On this week’s episode of the Cultures of Energy podcast, Cymene processes the news of the clearance of the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock with the help of Jaskiran Dhillon (New School). They talk about the origins of the #NoDAPL resistance, what it achieved, the new front lines of the struggle and what will come next. At the podcast we are standing with Standing Rock, now and forever, dear listeners! PS Remember that the work to defund the Dakota Access Pipeline continues! DefundDAPL offers an incredible list of resources that allows you to follow the divestment trail and add your money to the $65,136,498.17 already divested from the project. See http://www.defunddapl.org for more information.
Cymene and Dominic take a break from the political chaos and happily nostalgize the 1970s. Then (13:57) to help us better understand what kind of carbon autocracy democracy we’re living in these days, we welcome to podcast political theorist, historian and zen master of all things carbon, Timothy Mitchell from Columbia University. Tim explains that autocracy and populism have always been part of carbon politics but that what really strikes him about our current situation is how visible those politics are becoming. He notes that while the contemporary threat of illiberalism is real, liberalism itself has not done nearly enough to save the planet from catastrophic climate change. We talk pipelines and the material and political relations they make visible, what the term “energy” elides, and we hear about how his magnificent Carbon Democracy project (Verso, 2013) originated. Tim explains why the 1970s were such a pivotal moment in both energy and politics, how growth is a petroknowledge, and why petronostalgia seems all the rage these days. We then turn toward his current work on contemporary capitalism and talk about how it is designed to make us pay taxes on the future through the capitalization of future value. And, a special shoutout to the band Overcoats whose single Hold Me Close is our outro music on this episode. Catch them at SXSW next month!
Cymene and Dominic talk acupuncture, evil clone henchmen, environmentally questionable NYT recipes, and the interpretation of dreams. Then (15:30) we are joined by Jessica Barnes, author of Cultivating the Nile: The Everyday Politics of Water in Egypt (Duke UP 2014), from the Department of Geography at the University of South Carolina. We talk about how water is not just a given resource but also how it is made through everyday practices of use and management. We compare the politics of water rights in the U.S. and Egypt and discuss how those politics extend into the realms of subsurface instrastructure like drainage systems. We talk salt and poverty, hydraulic citizenship, drought and crises of scarcity and abundance. We cover desalination schemes and the spread of desert agriculture. And then we turn to her current research on the social life of wheat and bread in Egypt. Finally we talk gluten, why it has fallen into such disrepute, and how it could be taken to epitomize the Anthropocene. What’s up with all this water/fire/earth/air elemental research these days? Listen on and find out!
In a fittingly bizarre intro for these political times, Cymene and Dominic share weird fantasies and actual plans for resistance. We then (11:57) welcome to the podcast renowned historian and ethnographer of nuclear energy, Gabrielle Hecht from the University of Michigan, author of Being Nuclear and The Radiance of France (MIT Press). Gabrielle tells us why she first became interested in nuclear power growing up in Reagan’s Cold War. We compare fears of nuclear war then and now and explore different historical constructions of “the nuclear” more generally. We talk about her concept of “toxic infrastructure” and how it can apply to places like Flint, Michigan. Gabrielle then explains how France became the country in the world most reliant upon nuclear energy for its electricity and why the French nuclear industry is in now in such a state of panic. We talk about why nuclear energy hasn’t lost its utopianism—including as a climate change fix—but why we think the nuclear solution to global warming is a red herring. We turn to Fukushima and Gabrielle reminds us that it’s also important to pay attention to the less spectacular but more common environmental and human impacts of using nuclear fuel, including the fate of people who clean reactors under normal and catastrophic conditions. We discuss uranium mining in Africa and the struggles miners have fought to have their “biological citizenship” recognized by their governments. That leads us to talk about the real costs of nuclear energy. And we close on Gabrielle’s latest work on toxicity and what she calls the African Anthropocene. Hang in there, everyone, be kind to yourselves and stay strong for the long run of resistance.