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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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Jan 6, 2017

Dominic and Cymene talk about the past, plans for the future, and socks. Then (12:35) Ohio State environmental anthropologist Nick Kawa joins us on the podcast to talk about his research in Amazonia and his new book, Amazonia in the Anthropocene (University of Texas Press, 2016). We talk about deforestation, stereotypes and realities of Amazonian rural life, and the politics of indigeneity in the region. We learn about the history of Amazonian agriculture and “dark earth” and why Nick feels it’s as compelling evidence for the Anthropocene as the steam engine. We discuss Amazonian biochar and recent proposals that seek to cultivate more dark earth as a carbon sequestration technique. Nick shares his skepticism about industrial agriculture trying to solve its own problems. And we move from there to talking weedy species, the planthropocene, and how some plants may be benefitting from anthropogenic change. We touch briefly on how Amazonians and Floridians are adapting to climate change even as urban planning struggles to understand amphibious ways of living. Turning to Nick’s current research on the use of human waste in agriculture (“nightsoil”!) we discuss how the urban metabolic rift is linked to when people stopped using their own shit in agriculture. Nick explains how nightsoil is making a comeback—now euphemized as “biosolids”—but also how the shit that gets into shit is making it toxic. Is it time for a nightsoil manifesto? Is it possible that 2017 being a shit year could be a good thing? Listen in and find out!

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