Environmental Humanities

Energy: An Environmental Humanities Symposium

How have energy exploration and exploitation shaped human history and the planet?
What stories have we told ourselves about coal, oil, and solar power?
What means exist to help us reach a just energy future?

12:15 - 1:15 p.m. Reflections on Coal: A Human History

  • Barbara Freese (environmental attorney, energy policy analyst, and former Assistant Attorney General for Minnesota)

1:30-3:15 p.m. New Directions in Energy Humanities

David Nye | Transforming Power: The Transition to Alternative Energies in the United States

This lecture focuses on two questions: What is the history of US energy transitions? And to what extent does the current transition from fossil fuels to alternative energies (primarily solar and wind power) differ from these earlier transitions? The answer to the first question is largely based on Nye's "Consuming Power" (MIT Press, 1998) and the work of Thomas Hughes, particularly the concept of technological momentum; this includes discussion of the shifts from water power to steam to electricity and fossil fuels.

Dipesh Chakrabarty | The Nomos of the Earth to Gaia: Land as a Category in Postcolonial and Anthropocene Histories

This lecture will discuss how our understanding of the category "land" shifts as and when we try bring into conversation the concerns of postcolonial histories and those generated by discussions of climate change and the Anthropocene.

This talk presented as a part of the 2018 Sawyer Seminar. It is additionally cosponsored by the departments of History, Political Science, and American Indian Studies.

Christina Gerhardt | Atlas of (Remote) Islands and Sea Level Rise

In "Let Them Drown," the 2016 London Edward W. Said lecture, Naomi Klein called attention, as Rob Nixon's Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor had done, to the nexus of climate change, (colonial) racism and poverty. But she shifted the spotlight onto the oft-overlooked low-lying island nations. And their current day situation is dire.