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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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Oct 27, 2016

Cymene and Dominic define (finally!) professionalism and offer a brief review of Leonardo DiCaprio’s soon to be released climate change documentary, Before the Flood. Then (11:43) we are very pleased to welcome to the podcast acclaimed novelist, Amitav Ghosh, author of The Shadow Lines (1988), The Hungry Tide (2004) and The Ibis trilogy (2008-2015), among many other works. We talk about his latest work of non-fiction, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (University of Chicago Press, 2016) and why he thinks it has proven so difficult to bring climate change into literature. We discuss the worldview of the novel and how its emphasis on creating believable narratives has excluded precisely the kinds of unlikely anthropocenic encounters that are becoming increasingly frequent across the world. Amitav argues that before an alternate world can become a reality, it needs to become an imaginative reality and this is why the arts are so crucial to coming to terms with the Anthropocene. We also discuss “serious” art’s fear of being deemed merely “illustrative” and how this may be linked to a Cold War aversion to the aesthetics of socialist realism. Now, Amitav warns, the world has risen up as a protagonist even as our means of representation aren’t up to engaging it. He predicts that the mansions of serious fiction will suffer a similar fate to the mansions of Miami beach as our waters rise. We talk about what is really being denied in climate change denial and how the privileges and comforts of a carbon-fueled lifestyle is something which neither the West nor Asia is prepared to give up. We close with Amitav’s own next novel project and how climate change inspires him personally and artistically.

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