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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: February, 2018
Feb 23, 2018

The kids are all kinds of all right on this week’s episode of the Cultures of Energy podcast. Then (12:55) we welcome our guest, environmental economist Shanti Gamper-Rabindran from the University of Pittsburgh to discuss her remarkable new volume, The Shale Dilemma: A Global Perspective on Fracking and State Development (U Pittsburgh Press, 2018) that gives us a comparative snapshot of where shale oil and gas development is at across the world today. Following the lead of the U.S. where hydraulic fracturing, despite its many environmental consequences, has led an enormous rise in fuel productivity, some countries are actively developing shale resources while others have banned fracking and still others wait and see. Shanti explains the arguments governments make in favor of developing shale resources and why the energy security argument seems to dominate all other concerns. We talk about the dangers of shale development and how the risks and benefits of fracking are very often unevenly distributed. She explains what she’s learned about the frontlines of shale development in China and explains the differences between the outcomes of shale development vs conventional oil and gas extraction. We talk about “carbon leakage,” why inadequate carbon credit schemes have not impacted greenhouse gas emissions and, finally, whether it is truly possible to estimate the “social cost of carbon” when the impacts of climate change appear to be accelerating.

Feb 15, 2018

Cymene and Dominic talk love and precarity and then (13:52) we are very fortunate to welcome Stanford historian of climate science extraordinaire, Paul N. Edwards to the podcast. We ask Paul how he might update his portrait of “climate knowledge infrastructure” were his landmark book, A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010), to be published today. Paul talks about how the Internet impacted public understanding of climate science and helped to make what was once a relatively quiet and settled area of science into a highly politicized field, at least in places like the U.S. We talk about the strategic production of ignorance (agnotology), how skeptics are wreathing themselves in the trappings of science and Paul briefs us on the Trump administration’s war on climate data and peer review. That gets us back into the history of climate science and how scientific consensus was produced around the relationship of atmospheric carbon dioxide to global warming. We discuss whether contemporary climate models are “kludgey,” the Holy Grail of cloud-resolving models, the art of hindcasting the 20th century and how we know the post 1970s temperature spike is anthropogenic. Paul gives his take on whether there is enough climate knowledge infrastructure out there globally to withstand a 4 or 8 year US withdrawal. We turn from there to the energy politics of building new data infrastructure and why Paul finds Bitcoin appalling. Finally, we close on Paul’s all-too-timely new project on the modeling of nuclear winter scenarios and their climatological impacts.

Feb 9, 2018

What do the Super Bowl, horse-based gymnastics, the fact that magic might be really real and bragging about Bruno Latour have in common? Why, they are on your co-hosts minds this week on the podcast. Then (13:00) we are most fortunate to welcome philosopher Graham Harman (Sci-Arc, https://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com) to the program. Graham starts us off with a beginner’s guide to his philosophy, object oriented ontology (ooo) including what does and does not count as an “object” in his thinking. That gets us to the influence of Heidegger and Husserl upon ooo and from there to the optimal relationship between philosophy and science, why aesthetics is first philosophy, the problem of causation and how we are all Stanislavskian method actors when it comes to the experience of art. The conversation turns from there to speculative realism and ooo’s effort to reintroduce metaphysics to continental philosophy. Graham explains why ooo isn’t as anti-Kantian as it seems and also speaks out for what cannot be measured by science in a time when the humanities are under siege. We then explore the relationship between philosophy and physics with the help of Karan Barad’s work on agential realism and talk about ooo’s place in the broader anti-anthropocentric turn in the human sciences since the 1970s. Graham explains to us how Latour became such an important part of his post-Heideggerian recovery, what he makes of the Anthropocene, and how ethics and politics intersect with ooo. We close on his recent book Immaterialism: Objects and Social Theory (Polity, 2016) and what he discovered about the Dutch East India company along the way. What happens when humans aren’t 50% of every situation? Listen on and find out!

Feb 2, 2018

This week on the Cultures (not Vultures) of Energy podcast, Cymene and Dominic declare Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom the cultural grandparent of all Honey Badger videos. Then (15:32) we welcome to the podcast philosopher, activist and energy humanist hero, Prof. Adam Briggle (U North Texas, adambriggle.com), to discuss his remarkable book, A Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking (Liveright, 2015), which tells the tale of how Adam and his fellow residents of Denton Texas organized a successful referendum to ban fracking in the heart of the Barnett Shale. Although later suppressed by the Texas legislature, the Denton case surfaces both the possibilities and limits of citizen action in a state that severs subsurface mineral rights from surface property rights. And it raises profound questions about the capacity of liberal political philosophy and the governmental institutions it has inspired in countries like the U.S. to truly meet the environmental challenges of our era. Together with Adam, we talk about what “field philosophy” is exactly, the surface/subsurface relation as philosophical and political problem, the rights of corporations vs. those of municipalities and what lessons the dark turn in the Denton story holds for anti-fracking activism going forward. We talk about how to create environmental messages that resonate across the ideological spectrum, the future of fracking, proactionary ethics and how fracking reveals the fault lines around liberty within liberal political ontology. Listen on! PS And please if you haven’t already check out our Chicago Climate Change and Culture (4CI) summer institute! https://summer.uchicago.edu/programs/chicago-climate-change-culture-institute-4ci

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