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A fresh perspective on cultures of climate and energy

Distinguished+Professor+Stephanie+LeMenager+from+the+University+of+Oregon+%28far+right%29+engages+with+UTPB+students+from+an+English+1302+course.+Sitting+far+left+is+Rebecca+Babcock%2C+the+William+and+Ordelle+Watts+Professor+at+UTPB.%0A
Distinguished Professor Stephanie LeMenager from the University of Oregon (far right) engages with UTPB students from an English 1302 course. Sitting far left is Rebecca Babcock, the William and Ordelle Watts Professor at UTPB.

Distinguished Professor Stephanie LeMenager from the University of Oregon (far right) engages with UTPB students from an English 1302 course. Sitting far left is Rebecca Babcock, the William and Ordelle Watts Professor at UTPB.

Myra Salcedo

Myra Salcedo

Distinguished Professor Stephanie LeMenager from the University of Oregon (far right) engages with UTPB students from an English 1302 course. Sitting far left is Rebecca Babcock, the William and Ordelle Watts Professor at UTPB.

Carolina Lugo, Features Writer

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On October 5 at 7 p.m., I attended the lecture about “Cultures of Climate and Energy.” As part of the Nuclear Track that is offered with the Mechanical Engineering degree, these topics are of great interest. Some of the main issues that we talk about are ways of introducing more viable options for creating energy. However, it often is very biased towards the engineering aspects, and we often forget the human aspect associated with the issue.  

When I heard of the lecture that was going to be offered here at The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, I was really excited, and I was looking forward to hearing more about the topic. However, once the lecture ended, I realized that I had for a very long time been considering only one aspect of this problem, which despite its importance did not cover the entirety of the issue.  

Stephanie LeMenager is an English literature and environmental studies professor at the University of Oregon. She is The Barbara and Carlisle Moore Distinguished Professor of English and Literature at the University. Both of her areas gave a full spectrum of why her point of view is so ample. Not only does she have a firm stance on the issue, but she also has a way of knowing how to express it.  

Over the one-hour lecture, she pointed out three main points: the everyday Anthropocene, living oil, and skill. Her first point was related to meaning of the word “Anthropocene,” which as she explained referred to the idea of a period when humans thought that they had complete control over the climate, “climate was a human construction…a way to make sense of the weather.” However, as the world has been evolving, the idea that humans have a say on how the weather behaves seems to be less credible. She pointed out that it has now become more of a “collective anxiety against a massive system.” She then moved on to describe the idea of living oil, which reflects on how oil has been portrayed in films, literature, and rhetoric which has thus made it into a symbol of the American story. It has become a part of America’s culture.  

The final point was perhaps the one that struck me the most, and it was skill. The other two points revealed a perception that has been inevitably held by the American people, and that it played an important role in the building of their culture. However, skill does not have to with ideologies but rather with the realities that come from the stories of people in the energy making industries. This was if not an unfamiliar topic to myself, it was not as tangible as she made it seem.  

The controversy that is ignited by the politics associated with the topic of climate and energy seems to leave out those thousands of stories behind the rust. Our perspective has been centered on who is at fault for climate change or whether it’s real or not. However, when I asked LeManager what her stance on climate change was she responded by saying that she believed the weather was changing but most importantly she said, “Whether or not we believe it’s human-caused, whether we agree on that is actually not very important, I think what is important is that collectively at the local level and the national level we start thinking about how to respond to it to keep our communities safe.”   

I also asked her what she would consider as more viable options for the energy issue as opposed to the ones that are predominantly used right now, which are fossil fuels. Her response was that “fossil fuels should not be replaced. They cannot be replaced right away, willy-nilly, although we need to be working on diversification including renewables and perhaps nuclear.”

Among the audience, there were various students from the English department that initially showed up for the extra credit opportunity offered by some of their English professors. However, some left taking more than what they initially had planned. Katherine Smith a senior, English major said that the: “Presentation included a wonderful representation of the human aspect of the oil industry. Often even though so many of us are personally invested in the oil boom we forget the costs and benefits beyond the monetary.” These words which in short describe the feeling that was within me after being able to see an issue that I thought I knew really well gave a new perspective on what the next steps of actions should be.  

Rebecca Babcock, the William and Ordelle Watts Professor at UTPB, said: “The Boom or Bust team was extremely pleased to welcome Professor LeMenager as the first speaker to kick off our speaker series. She was extremely generous with her time and we were excited to see UTPB students and community members in the audience. Students are interested now in learning more about her work. I hope the dialogue continues.” Boom or Bust teams members also include Jason Lagapa, Sheena Stief, and Kandice Hargreaves.
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1 Comment

One Response to “A fresh perspective on cultures of climate and energy”

  1. Bobby Coleman on October 22nd, 2017 11:40 pm

    Hello:

    Would there be more interests in Climate and climate change on energy enough to
    offer some courses in the energy program? was there a lot of interests in the lecture.

    [Reply]

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A fresh perspective on cultures of climate and energy