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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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Sep 6, 2019

Your cohosts talk chihuahuas and squirrels on the verge on this week’s podcast. Then (14:56) we are delighted to welcome Orrin Pilkey Jr., Professor Emeritus at Duke University, to the podcast. Orrin is one of the world’s foremost experts on sea level rise and has just co-authored a new book with his son Keith Pilkey called Sea Level Rise: A Slow Tsunami on America’s Shores (Duke U Press, 2019; https://www.dukeupress.edu/sea-level-rise). Orrin tells us how it was a hurricane that first prompted him to start studying coastal environments. We talk about how sea level rise is finally beginning to see some real political attention in threatened areas but about the limits of what can be done to hold the oceans at bay. Orrin explains how, for example, Miami and New Orleans are doomed, if for different reasons, and asks what will become of their millions of climate refugees. We talk about the need to take retreat seriously as the best option for dealing with sea level rise and how costly measures like seawalls and beach nourishment programs create their own environmental problems. We touch on subsidence, rebounding and other factors influencing coastal erosion, and then discuss the hundreds of critical infrastructure facilities that are sited no more than four feet above sea level. We close on the book’s recommendations to people already living on the coast about what to do now, including sample letters one could write to family members to get them thinking about the impacts of sea level rise.

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