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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: September, 2019
Sep 26, 2019

Cymene and Dominic wonder whether Brexit or Impeachment will make for better political theater in the months ahead. Then (14:22) we talk to three wonderful folks who are in the process of assembling the Routledge Handbook of Energy Democracy, an interdisciplinary gathering of contributions spanning scholarly and activist engagements. Our three guests are Danielle Endres (https://www.danielleendres.com), Andrea Feldpausch-Parker (https://andreafeldpausch-parker.weebly.com) and Tarla Peterson  (https://www.utep.edu/liberalarts/communication/people/faculty/faculty-pages/tarla-peterson.html). We talk about the distinctive forms that the energy democracy movement is taking both inside and outside the academy, some of the projects that inspire them, strategies for making energy systems more visible and open to citizen intervention, whether renewable energy can renew democracy, the danger of participation fatigue, and much much more!

Sep 19, 2019

Cymene and Dominic tease a family revelation and describe a museum full of caricatures of East Germany (a regime that tbh itself kinda caricatured socialism). Then (17:03) we welcome back to the podcast the one and only Laura Watts (https://sand14.com), now at Edinburgh, who has a marvelous new book out with MIT Press, Energy at the End of the World: An Orkney Islands Saga. We start there and talk about how the remains of a Neolithic city first brought her Orkney and inspired her with its archaeology of the future. Inverting traditional conceptions of center and periphery, future and past, seemingly remote Orkney has now become the center of a marine energy future. We chat about her use of the Saga form as a structuring principle in the book, why she finds hope in the relational character of the “Orkney electron,” and the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) as a global beacon of renewable energy science and industry. We talk about the troubles of harvesting energy from dangerous water, the ambivalence of life in a “living lab” and the intertwined futures of Orcadian humans, marine wildlife and marine energy. We close on writing, and how the choice of words can make some worlds more or less possible. Finally, folks, just a reminder to drop whatever you are doing and go out and strike for climate action this Friday, September 20. To find the nearest march to you check out, https://globalclimatestrike.netSee you on the streets!

Sep 12, 2019

Dominic and Cymene take a trip down MTV memory lane to the romantic 1990s on this week’s podcast. Then (16:00) we welcome the brilliant Christine Folch from Duke U to the pod to talk about her brand new book, Hydropolitics: The Itaipú Dam, Sovereignty, and the Engineering of Modern South America (Princeton U Press, 2019 - https://press.princeton.edu/titles/30066.html). We start with the dam itself; Itaipú is both the largest dam in the world and the world’s largest power plant. Christine explains how it came to be that South America is the lone continent where renewable energy is the dominant source of electricity and what the political consequences of hydropower have been. We talk through how different energy materialities influence politics and economies, the differences between modes of sovereignty defined by land, water and electricity, and frequency patriotism. We turn from there to the politics of debt and hydrodollars, the necessity of studying up, and what fieldwork among technocrats and engineers is like. We close on what the world might learn from the Brazil-Paraguay partnership in renewable energy generation as it contemplates even larger scale coordinations of decarbonized energy.

Sep 6, 2019

Your cohosts talk chihuahuas and squirrels on the verge on this week’s podcast. Then (14:56) we are delighted to welcome Orrin Pilkey Jr., Professor Emeritus at Duke University, to the podcast. Orrin is one of the world’s foremost experts on sea level rise and has just co-authored a new book with his son Keith Pilkey called Sea Level Rise: A Slow Tsunami on America’s Shores (Duke U Press, 2019; https://www.dukeupress.edu/sea-level-rise). Orrin tells us how it was a hurricane that first prompted him to start studying coastal environments. We talk about how sea level rise is finally beginning to see some real political attention in threatened areas but about the limits of what can be done to hold the oceans at bay. Orrin explains how, for example, Miami and New Orleans are doomed, if for different reasons, and asks what will become of their millions of climate refugees. We talk about the need to take retreat seriously as the best option for dealing with sea level rise and how costly measures like seawalls and beach nourishment programs create their own environmental problems. We touch on subsidence, rebounding and other factors influencing coastal erosion, and then discuss the hundreds of critical infrastructure facilities that are sited no more than four feet above sea level. We close on the book’s recommendations to people already living on the coast about what to do now, including sample letters one could write to family members to get them thinking about the impacts of sea level rise.

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