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.
Dominic and Cymene briefly review The Disaster (week 1) and remind themselves that the best way to resist the schemes of evil rich men is to make full use of our strengths as a diverse majority. Turning to concrete projects that we should all be getting excited about and involved in, we happily welcome (8:51) Michelle Murphy (U Toronto) and Nick Shapiro (Chemical Heritage Foundation) to the podcast, two brilliant and courageous scholars who are founding members of the Environmental Data Governance Initiative (EDGI, pronounced “edgey”). Together with partners like DataRefuge and the Internet Archive, EDGI is working nonstop to preserve critical environmental data from agencies like the EPA, NOAA, NASA, DOE among others, data we fear may be lost or tampered with by an incoming administration that is blatantly opposed to both science and responsible environmental stewardship. Michelle and Nick talk to us about EDGI got started and how it has accomplished so much in just a few months time. Michelle mentions her experience with the similarly pro-oil anti-science Harper administration in Canada but how she and her colleagues were able to make evidence-based governance a “charismatic object.” Nick reminds us also of the efforts of the George W. Bush administration to destroy environmental archives and programs. They talk about how data rescue actually works, what version tracking is, and the secrets of the hackathon trade. We learn about how the norms of feminist scientific practice and organization have informed EDGI, how they are planning on getting news out to the public, and how we can take back the politics of evidence and build a better world of environmental data together. In closing we hear a bit about their own research interests and how they are hoping we can reexamine the ontology of chemicals less as objects and more as relations that could prompt new kind of solidarities. EDGI would love to have you involved, dear listeners, if you are inspired to join. Find more EDGI info at http://envirodatagov.org and if you want to help or have resources to offer please email the group at their end-to-end encrypted account, EnviroDGI@protonmail.com
Cymene and Dominic talk about, what else, the future tomorrow will bring. To sprinkle a little comedy on our tragedy, [12:37] Dominic has a chance to catch up with old friend Jón “Houstonsson” Gnarr, famed Icelandic writer, actor, comedian, former mayor of Reykjavík, co-founder of The Best Party, and now part-time Texan. Jón explains why the situation in America right now seems like a surrealist play to him (or maybe an episode from the Twilight Zone). He shares some tips on how to handle demanding angry alpha males in politics. We plan Trump and Putin’s perfect day in Reykjavík and then talk about the TV series he just completed, The Mayor, in which he played a more corrupt and soulless version of his former self. We talk about the paradoxes of cars and coal in Iceland and why he wishes Iceland could be more of a role model on environmental issues. Then we turn to his new project, Elves, which tackles environmental issues and multispecies relations in Iceland in a unique and amazing way and we contemplate how trolls might be infiltrating Icelandic politics. We briefly touch on the TV series Jón is helping us to develop on climate change and Houston and, finally, talk about his idea for a #fuckclimatechange campaign. Jón finds the phrase appealing because of its multiple possible meanings that help to express both a sense of anger and hopelessness and resignation. It’s a provocative and darkly comic take on individual and governmental accountability, perfect for a time when the Icelandic government is buying more coal and 80% of Icelandic youth say they are not interested in climate change. What would Jón would ask Putin and Trump if he were President of Iceland? Listen on to find out! PS Sending everyone out there especially big hugs this week. Be kind to your people who are probably having as hard a time as all of us are. And please don't stop marching and protesting and filling the world with enough good to turn the tide.
Cymene and Dominic talk secret information, anxious white masculinity, emotional labor and neoliberal America’s bus to nowhere. Then (17:48) Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild joins us to talk about her five year long foray among Louisiana Tea Party supporters that led to her marvelous book, Strangers in their own Land (New Press), a National Book Award Finalist in 2016. We focus in on the deteriorating environmental conditions and widespread environmental pollution in the communities where she did her research, which have become some of the most toxic in the United States. We discuss the apparent paradox of attachment to nature and resistance to environmental protection. Arlie shares her thoughts about how people can live in different truths, the need for empathy bridges and her take on the great political divide in the United States now. She explains why government is so often positioned as the cause of environmental ills rather than as their remedy by the far right and we discuss how environmentalist movements' use of guilt and shame tactics may actually be counterproductive to environmental defense in this part of Louisiana. We talk about the roles religion and media play in shaping environmental ideas and Arlie shares her strong conviction that environmental justice can become a crossover issue for the right and the left. Looking for common ground? Or just a better understanding of the divide? Then listen on!
Dominic and Cymene talk about the past, plans for the future, and socks. Then (12:35) Ohio State environmental anthropologist Nick Kawa joins us on the podcast to talk about his research in Amazonia and his new book, Amazonia in the Anthropocene (University of Texas Press, 2016). We talk about deforestation, stereotypes and realities of Amazonian rural life, and the politics of indigeneity in the region. We learn about the history of Amazonian agriculture and “dark earth” and why Nick feels it’s as compelling evidence for the Anthropocene as the steam engine. We discuss Amazonian biochar and recent proposals that seek to cultivate more dark earth as a carbon sequestration technique. Nick shares his skepticism about industrial agriculture trying to solve its own problems. And we move from there to talking weedy species, the planthropocene, and how some plants may be benefitting from anthropogenic change. We touch briefly on how Amazonians and Floridians are adapting to climate change even as urban planning struggles to understand amphibious ways of living. Turning to Nick’s current research on the use of human waste in agriculture (“nightsoil”!) we discuss how the urban metabolic rift is linked to when people stopped using their own shit in agriculture. Nick explains how nightsoil is making a comeback—now euphemized as “biosolids”—but also how the shit that gets into shit is making it toxic. Is it time for a nightsoil manifesto? Is it possible that 2017 being a shit year could be a good thing? Listen in and find out!