HOTB2020 Panel 3.1: Energy Infrastructures, Markets, and Endless Futures



Panel 3.1: Energy Infrastructures, Markets, and Endless Futures

“Environmentalism Un-Earthed: Estranging the Energy Narrative from the Human Experience”

Nicole Stahl (West Virginia University)

“Carbon Purgatory and the Never Ending End of Oil”

Gabe Eckhouse (UC Berkeley)

“Hacking the Loop: Energy Politics in Market-Mediated Recycling”

Kameron Sanzo (UC Riverside)

“How Literate Responses to Technical Communication Can Promote Practical Responses to Environmental Change”

Mary Le Rouge (Kent State University)

“‘Marking’ the Australian Nuclear Fuel Cycle as Future Cultural and Environmental Heritage”

N. A. J. Taylor (University of British Columbia and University of New South Wales)



Q & A

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5 replies
  1. Anne Pasek says:

    Thank you all for the intriguing presentations. This comment is primarily for Kameron, though I’d be curious about any others’ responses as well.

    I really enjoyed the two-track analysis of 19th and 21st century recycling logics. An immediate parallel along these tracks that I jump to (and which might be useful to your own thinking?) is in textile production. I’m guided here primarily by Hannah Rose Shell’s excellent work on shoddy and the 19th century recycling of textiles into new yarn, thought in parallel to the highly-mediated contemporary secondary materials markets for water bottles in the production of synthetic fabrics. The former tells a contrasting story to your account of the social mobility of products, but not workers; rather than celebrating the efficiency of yarn recycling, there was a public moral panic about the unsavoury intercorporeal contact implied by garment recycling. It has me wondering if this might be a means to further underscore the role of energy and thermodynamic reasoning in your case studies (i.e.why did these logics take hold with coal, but not fiber?). On the other hand, there seems to be an excellent opportunity to extend your analysis of dust workers to contemporary unhoused or otherwise precarious bottle pickers, who constitute the informal labour force of high-value plastics recycling, and whose social mobility certainly doesn’t rise with the resignification of recycled plastic. What useful parallels could be drawn between these two groups, and is there any helpful lessons from the 19th century that could be applied to our understanding and practices of solidarity with bottle collectors today?
    Thanks again for your talk!

    • Kameron Sanzo says:

      Thank you for this excellent question! I had recently begun to think about how labor and precarity register only beneath the surface of contemporary plastic recycling, but your insights are super informative! I have not read Shell (thanks for pointing me in her direction), but it does seem to me that there’s a great deal of symmetry in value created by recycled plastics – especially textiles marketed as “ethical,” “responsible,” and so forth – and the nineteenth-century fascination with resurrected waste materials. Moreover, the period of dust recycling coincided with London’s urban improvement programs, which displaced and expropriated many working-class people (like dust workers) at the same time that they purported to clean up the city and make it more efficient. So, the workers who facilitated dust’s transformation to “new life” were practically disowned by the city that profited from recycling. I do see a connection there, as you point out, with bottle pickers whose labor facilitates the resignification of “ethical” plastic products, but who are left without their own opportunities for social mobility. Thanks again for these ideas!

  2. Judith Wakeman says:

    Kameron, your investigation is fascinating and very thought provoking in a number of areas. I especially liked your paraphrasing of the laws of thermodynamics. Thankyou

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