• 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!

  • 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.

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  • 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

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Dominic and Cymene take a trip down MTV memory lane to the romantic 1990s on this week’s podcast. Then (16:00) we welcome the brilliant Christine Folch from Duke U to the pod to talk about her brand new book, Hydropolitics: The Itaipú Dam, Sovereignty, and the Engineering of Modern South America (Princeton U Press, 2019 - https://press.princeton.edu/titles/30066.html). We start with the dam itself; Itaipú is both the largest dam in the world and the world’s largest power plant. Christine explains how it came to be that South America is the lone continent where renewable energy is the dominant source of electricity and what the political consequences of hydropower have been. We talk through how different energy materialities influence politics and economies, the differences between modes of sovereignty defined by land, water and electricity, and frequency patriotism. We turn from there to the politics of debt and hydrodollars, the necessity of studying up, and what fieldwork among technocrats and engineers is like. We close on what the world might learn from the Brazil-Paraguay partnership in renewable energy generation as it contemplates even larger scale coordinations of decarbonized energy.

  • 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.

  • Cymene and Dominic talk about Jakarta sinking and Greta rising in this week’s intro. Then (14:32) we are thrilled to welcome Elizabeth DeLoughrey (https://english.ucla.edu/people-faculty/elizabeth-deloughrey/) to the conversation! We start with her latest book, Allegories of the Anthropocene (Duke UP 2019), and its effort to provincialize Anthropocene concept by taking more seriously the history of empire which produced some of its more problematic universalisms. Liz talks about the need to bring indigenous, feminist, decolonial and Global South perspectives more centrally into Anthropocene discourse and discusses her love-hate relationship with allegory. We turn from there to the relationality of islands, salvage environmentalism, settler apocalypticism, the militarization of the atmosphere, and allegory as a form for staging other worlds. That leads to a spirited discussion of encounters between human and nonhuman bodies and between geology and culture, and finally we turn to the critical potentials of ocean studies, blue humanities and her next project on extraterritorial spaces (atmosphere, ocean, poles). PS You can find an Open Access version of Allegories of the Anthropocene at http://oapen.org/search?identifier=1005202. But considering purchasing a copy since proceeds are going to support the important work of RAICES (https://www.raicestexas.org), the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

  • Dominic and Cymene compare denialist and evangelical hate mail on this week’s podcast and then share a few reflections on Sunday’s trip to the top of Ok mountain. Then (16:53) we welcome the marvelous Amanda Boetzkes (https://amandaboetzkes.com) to the conversation so we can talk about her terrific new book, Plastic Capitalism (MIT Press, 2019). What is “waste art,” when did it take shape and with what motivations? We talk about how waste relates to energy and how “zero waste” sustainability discourse might paradoxically reinforce capitalist ideology and economy. We discuss how Bataille, Irigaray and Zizek inform an ethics of waste, the kinship of excess that exists between much art and waste itself, and the sado-masochism of plastic. From there we turn to the materialities, relationalities and temporalities that plastic creates, its refusal of degeneration and whether the looming shift from petroplastics to bioplastics makes any difference. We close on energy expenditure, the “carnal sun” and plastic as a condensed form of solarity.

  • Dominic and Cymene talk airbnb for flies, slime-mold residencies and close encounters with hypothermia to get things going. Then (11:36), hey, it’s primary debate season and if you’re like your co-hosts you probably find evaluating the sprawling field of Democratic candidates for the U.S. Presidency fairly bewildering. So in this week’s pod we drill down into climate policy among the Democrats. Where do the various candidates stand? Who is recognizing climate change as a political priority? Who has the best climate action plan? Who is stuck in the carbon pricing past and who is being imaginative or even realistic about what it will take to address today’s climate emergency? What are the important climate issues that are not even being talked about? Here to break it all down for us is climate policy expert Leah Stokes (https://www.leahstokes.com) from the University of California Santa Barbara. In closing we talk about why leaning in to collective political action on climate is so much more important than policing individual consumption decisions. So in that spirit, join the movement, get ready to protest on September 20th (https://globalclimatestrike.net)!!

  • Addled by cleaning products and dustballs, Cymene and Dominic imagine what a multispecies Ph.D. program might look like on this week’s podcast. Then (13:59) we welcome Queen of Feminist Petrocultural Studies™ Sheena Wilson to the podcast! We start with how growing up in Alberta helped attune her to the need for feminist and decolonial energy transitions and then turn to her critical take on petrofeminism and how feminist infrastructural theory can help to unmake the (petro) energy infrastructures and imaginaries which capture us today. From there we turn to petromobility and how the freedom of the few all too often depends on the confinement of the many, the tortured rhetorics and logics of Canada’s “ethical oil” campaign, and the world-making possibilities of feminist, decolonial, “glitchfrastructures.” We close with a breakdown of the Just Powers research initiative (https://www.justpowers.ca) that Sheena is leading now in Alberta.

  • Dominic and Cymene talk about the Democratic debates on this week’s podcast. Then (13:57) we are humbled and thrilled to have legendary journalist Andrew Revkin join the conversation. We chat with Andrew about the environment beat back in the 1980s and how he became one of the first American journalists to take on the topic of climate change. We talk about the struggle for both reality and nuance in climate coverage, how to get people to connect emotionally to climate issues, and Andrew shares experiences from the trenches of the “information wars” surrounding climate science and his thoughts about the dangers of “narrative capture” in climate coverage. From there, we turn to the challenges of broadcast vs. online journalism, the new Initiative on Communication and Sustainability that Andrew is leading at Columbia University and the unmet responsibility of universities to do more on climate. We close on climate change as a long-term intergenerational ethical problem in which we live with the carbon legacies of previous generations and where the fruits of decarbonization actions today will only benefit generations to come.

  • Cymene and Dominic talk about Ok glacier’s 15 minutes of fame on this week’s podcast (e.g. https://slate.com/technology/2019/07/okjokull-iceland-glacier-death-plaque.html), ridiculous hate mail, and what it feels like being in the middle of the news maelstrom. And the first ever Cultures of Energy Everyday Climate Warrior™ award is bestowed upon Daisy Hernandez from Popular Mechanics. Then (15:52) we welcome the marvelous Mark Nuttall (http://marknuttall.com) to the podcast to discuss all that is happening in the Greenland today. We start with his new book (co-authored with Klaus Dodds), The Arctic: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford U Press, 2019) and how Mark thinks about the Arctic as a paradoxical space. We talk about the discourse of the “New Arctic” and its geopolitical implications, the Inuit experience of climate change, self-government and the extractivist politics of the new Greenlandic resource frontier, and the sharpened global gaze resting on Greenland at the moment. Mark tells us about the adaptive resilience of indigenous lifeways in the face of climate change and advancing industrialization and urbanization in the parts of Greenland where he has done fieldwork for decades. We touch on the dramatic changes the Greenlandic capital Nuuk is now experiencing and the tensions between the aspirations to Greenlandic state sovereignty and the Inuit Circumpolar Council and then close with the fascinating stories of Camp Century and Project Iceworm.

  • Cymene talks about her exciting new life as a contractor on this week’s podcast. Then (10:14) we welcome the brilliant theorist, artist and curator, Joanna Zylinska (http://www.joannazylinska.net) to the podcast to discuss her excellent new book, The End of Man: A Feminist Counterapocalypse (U Minnesota Press, 2018). We start with the central argument of the book that there is an intimate relationship between Silicon Valley technicism on the one hand and alt-right white supremacist populism on the other. We talk through genealogies of apocalyptic thinking and how they are interwoven with masculinist promises of salvation and Joanna explains why she thinks it is important to take seriously the sociopolitical precarity that is the norm for the vast majority of the world’s human population. We turn from there to her thoughts on breaking the “apocalypse habit,” why Isabelle Stengers’s Gaia concept might be a helpful alternative, and the importance of minimal ethics for her approach to the Anthropocene. We discover whether there is a place for play and laughter in the Counterapocalypse and then talk about the difficulties of representing the Anthropocene in art and her own short film “Exit Man” (https://vimeo.com/203887003) which serves as a companion to The End of Man. Finally, we talk about the links she sees between Anthropocene stupidity and Artificial Intelligence. PS Your co-hosts duograph on wind power in Southern Mexico is now available with Duke University Press. To receive a 30% discount on each volume use the code E19BOYER for “Energopolitics” (https://www.dukeupress.edu/energopolitics) and E19HOWE for “Ecologics” (https://www.dukeupress.edu/ecologics) at checkout.

  • Co-host Cymene reminisces this week about being the first intern hired by Wired magazine waaaay back in the day. Then (14:42) we are joined by journalist Andrew Blum (https://www.andrewblum.net)—the celebrated author of Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet—to talk about his new book, The Weather Machine (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2019). We dive deep into it, beginning with our “golden age” of meteorology, and its improved computer simulations. We talk about human presence within massive information infrastructures, his interest in place philosophy, balancing attentions to weather and climate, comparing weather banality vs. weather catastrophe; and, Andrew explains to us the different ways of interpreting the history of weather forecasting. From there we turn to the intersection of war and weather, how Cold War rivalry and internationalism helped shape the weather machine as a global cooperative project, and whether private corporations like Google and IBM will control the future of forecasting. Chemtrails and other weather conspiracies make an appearance, as does the secret Nazi invasion of Canada to build a weather station. We close talking about weather and sympathy and sharing storm stories.

  • Dominic and Cymene celebrate the one thing the USA ever did right—Mr. Rogers. And we wonder whether there is such a thing as Canadian BBQ. Then (13:02) the delightful Natalie Loveless (http://loveless.ca/about) joins the pod. She is the author of a forthcoming book with Duke University Press, How to Make Art at the End of the World: A Manifesto for Research-Creation, and that’s where we begin the conversation with a discussion of the relatively new domain of “research-creation” in Canadian higher education and its potential to help expand who belongs in universities and their modes of legitimate practice. We turn from there to the dilemmas of teaching climate catastrophe to students and her new book project, Sensing the Anthropocene: Aesthetic Attunement in an age of Urgency, which connects research-creation to climate justice. We talk about relation as artistic form and why she thinks it is so crucial that Anthropocene art pursue ecological forms that rupture the systems that brought us to our present circumstances. Finally, we discuss why it’s important not to be captured by the tools and temporalities of university audit culture, her thoughts on the Anthropocene concept as lure and barnacle, and how we might build a feminist university of creativity, experiment and with an eros that is cathected, committed and sustaining.

  • Cymene and Dominic cover the stress (and joy!) of center directorships and sandwich-making on this week’s podcast. Then (13:53) Dustin Mulvaney (http://www.dustinmulvaney.com) visits the pod to tell us all the things we need to know about solar energy but were afraid to ask. He’s the author of the excellent new book, Solar Power: Innovation, Sustainability and Environmental Justice(U California Press, 2019). We start by talking about whether it’s possible to make a solar power revolution both rapid and just. That gets us to the toxic externalities of solar cell manufacture and his work with the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (http://svtc.org) to create a Solar Scorecard system that helps pressure manufacturers to clean up their production processes. Dustin breaks down for us the environmental advantages and disadvantages of both photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar (CSP) systems and then we turn to what he calls the “Green Civil War” brewing between animal rights activists and renewable energy activists over land use changes especially in the American Southwest. In closing we discuss whether a radically decentralized energy ecology could help advance environmental justice goals and what lessons should be learned from Obama era ARRA solar investments in terms of improving energy justice in the future.

  • Your cohosts report on the adventures of Cymene’s birthday week. We then (10:41) revel in the glory of having the most excellent Heather Davis (https://heathermdavis.com)—co-editor of Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies (London: Open Humanities Press, 2015) and editor of Desire Change: Contemporary Feminist Art in Canada (MAWA and McGill-Queen’s UP, 2017)—from the New School on the podcast. We begin with her new book project, Plastic: The Afterlife of Oil—soon to be part of the Elements series at Duke U Press—and talk about how the duration of plastic haunts the present and influences our future in many often invisible ways. Heather explains to us what she means by “petrotime,” how plastic creates an intimacy with deep time and impermanence, and what we learn from creatures who have found the plastisphere nourishing. We turn from there to the problem of inheritance, mutability, plastic’s inability to uphold its own promise of synthetic universality and yet its capacity to globalize plasticity. We ask Heather what she thinks of the alt-plastics movement and talk about whether new plastics will really challenge the culture of disposability. Finally, we touch on plastic as a bastard child of humanity, Heather’s work on art in the Anthropocene and her thoughts about how artistic practice can help us to learn to live otherwise.

  • Cymene and Dominic discuss a strange effort to police sugar packet play on this week’s podcast. Then (15:52) we are delighted to welcome Nigel Clark to the conversation. Nigel is Chair of Social Sustainability and Human Geography at Lancaster University (https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/lec/about-us/people/nigel-clark ). He is the author of Inhuman Nature: Sociable Life on a Dynamic Planet (2011) and co-editor of Atlas: Geography, Architecture and Change in an Interdependent World (2012), Material Geographies (2008) and Extending Hospitality(2009). We start things off by talking about a new book he is working on called The Anthropocene and Societythat he is working on with Bron Szerszynski and what it means to rethink humanity through planetary strata, flows, and multiplicity. We turn from there to Australian feminism, phosphates, Aotearoa New Zealand as a space of settler grassland experiments, wealth, and geocide. Then we touch on fire and its excess, our brittle life on an earth’s surface caught between solar and geothermal vitalities, metamorphosis, the early connection between gunpowder and combustion engines and European geotrauma. A special birthday week shout-out to our very own eternal Cymene Howe :)