171 – Jerome Whitington

Posted by on Apr 4, 2019
171 – Jerome Whitington

Cymene and Dominic celebrate a podcast milestone and bid adieu to 1990s Democrats and their market-loving, head-kissing ways on this week’s show. Then (15:40) Dominic has a chance to chat with NYU’s Jerome Whitington who has just published a fascinating book on hydropower in Laos—a country some are calling the “battery of Southeast Asia”—entitledAnthropogenic Rivers: The Production of Uncertainty in Lao Hydropower(Cornell U Press, 2019). We start off with where hydropower fits within the contemporary debate on renewable energy transition and why it receives so much less attention than solar and wind energy. Then we turn to how Jerome got interested in the Theun-Hinboun Dam project in particular and why he decided to frame the study in terms of knowledge and uncertainty. We discuss the importance of an experimental moment in the dam’s history when the power company sought to collaborate with environmental activists to allay concerns about the ecological and social impacts of the dam project. Jerome explains what he means by “technical entrepreneurialism” and we talk about how to think about the meaning of “anthropogenic” without getting stuck in nature/culture binaries. Shifting gears, we discuss Jerome’s current research on carbon accounting and he explains the influence of corporate accounting logics and Silicon Valley culture on practices like carbon offsets and why he doesn’t think carbon accounting is ultimately going to stop climate change. We close on the need for more academic activism on climate.