Historians still tend to think in teleological terms. Many implicitly assume that our contemporary modernity is an advance from earlier periods, one made possible by the increasing skill and knowledge of certain humans. As new technologies were developed, it became possible to harness vast quantities of energy to wider human ends. The ‘great acceleration’ transformed the world, giving humans mastery over planetary limits – over our former boundedness to the earth.
But whose energy has enabled all this? The Anthropocene has unsettled complacency about economic growth fuelled by the release of the planet’s stores of carbon. It has focused attention on the sharp and enduring injustices around whose bodies, whose energy, have been harnessed to the production of wealth (for others). This perspective rests on historical methods which highlight formerly invisible contributions or needs of humans and non-humans alike. Apart from recording these uses of energy types through the ages (fire and muscles, water and wind, chemical, or atomic energy) asymmetries of energy consumption should be investigated, along with access to infrastructures in its uneven, worldwide topology. It is crucial that we now arrive at Anthropocene histories that put the sources, the extraction, and the uses of energy in the forefront of analysis.
Recordings of previous seminars can be found here: www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropocene/projects-and-seminars/seminar-series/anthropocene-histories
25 January 2023, 15:30 (Wednesday, 2nd week, Hilary 2023)
Online via Zoom
Nigel Clark (University of Lancaster),
Yuliya Yurchenko (University of Greenwich)
Members of the University only