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
200 - Laura Nader
Wow, we made it to 200 episodes and 250k downloads this week. Thank you everyone for listening for the past nearly four years. It also seems like a good milestone for a change of pace. Your tireless cohosts need to take an extended break from weekly podcasting in order to commit ourselves more fully to a couple of other creative opportunities that have emerged during our time away from Rice. But please know that Cultures of Energy has been a project that brought us much joy (and helped us to meet so many amazing people!) It also helped to keep us sane through some dark times. And the kind words many of you have sent our way over the years have meant the world to us. Go you!! The channel will stay active for the foreseeable future in case you’d like to access the back catalog for listening or teaching purposes. And it's very likely that we’ll upload new episodes and content from time to time connected with special events. But for now please just enjoy our conversation with someone who has long been on our wish list, Laura Nader, a founding mother of the field of energy humanities. We speak to her about how her scholarship and activism became entangled with energy over the years, starting with her experience as the only anthropologist (and only woman!) on the US Committee on Nuclear and Alternative Energy Systems during the Carter presidency. Super big thanks to Daena Funahashi for her work behind the scenes to make this episode possible!
199 - Bathsheba Demuth
Your co-hosts talk clonal trees and dispense important advice about relationships, breakups, and having “the conversation” with your children on this week’s podcast. Then (17:16) we talk to Brown University’s Bathsheba Demuth (http://www.brdemuth.com) about her new book Floating Coast (https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393635164) a beautifully conceived and written environmental history of the Bering Strait from the 18ththrough the 20thcenturies. We start with how American and Soviet modernist projects differentially impacted Beringia during the 20thcentury and why the oceanic productivity of the Arctic attuned her to the energy transformations that then became a powerful red thread throughout the book. We turn from there to the temporality of whales, baleen as infrastructure and path dependency, Soviet vs. American conceptualizations of progress, the place of indigenous memories and knowledge in her historical methodology, and much much more.
198 - The Mississippi (an Anthropocene River)
Dominic and Cymene discuss Swiss silence and whether soup can be a meal on this week’s podcast. Then (13:53) we sit down with Christoph Rosol and Tom Turnbull, two of the organizers of the baroque and fascinating project of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (https://www.hkw.de/de/index.php) and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (https://www.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de), Mississippi: An Anthropocene River. Christoph and Tom talk with us about this project evolved out of the celebrated Anthropocene Curriculum and Anthropocene Campus series. We discuss what the research and artistic activities are that are associated with the project’s five field stations, exploring themes such as deindustrialization, land restoration, indigenous-settler politics, invasive species, and ecocide. We talk about issues of scale and the search for the most apt critical zones through which to engage Anthropocene processes, the Mississippi as canal instead of river, and close with the little known history of the Mississippi Valley Committee and the idea that watersheds could form the basis of new kind of democracy. Find out more information on the Mississippi project at https://anthropocene-curriculum.org
197 - Climate Book Club Special!
In this week's special guest episode, Leah Stokes (UC Santa Barbara) and Bina Venkataraman take over the Cultures of Energy podcast to discuss Bina's new book, The Optimist's Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780735219472?aff=penguinrandom). This interview is part of the Twitter discussion, #climatebookclub, which is an informal group that Leah runs to get people to talk about climate books on Twitter. We will be discussing the book on Twitter on Wednesday Oct 2 at 5:30 EST / 2:30 PST so feel free to look up the #climatebookclub hashtag and join in the conversation!
To learn more about Bina's writing: http://writerbina.com
To learn more about Leah's research: http://leahstokes.com
196 - Energy Democracy
Cymene and Dominic wonder whether Brexit or Impeachment will make for better political theater in the months ahead. Then (14:22) we talk to three wonderful folks who are in the process of assembling the Routledge Handbook of Energy Democracy, an interdisciplinary gathering of contributions spanning scholarly and activist engagements. Our three guests are Danielle Endres (https://www.danielleendres.com), Andrea Feldpausch-Parker (https://andreafeldpausch-parker.weebly.com) and Tarla Peterson (https://www.utep.edu/liberalarts/communication/people/faculty/faculty-pages/tarla-peterson.html). We talk about the distinctive forms that the energy democracy movement is taking both inside and outside the academy, some of the projects that inspire them, strategies for making energy systems more visible and open to citizen intervention, whether renewable energy can renew democracy, the danger of participation fatigue, and much much more!
195 - Laura Watts Returns
Cymene and Dominic tease a family revelation and describe a museum full of caricatures of East Germany (a regime that tbh itself kinda caricatured socialism). Then (17:03) we welcome back to the podcast the one and only Laura Watts (https://sand14.com), now at Edinburgh, who has a marvelous new book out with MIT Press, Energy at the End of the World: An Orkney Islands Saga. We start there and talk about how the remains of a Neolithic city first brought her Orkney and inspired her with its archaeology of the future. Inverting traditional conceptions of center and periphery, future and past, seemingly remote Orkney has now become the center of a marine energy future. We chat about her use of the Saga form as a structuring principle in the book, why she finds hope in the relational character of the “Orkney electron,” and the European Marine Energy Center (EMEC) as a global beacon of renewable energy science and industry. We talk about the troubles of harvesting energy from dangerous water, the ambivalence of life in a “living lab” and the intertwined futures of Orcadian humans, marine wildlife and marine energy. We close on writing, and how the choice of words can make some worlds more or less possible. Finally, folks, just a reminder to drop whatever you are doing and go out and strike for climate action this Friday, September 20. To find the nearest march to you check out, https://globalclimatestrike.netSee you on the streets!