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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, 2017
Oct 26, 2017

Cymene and Dominic talk about Al Gore’s visit to Rice and share thoughts on going solar both at home and in Puerto Rico. Then (12:25) we welcome Nikhil Anand from the University of Pennsylvania to the podcast to talk about his fascinating new book, Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai (Duke UP, 2017), which examines the evolution of “hydraulic citizenship” in Mumbai. We begin with the Mumbai floods and why they were no “natural disaster.” Turning to a discussion of liberalism in cities, Nikhil explains how water pressure and political pressure interact in Mumbai to create fickle yet efficacious modes of citizenship. We compare the wasteful yet essential character of electric and hydraulic “gridlife” and discuss how people are increasingly being forced to provide their own infrastructure not only in India but also in places like Detroit and Philadelphia. Nikhil explains how talk of scarce resources connects to a conservative politics of place, how leakiness and porosity are actually crucial to how water infrastructure operates, and how he thinks about the intersection of materiality and publics. We conclude by talking about the promise of infrastructure, what we learn from thinking about cities through water rather than land, and his new research project with Bethany Wiggins, Rising Waters, which investigates racialized and class-based geographies of injustice along rivers and in the wetlands of Philadelphia and Mumbai.

Oct 19, 2017

Dominic and Cymene talk surprise interspecies encounters. Then (11:08) we talk to composer, musician and sonic activist Matthew Burtner (http://matthewburtner.com , http://www.ecosono.org) about his work in ecoacoustics that touches on environmental issues ranging from multispecies relations to climate change. Matthew explains how his upbringing in Alaska created an early interest in the environment and led him toward an accidental kind of climate activism. Then we talk wind and breathing, why he composed the world’s first climate change opera (Auksalaq), how he collaborates with scientists to sonify and perform scientific data, and why he feels that music can allow us to experience time scales and environments differently. We hear the fascinating story behind how Matthew became the world’s most famous composer of music for moths, the challenges of writing music for multiple species, and how creating new sonic environments could help to address environmental crises like pollination. Finally, Matthew explains why he feels it’s so important to decenter humans in his art and activism. Listen on!

Oct 12, 2017

Ofcymene and Ofdominic share their thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale and then (17:20) we are delighted to welcome to the podcast, Gretchen Bakke, anthropologist and author of the celebrated The Grid: The Fraying Wires between Americans and our Energy Future (Bloomsbury, 2016). We begin with this week’s announcement of the termination of the Clean Power Plan and the politics of “baseload energy” today. From there, we cover why electricity is a commodity like no other, how electricity is actually like polyamorous love, the challenges of writing for a wider public, and the infrastructural revolution that we are experiencing (but not always aware of). Gretchen explains how the future of electrical infrastructure has come into focus only very recently and discusses how subtraction (from the grid) may become a key resource in the future. We talk about the unreliable state of the U.S. grid and how it prompted the military to pioneer the use of microgrids. We ask whether we can trust utilities to work with us on creating a more distributed and decarbonized electrical infrastructure. And Gretchen suggests that the utility model may already be dead. We wrap up with the place of conservation in the transition, how hyperlocal production could reduce our electricity consumption 40% with no immediate change in lifestyle, and why government (and not markets or philanthropy) needs to drive the transition.

Oct 5, 2017

Your co-hosts compare inaction on gun violence to inaction on climate change and rant a little about how we can hope for a better future world when we can’t even make our communities safe in the present. Then (17:57), in the name of improving our political edutainment, we welcome to the podcast The Yes Men, the activist duo who over the past two decades have made impersonating authorities and hoaxing news media into an art form. We find out how they got started in the early days of the Internet and later adapted their craft as the ecology of media evolved. That leads us to the challenges and opportunities of hoaxing in the era of fake news and why they think the rise of Trumpism means that getting involved in grassroots politics is now more important than engineering spectacles. They explain why climate change has become such an important focus of their activism, how they balance seriousness and humor, and why it’s so important that we get past our own guilt about the bad choices we’re forced to make and get active and communicative. Something’s coming, Houston. If you’re interested in getting involved, say yes at yeslab.org. For more information on The Yes Men’s past actions see http://theyesmen.org

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