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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 13, 2017

Your co-hosts chat about the return of Veep and a new indie film under production by the rogue AI of the American Anthropological Association’s panel submissions system, Being Chris Kelty. Then we welcome architectural historian Daniel Barber from Penn Design to the podcast to talk about the history of solar homes and what past ventures in solar design can teach us about our solar futures. Starting with his recent book, A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War (Oxford UP, 2016), we discuss how the Second World War and early worries about peak oil spurred solar thermal home designs in the 1940s and 1950s. We explore the relationship of modernism to solar energy and how modernism’s experimental capacity was harnessed and focused on homes to solve social problems. We also examine the role suburbanization played in this story and what we’ve forgotten about the environmental and cultural utopias that were once associated with suburban communities. Daniel explains how energy experimentation in the 1950s can be seen as alternative origin story for contemporary environmentalism, how the solar homes of the past have influenced solar homes today and how solar suburb projects in the U.S. were eventually redirected toward solar development projects in the Global South. We turn from there to Daniel’s current book project, Climatic Effects, which explores climate-focused architectural design methods from the 1930s to the 1960s and how architects contributed to the emergent science of climatology. We close on Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife, the true story behind the “arcology” and the amazing plan to move all of New Jersey into one building.

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