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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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Apr 6, 2017

Your co-hosts chat about hyperloops, hydrarails and that time Newt Gingrich flirted with Cymene. Then (16:54) renowned sociologist Saskia Sassen joins us to share her thinking about our contemporary environmental predicament. We talk about finance as the steam engine of our era, the reasons for its recent rise, and whether Saskia feels that finance can contribute to reversing environmental degradation. We then turn to her most recent book Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy (Harvard UP, 2014), in particular to her discussion of the impacts of mining, and explore her argument that we need new concepts to replace the American-centric categories of mid 20th century social science. Saskia shares her thoughts on the Anthropocene and the Chthulucene and why she is interested in the problem of the “systemic edge” where our categories of analysis cease to capture the intensity of contemporary social and environmental conditions. We turn from there to the current crises of liberalism, water, and immigration and Saskia explains why she thinks that political classes across the world seem so checked out now. She details the unremarkable instruments that have scaled to produce planet-wide environmental destruction and asks whether it’s possible to imagine equally simple instruments for doing good in the world, perhaps by thinking and acting more like the biosphere itself. Finally we return to one of Saskia’s favorite topics—cities—and how urban space contains our future frontiers of politics and life. What are the ethics of the city? What’s it like to walk the city with Saskia Sassen? Listen on and find out!

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