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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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Feb 15, 2018

Cymene and Dominic talk love and precarity and then (13:52) we are very fortunate to welcome Stanford historian of climate science extraordinaire, Paul N. Edwards to the podcast. We ask Paul how he might update his portrait of “climate knowledge infrastructure” were his landmark book, A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (MIT Press, 2010), to be published today. Paul talks about how the Internet impacted public understanding of climate science and helped to make what was once a relatively quiet and settled area of science into a highly politicized field, at least in places like the U.S. We talk about the strategic production of ignorance (agnotology), how skeptics are wreathing themselves in the trappings of science and Paul briefs us on the Trump administration’s war on climate data and peer review. That gets us back into the history of climate science and how scientific consensus was produced around the relationship of atmospheric carbon dioxide to global warming. We discuss whether contemporary climate models are “kludgey,” the Holy Grail of cloud-resolving models, the art of hindcasting the 20th century and how we know the post 1970s temperature spike is anthropogenic. Paul gives his take on whether there is enough climate knowledge infrastructure out there globally to withstand a 4 or 8 year US withdrawal. We turn from there to the energy politics of building new data infrastructure and why Paul finds Bitcoin appalling. Finally, we close on Paul’s all-too-timely new project on the modeling of nuclear winter scenarios and their climatological impacts.

Feb 9, 2018

What do the Super Bowl, horse-based gymnastics, the fact that magic might be really real and bragging about Bruno Latour have in common? Why, they are on your co-hosts minds this week on the podcast. Then (13:00) we are most fortunate to welcome philosopher Graham Harman (Sci-Arc, https://doctorzamalek2.wordpress.com) to the program. Graham starts us off with a beginner’s guide to his philosophy, object oriented ontology (ooo) including what does and does not count as an “object” in his thinking. That gets us to the influence of Heidegger and Husserl upon ooo and from there to the optimal relationship between philosophy and science, why aesthetics is first philosophy, the problem of causation and how we are all Stanislavskian method actors when it comes to the experience of art. The conversation turns from there to speculative realism and ooo’s effort to reintroduce metaphysics to continental philosophy. Graham explains why ooo isn’t as anti-Kantian as it seems and also speaks out for what cannot be measured by science in a time when the humanities are under siege. We then explore the relationship between philosophy and physics with the help of Karan Barad’s work on agential realism and talk about ooo’s place in the broader anti-anthropocentric turn in the human sciences since the 1970s. Graham explains to us how Latour became such an important part of his post-Heideggerian recovery, what he makes of the Anthropocene, and how ethics and politics intersect with ooo. We close on his recent book Immaterialism: Objects and Social Theory (Polity, 2016) and what he discovered about the Dutch East India company along the way. What happens when humans aren’t 50% of every situation? Listen on and find out!

Feb 2, 2018

This week on the Cultures (not Vultures) of Energy podcast, Cymene and Dominic declare Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom the cultural grandparent of all Honey Badger videos. Then (15:32) we welcome to the podcast philosopher, activist and energy humanist hero, Prof. Adam Briggle (U North Texas, adambriggle.com), to discuss his remarkable book, A Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking (Liveright, 2015), which tells the tale of how Adam and his fellow residents of Denton Texas organized a successful referendum to ban fracking in the heart of the Barnett Shale. Although later suppressed by the Texas legislature, the Denton case surfaces both the possibilities and limits of citizen action in a state that severs subsurface mineral rights from surface property rights. And it raises profound questions about the capacity of liberal political philosophy and the governmental institutions it has inspired in countries like the U.S. to truly meet the environmental challenges of our era. Together with Adam, we talk about what “field philosophy” is exactly, the surface/subsurface relation as philosophical and political problem, the rights of corporations vs. those of municipalities and what lessons the dark turn in the Denton story holds for anti-fracking activism going forward. We talk about how to create environmental messages that resonate across the ideological spectrum, the future of fracking, proactionary ethics and how fracking reveals the fault lines around liberty within liberal political ontology. Listen on! PS And please if you haven’t already check out our Chicago Climate Change and Culture (4CI) summer institute! https://summer.uchicago.edu/programs/chicago-climate-change-culture-institute-4ci

Jan 26, 2018

Cymene and Dominic announce their latest educational venture, the Chicago Climate Change & Culture Institute (4CI) and ask y’all’s help in getting the word out —

https://summer.uchicago.edu/programs/chicago-climate-change-culture-institute-4ci — Then (10:48) joining us from the fashionable eastern time zone is the fabulous Lisa Sideris. We talk to her about her new book Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (U California Press, 2017). Lisa explains how her earlier research on the neglect of Darwinism in religious environmental ethics set the stage for this project investigating those who put forward science as a kind of religion. We talk about the historical roots of “Epic Science,” its anthrocentric narratives, our soft spot for the charisma of Carl Sagan, and how scientism leverages wonder to devalue the natural world. Lisa explains how the narratives from these “new cosmologists” also devalue the humanities relative to the sciences and we discuss whether patriarchal monotheism also informs ideas like Gaian spirituality and Teilhard de Chardin’s “noosphere.” She connects new cosmological thinking also to the conception of the Anthropocene, especially the “good Anthropocene,” the Ecozoic and the idea of human-directed evolution. And, case in point, we talk about the Koch-sponsored Smithsonian Hall of Human Origins exhibition and its agenda to rewrite the story of climate change as a positive one for Homo Sapiens. That leads us to Lisa’s thoughts on Pope Francis, Rachel Carson and Biosphere 2. We end with Lisa’s spirited defense of the humanities. Listen on and please help us to get the word out about 4CI!

Jan 19, 2018

Dominic and Cymene report on icy Rice and the raw and the cooked. And then (14:47) we speak to our dear friend Hannah Knox from University College London. We start with why Hannah thinks infrastructure has become such a lively area of research in the human sciences. We then turn to Hannah’s recent book, co-authored with Penny Harvey, Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise (Cornell U Press, 2015). We talk about how roads materialize political power at the same time that they incorporate expertise within themselves, whether thinking about infrastructure differs in the North and the South, cultures of engineering, and the co-dependency of rhetoric and materials in road-making. Hannah shares her thoughts on the promise of infrastructure, impossible publics and roads as future-making projects. We turn from there to a sampling of Hannah’s other ongoing research projects including studying a digital simulation that models the ecological future of Manchester and how climate science intersects with other kinds of administrative knowledge in the UK. Hannah explains how climate action and expertise is increasing moving outside expected spaces and politics because of austerity measures. And we close by talking about moral landscapes of sustainability and energy consumption.

Jan 12, 2018

Cymene and Dominic talk games and wombs of yore. And then (15:15) we turn to a conversation with the original blue humanist, Steve Mentz from St. John’s University. We start with his recent work, Shipwreck Modernity (U Minnesota Press, 2015) and its effort to pluralize thinking about the Anthropocene. We are introduced to concepts like the Homogenocene, the Thalassocene and of course the Naufragocene, the age of maritime disasters. We talk about shipwreck as ecological parable and master narrative, and how narrating catastrophes made it easier to endure them. The inhospitable environment of life on the water leads us to discuss scurvy, immersion, and why we need to learn to live inside of wrecks inside of trying to avoid them. Steve explains to us why the ecological future belongs to swimmers instead of sailors. We then turn to a recent collaborative project, Oceanic New York (Punctum, 2015) and his recent interest in Newtown Creek in Brooklyn, the site of an oil spill several times greater than the Exxon Valdez that few really know about. We close by talking about whether oceans are finally receiving their due in the humanities today and how we might reclaim our waterscapes through “wild swimming.”

 

 

Jan 4, 2018

Cymene and Dominic report on the insane fireworks situation in Reykjavík. Then (16:02) Dominic chats with our esteemed energy humanist colleague Michael Watts from UC-Berkeley. Michael explains how he accidently backed in to studying Nigerian petroculture in the 1970s and how he has traced the formation of the Nigerian petrostate from the Biafran war through the insurgencies of the 1990s and 2000s. We discuss the legacies of those insurgencies for the politics of oil in Nigeria today, the epistemological challenges of trying to comprehend the global character of the petroleum in its local/national manifestations especially when “the numbers make no bloody sense” and the industry shrouds itself in secrecy. We analyze the characteristics of oil frontiers and discuss whether an end to the boom/bust cycle of oil development is nigh. Then we turn to Michael’s recent volume, Subterranean Estates: Life Worlds of Oil and Gas (Cornell U Press, 2015) edited together with Hannah Appel and Arthur Mason, and especially his chapter on “accumulated insecurities” and the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Michael shows us the parallels between the neoliberal deregulation of, and actuarial logics within, the energy and financial industries and this brings Deepwater into a generative comparison with the 2008 financial crash. We move from there to Michael’s partnership with Ed Kashi and why photography has always been a passion of his. We close by talking about Michael’s ongoing interest in agriculture—in particular the future of Californian agriculture in a time of drought and fire—and about his work to demystify the research proposal as an element of graduate training.

Dec 28, 2017

Cymene and Dominic kick off the last podcast of 2017 with an emotional year in review; there is talk of resolutions for 2018 and then Cym informs the world about what it’s like to be in a float cabin that’s a little too cold. We are then (18:03) so happy to share our last 2017 podcasty moments with the ever-dynamic Macarena Gómez-Barris from Pratt Institute. We do a deep discussion of her new book, The Extractive Zone (Duke U Press, 2017), its queer and porous analytics, and the project of foregrounding “submerged perspectives” from the Americas against the backdrop of racialized extractive capitalism. We talk about how to localize a phenomenon as vast and complex as extractivism, New Age settler colonialism, and how Andean phenomenology can offer different modes of ecological thinking and social praxis to northern norms. Maca explains why she thinks undoing our sense of mastery in academic work is itself a contribution to an anti-extractivist politics and the conversation moves from there to decolonizing the anthropocene and capitalocene concepts with the help of southern ecofeminisms and the arts. Maca introduces us to the fish-eye episteme and how it can counteract the drone/surveillance logic of technocracy and also to “geochoreography”—moving with the earth and being moved by it. We close by discussing the work of the new Global South Center she just founded at Pratt and her effort to widen the audience for critical theory. Wishing all of our listeners a very happy new year. We’ll see you on the other side in 2018. And meanwhile remember that it’s all about the tease.

Dec 21, 2017

On this holiday edition of the Cultures of Energy podcast, Cymene and Dominic discuss redistributions of wealth and what they are looking for in a holiday robot. Then (10:51) we welcome someone who we’ve been dying to talk to for some time—Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. We begin with her long-standing interest in climate science and where she thinks the epistemic and institutional roots of U.S. climate skepticism lie. We talk about the broader problem of transcendental facts vs. situated experiences, how civic epistemologies of climates are formed, and what it means to talk about “belief” in climate change (and Santa Claus for that matter). We move from there to technologies of humility, efforts to democratize science, knowledge silos, inter-expert rivalries and the possibilities of epistemic charity. Sheila explains to us why matters of fact and matters of concern are inseparable and why critique has never run out of steam. Finally she shares her thoughts about how institutions like the IPCC could pay greater attention to justice issues and about how we can work to create a global democracy commensurate with global knowledges and global publics.

Dec 14, 2017

Dominic and Cymene wonder if they could drink 12 diet cokes a day. That makes us thirsty for water and the life aquatic and so (11:44) we welcome the brilliant Marianne Lien from the University of Oslo to the podcast. We begin with faunal and floral settler colonialism in Tasmania and discuss early ventures in aquaculture and acclimatization around the world. Then we dive into Marianne’s fabulous and influential book, Becoming Salmon (U California Press, 2015), and hear how a project that started with a focus on globalization made its own multispecies turn toward the study of domestication. We talk about the salmon domus, terrestrial vs. aquatic modes of husbandry, unmaking the wild/domesticated distinction, what invisibility means for human/animal relations, mirrors and boundaries, and the diversity of salmon cultures. From there we cover salmon aesthetics and caring for swarms, the trouble with killing animals, the growing recognition of the sentience of salmon, the value of anthropomorphism for multispecies understanding and the complexity of trying to engineer an ecology. We close by talking about Marianne’s new work on landscapes and assimilation in Norway’s north and what anthropology can contribute to public understanding of the multiplicity of the world. Listen and enjoy! PS Cymene had to disappear half-way through the main interview to be on a AAA panel; rumors of her having had enough of her co-host are totally or at least 75% untrue :)

Dec 8, 2017

Coming to you this week from Kreuzberg, Cymene and Dominic imagine Truman Show Berlin. Then (9:04) we connect to Australia at long last with the help of Astrida Neimanis from the University of Sydney. We talk about her recent book, Bodies of Water: Posthuman Feminist Phenomenology (Bloomsbury, 2017), and her efforts to rethink embodiment and relationality via water. Astrida explains to us the difficult capaciousness of “water” as a concept and the need for more particular phenomenological engagements, weighs in on “blue humanities” and talks with us about what seems distinctive and exciting about feminist environmental humanities today. We talk misogyny and the erasure of feminist voices, the politics of citation, and toxic masculinities and that brings us to Astrida’s new body of work on water as a queer archive of feeling. She explains why she thinks we need to talk more about our crazy attachment to a fossil-fueled life and what we can learn about desire from what is dumped in the deep watery places of the world. We talk about the multiplicity of anthropocene temporalities, tidalectics, and building antichrononormative communities. We muse on fathoming and the messy contingencies of water and knowledge and why we need more relating and better imaginaries. We close on which archives Astrida wants to work on next, in particular chemical weapons in the seas around Australia and “rehabilitated” wetlands near Hamilton Ontario, and how water always forgets but also always remembers.

Nov 30, 2017

Cymene and Dominic report from the AAA meetings in Washington DC and talk love, monsters, vodkasts, sodcasts and godcasts. Then (10:49) we are joined by the delightful Kregg Hetherington who transports us to the soylands of Paraguay. We talk about his book Guerilla Auditors (Duke UP, 2011), discourses of corruption and transparency, the pathologization of campesino life and the social life of documents. We turn from there to the soy boom in Paraguay, the fragility of monoculture and the impact of soy agriculture’s extensive chemical infrastructure. Kregg explains why he views soy as a hyperobject and what he sees as the potentials and limits of “soy democracy.” We discuss the statist trap of environmental progressivism, infrastructure, how to avoid a “monoculture of the mind” and we debate the ethics of the future perfect as we wrestle with the anthropocene. Wondering what “agrobiopolitics” is? Listen on!

Nov 23, 2017

Cymene and Dominic explain “trunk cake” and then (9:27) we welcome to the podcast the fabulous Joe Masco, author most recently of Theater of Operations (Duke UP, 2014). The conversation starts with the relationship between affect and knowledge in the U.S. security state and whether Joe thinks biosecurity has maintained its noir character in the Trump era. We discuss the critical role the imaginary plays in counter-terrorist statecraft, how the war on terror helped to lay groundwork for the spread of propaganda and “alternative facts” today, and how today’s condition of climate emergency draws upon discourses and infrastructures of nuclear emergency developed in the 20th century. Joe explains how radioactive fallout studies helped shape the science of ecology and prompt the first international environmental treaties and why the department of defense today views climate change through the lens of weapons of mass destruction. We talk about what institutions of national security and a “deep (petro)state” are contributing to resistance to climate action and Joe tells us how the nuclear era is entering into a new phase in the 21st century even as nuclear statecraft appears to have abolished both “war” and “peace” from the political imagination. We close with a discussion of nuclear renaissance and nuclear sublime and why we must resist a climate sublime that is emerging to take its place.

Nov 16, 2017

On this week’s landmark 100th episode of the podcast, the artist-almost-known-as-Bebeny tells the true crime story behind her name. Then (14:07) we welcome to the centenary party celebrated writer (and walker!) Robert Macfarlane, author most recently of Landmarks (PenguinRandomHouse, 2015) as well as a frequent contributor to The Guardian. We start with how Rob got from his humble beginnings in 19th century Victorian literary studies to the marvelous entanglements of language and landscape that have been his muse and craft for many years now. Rob talks about his work to salvage the linguistic attentiveness to nature found in the cultures of Britain as well as his fascination of late with what happens when a rapidly changing climate outstrips our lexical resources. That leads us to “solastalgia,” the existential distress we experience through rapid environmental change and dwelling loss. And to Rob’s landscape word of the day project which reveals a hunger for biodiverse terrain language. We ruminate on the “English eerie” as an alternative to the pastoral and how it impacts our peripheral vision of environmental disruption. We touch on the plastics crisis, apocalyptic dreams, shifting baseline syndrome, the gap between childhood and nature, and children as wondernauts. Rob tells us about his trip to the Onkalo nuclear waste storage facility in Finland, a structure devoted to the time scale of eternity, and the problem of communicating danger to future cultures. Then we share our encounters with ice, talk cryo-human relations and the true meaning of nostalgia. If you enjoyed this conversation, please check out Rob’s new film, Mountain (dir. Jennifer Peedom, 2017), and his beautiful new children’s book done together with Jackie Morris, The Lost Words (Hamish Hamilton, 2017), which we’ll go ahead and call our official Cultures of Energy holiday gift recommendation. Please also take a moment to review the pod at iTunes and support the indiegogo campaign for the graphic novel The Beast https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-beast-is-a-comic-about-two-dirty-industries-art-comics#/ which thematizes the entanglement of the oil and advertising industries in Canada.

Nov 10, 2017

Cymene and Dominic review this week’s blue wave and talk about becoming a more multispecies household. Then (10:57) we welcome to the podcast the brilliant and wise Kath Weston to talk about her new book Animate Planet: Making Visceral Sense of Living in a High-Tech Ecologically Damaged World (Duke UP, 2017). We begin with the persistent siren song of modernity even in the face of ecological destruction, yes/and thinking, what it is was like to be in Tokyo for the 3/11 disaster, atomic divorce, and how our close visceral encounters with compromised environments might be politically generative. Kath explains how experiential empiricism can contribute to what is generally known as “climate denial” and how our high tech industrially damaged planet is remaking us. We discuss kinship, animisms new and old, and what Kath is terming “steampunk anthropology.” Then we talk about the cool thing that happens in the final paragraph of the book—but you’ll have to read it to see!—and how the political ecology of precariousness we live in resists modernity’s desire to know how the story ends. For us, the story ends with Kath’s reflections on life in Charlottesville after this August’s violence. Listen on!!

Nov 3, 2017

It’s been a big week in Houston between Halloween and the World Series (Go Astros!) and your co-hosts process all that as well as recent developments in the investigation of Honduran land activist Berta Caceres’s murder. Then (9:17) we are delighted to welcome OG energy humanist (and birthday boy!) Allan Stoekl to talk about his work at the juncture of energy, philosophy and literature. We begin with Allan’s very influential book Bataille’s Peak (Minnesota 2007) and how it responded to the peak oil worries of the mid 2000s. Allan explains how he became interested in the finitude and expenditure of energy in the first place and why he thinks Bataille remains an important muse for thinking through our energy dilemmas today. We talk energy-as-wealth, the need to spend, and whether there are different ways of wasting than the ones we have now. From there we turn to Allan’s concept of orgiastic recycling and to possibly the most powerful nonsense word of our times, “sustainability.” Talking about his current book project, we cover the scales and time horizons of sustainability and ask why the term is so difficult to avoid. Allan offers a quite fascinating set of observations about populations blooms, the excessiveness of other species and why the Anthropocene may not exist. We learn about terraforming assemblages, wonder what isn’t a city anymore, imagine how metal speaks, and eventually come to doubt that a “balance of nature” really exists. Listen on!

Oct 26, 2017

Cymene and Dominic talk about Al Gore’s visit to Rice and share thoughts on going solar both at home and in Puerto Rico. Then (12:25) we welcome Nikhil Anand from the University of Pennsylvania to the podcast to talk about his fascinating new book, Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai (Duke UP, 2017), which examines the evolution of “hydraulic citizenship” in Mumbai. We begin with the Mumbai floods and why they were no “natural disaster.” Turning to a discussion of liberalism in cities, Nikhil explains how water pressure and political pressure interact in Mumbai to create fickle yet efficacious modes of citizenship. We compare the wasteful yet essential character of electric and hydraulic “gridlife” and discuss how people are increasingly being forced to provide their own infrastructure not only in India but also in places like Detroit and Philadelphia. Nikhil explains how talk of scarce resources connects to a conservative politics of place, how leakiness and porosity are actually crucial to how water infrastructure operates, and how he thinks about the intersection of materiality and publics. We conclude by talking about the promise of infrastructure, what we learn from thinking about cities through water rather than land, and his new research project with Bethany Wiggins, Rising Waters, which investigates racialized and class-based geographies of injustice along rivers and in the wetlands of Philadelphia and Mumbai.

Oct 19, 2017

Dominic and Cymene talk surprise interspecies encounters. Then (11:08) we talk to composer, musician and sonic activist Matthew Burtner (http://matthewburtner.com , http://www.ecosono.org) about his work in ecoacoustics that touches on environmental issues ranging from multispecies relations to climate change. Matthew explains how his upbringing in Alaska created an early interest in the environment and led him toward an accidental kind of climate activism. Then we talk wind and breathing, why he composed the world’s first climate change opera (Auksalaq), how he collaborates with scientists to sonify and perform scientific data, and why he feels that music can allow us to experience time scales and environments differently. We hear the fascinating story behind how Matthew became the world’s most famous composer of music for moths, the challenges of writing music for multiple species, and how creating new sonic environments could help to address environmental crises like pollination. Finally, Matthew explains why he feels it’s so important to decenter humans in his art and activism. Listen on!

Oct 12, 2017

Ofcymene and Ofdominic share their thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale and then (17:20) we are delighted to welcome to the podcast, Gretchen Bakke, anthropologist and author of the celebrated The Grid: The Fraying Wires between Americans and our Energy Future (Bloomsbury, 2016). We begin with this week’s announcement of the termination of the Clean Power Plan and the politics of “baseload energy” today. From there, we cover why electricity is a commodity like no other, how electricity is actually like polyamorous love, the challenges of writing for a wider public, and the infrastructural revolution that we are experiencing (but not always aware of). Gretchen explains how the future of electrical infrastructure has come into focus only very recently and discusses how subtraction (from the grid) may become a key resource in the future. We talk about the unreliable state of the U.S. grid and how it prompted the military to pioneer the use of microgrids. We ask whether we can trust utilities to work with us on creating a more distributed and decarbonized electrical infrastructure. And Gretchen suggests that the utility model may already be dead. We wrap up with the place of conservation in the transition, how hyperlocal production could reduce our electricity consumption 40% with no immediate change in lifestyle, and why government (and not markets or philanthropy) needs to drive the transition.

Oct 5, 2017

Your co-hosts compare inaction on gun violence to inaction on climate change and rant a little about how we can hope for a better future world when we can’t even make our communities safe in the present. Then (17:57), in the name of improving our political edutainment, we welcome to the podcast The Yes Men, the activist duo who over the past two decades have made impersonating authorities and hoaxing news media into an art form. We find out how they got started in the early days of the Internet and later adapted their craft as the ecology of media evolved. That leads us to the challenges and opportunities of hoaxing in the era of fake news and why they think the rise of Trumpism means that getting involved in grassroots politics is now more important than engineering spectacles. They explain why climate change has become such an important focus of their activism, how they balance seriousness and humor, and why it’s so important that we get past our own guilt about the bad choices we’re forced to make and get active and communicative. Something’s coming, Houston. If you’re interested in getting involved, say yes at yeslab.org. For more information on The Yes Men’s past actions see http://theyesmen.org

Sep 28, 2017

Dominic and Cymene chat about community wind power, bioplastics, sucropolitics, and the inevitability of edible children’s toys. Then (11:10) Cymene sits down to talk with economist-turned-philosopher John Broome, Emeritus Professor at Oxford and author of Climate Matters: Ethics in a Warming World (Norton, 2012) to talk about morality, ethics and climate change. John explains why he thinks moral messaging around climate change has been ineffective thus far and how we can appeal to self-interest to stimulate climate action. We talk about the intergenerational externalities of high carbon lifestyles, how large scale actions like a carbon tax could change the identity of future generations, and the need to reform mainstream economic theories of efficiency, value, goodness, and nature. John argues that our duty to future generations is not a duty of justice but of making the world a better place. Does economics have a place for ethics? Listen on and find out!

Sep 22, 2017

Dominic and Cymene share fun facts about ice worms and water bears on this week's bonus episode of the podcast. Then (9:27) we continue our effort to process this storm season philosophically by welcoming old friend and new dad, Roy Scranton, to the podcast. We start with his now all-too-prescient NYT article, “When the Next Hurricane Hits Texas,” and discuss why Harvey was not even the worst kind of hurricane we might anticipate in Houston. We talk about what’s worth preserving, reincarnation in the Anthropocene, rethinking ontological relations, climate change as hyperobject, the election of Trump as a collective threat response, why we can’t put off addressing societal relations and ethical commitments any longer, and what to tell our children about catastrophes now and coming. Roy explains why he doubts the efficacy of individual action to solve climate change but also why he thinks it’s so important that we continue to live and find joy in our world. This leads to some moving reflections on parenting and climate change and we close with Roy’s new work and what we can and can’t learn from collective action during the WWII era for the fight against climate change today.

Sep 19, 2017

Cymene and Dominic wonder whether haunted houses can help in the fight against climate change. Then (11:55) we welcome Britt Paris (UCLA) and Sara Wylie (Northeastern U) to the podcast to bring us up to speed on what the Environmental Data Governance Initiative (EDGI, https://envirodatagov.org) has been doing to monitor the unfolding anti-science agenda at the EPA and other federal agencies, especially recent cuts to environmental justice initiatives. We talk about how they both got involved in EDGI, the important of open source infrastructure to their work, the language and practice of data rescue, what the collective has discovered about what went on in the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, what we can learn from the successful resistance to the Reagan administration’s efforts to dismantle the EPA, and what is contained in their remarkable new report, “Pursuing a Toxic Agenda: Environmental Injustice in the Early Trump Administration” (http://100days.envirodatagov.org/pursuing-toxic-agenda/). We discuss the EPA’s “starvation diet” even under Obama, how to optimize the relationship between communities and data and why a move toward a decolonizing and feminist principles of “environmental data justice” would be a step in the right direction. Finally we close with climate change as an environmental justice issue, the need to build alternative data gathering systems, the future of EDGI and how you can get involved with their work if you feel so moved, dear listeners.

Sep 15, 2017

Please enjoy our first live Cultures of Energy show in which Cymene, Dominic and Penn sociologist Daniel Aldana Cohen (of Hot & Bothered podcast fame, https://www.dissentmagazine.org/tag/hot-bothered) talk to Nerd Nite Austin about how to expand our emotional range when dealing with the Anthropocene, the limits of environmental austerity messaging for changing high carbon behavior and, while waiting for the global North to finally get around to embracing a degrowth ethos, why we might want to experiment with embracing low carbon leisure and pleasure activities that could help us to decarbonize our modern lives faster while still having fun. Bonus: you’ll also learn about a low carbon drinking game involving the words “capitalocene” and “chicken bones.” Special thanks to Lewis Weil and JC Dwyer for organizing the event and to Jacob Weiss for ace sound engineering. Watch for the event video coming soon to https://vimeo.com/nerdniteaustin

Sep 7, 2017

Dominic and Cymene plug low carbon leisure and pleasure and consider the world of competitive dishwashing. Then (8:49) we welcome to the podcast the amazing Naveeda Khan from Johns Hopkins. We compare the experiences and media coverage of recent flooding in Houston and South Asia, noting especially how terms like “shelter” and “refugee” are deployed differently. Then Naveeda shares her reflections on her trips to the COP meetings and explains what she learned about South-South politics and the anthrocentrism underlying international climate remediation efforts. From there we talk about her remarkable ethnographic work with chaura communities living on shifting riverine islands in northern Bangladesh. We discuss whether Bangladesh is indeed the world’s posterchild for climate precarity, how to think with rivers and about their evolving personhood, how local thinking in the riverine communities challenges both Islamic eschatology and northern climate change discourse, Bangladesh as global future, and Romanticism. We muse on Islamic cosmology, creaturely beings, and ecological thought and then close with a discussion of loss vs. damage. Listen on!

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