction. After debating what to call the feature (Ecoflix, Drowned Worlds, Soylent Rainbow, even Unicorn Time—whaaaat?—) we transport you (14:29) to a Volvo rocketing across the Icelandic Highlands and a conversation about the cult-favorite 2013 Bong Joon Ho film, Snowpiercer. Together with our special guest, Icelandic filmmaker, comedian and podcaster, Ragnar Hansson, we do a deep dive into the film and the controversy surrounding its release in the U.S. Do you think insect bars get a bad rap? Concerned about Chris Evans’s emotional range? Unflappable in the face of raver mobs? Then listen on!

Jul 13, 2017

Dominic and Cymene eat crow about Larsen C, discuss d-bags and make an exciting announcement about next week’s episode. Then (16:29) we welcome to the podcast former CENHS postdoc and current Arizona anthropologist Gökçe Günel. We learn about Gökçe’s fascinating work on Abu Dhabi’s prototype city-of-the-future, Masdar City, a project which recently culminated in her forthcoming book, Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi (Duke Univ. Press, 2018). We talk about the early hype surrounding Masdar and what actually came to be, some of the most interesting experiments (driverless pod cars, an energy-based currency system), the aspirations of Arab urbanism, and why the project as a whole has often been called a failure. Gökçe shares with us her thoughts about the true legacies of Masdar, urban retrofitting, labor theory of value vs. energy theory of value, and proleptic temporality (the telling of the future before the future happens). We turn from there to Gökçe’s more recent work on desalination and carbon capture in the Arabian peninsula and finally to her current work on power ships, floating generators that are being used to power cities across the world. Listen on!

Jul 7, 2017

With Antarctica back in the news again, Dominic and Cymene share their feels about the imminent Larsen C calving and the possibly less probable rise of penguins and puffins against human governance (#thepuffrising). Then we talk to the only anthropologist we know who works in Antarctica, the fabulous Jessica O’Reilly from Indiana University. We start by discussing how public and scientific narratives about Antarctica have changed over the past 15 years, the disintegration of Larsen B during Jessy’s research, and the rise of “crack tourism” at Larsen C. We turn from there to her new book, The Technocratic Antarctic: An Ethnography of Scientific Expertise and Environmental Governance (Cornell U Press, 2017), and talk about charismatic data and charismatic ice, Antarctica as a society of experts, the Antarctic treaty and what’s happening with polar politics today. Jessy discusses the inherent conservatism of climate scientists, what they say to each other beyond the public eye, and whether she can imagine Antarctica morphing into a resource frontier as the Arctic has. Finally we turn to her exciting new research project, an ethnographic study of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Listen on! PS A big late-breaking Cultures of Energy pod shoutout to Volvo for accelerating the phaseout of internal combustion engines; the news broke just after we’d recorded this episode.

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