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Centre for Culture and Ecology

22 July 2021 - 22 July 2021

4:00PM - 6:00PM


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All talks are free and open to the public.

'Cheap energy in the Capitalocene: Accumulation, waste, and the struggles for reparation ecologies'

Using the term Capitalocene means taking capitalism seriously, not just as an economic system, but as a way of organizing the relations between humans and the rest of nature. The Capitalocene argues that the modern world is a result of a set of strategies that seek to "cheapen" and mobilize all kinds of work with as little compensation as possible, enabling the expansion of capitalism's frontiers, and extending its control over a wider set of relations of life. Considering energy as a "cheap thing", reveals how energy “does work” for capitalism: by amplifying (or substituting) work and care to advance productivity in a system with what appears to be a limitless demand for growth. The ongoing climate crisis reveals that we are living with the consequences of a civilization built on cheap energy. 

The Capitalocene challenges the idea that renewable energy necessarily involves a stark rupture with the former modes of energy production. Instead, it foregrounds how renewable energy technologies replicate cheapening strategies, creating new sacrifice zones, and leaving behind environmental risks and social conflicts. It is through the dialectical relationship between waste and value that the energy transitions operate: Renewable energy investment is presented as a redeeming strategy for the unproductiveness or the wastefulness of certain places, a process that simultaneously detaches and alienates energy from actual social relations and cheapens local attachments to land, as well as efforts to produce autonomous, self-managed livelihoods. 

This talk will focus on the strategies of cheap energy that continue to underpin the power dynamics of energy transitions in different places. It will engage with concepts such as: reparation ecologies and the demands for dignity and revaluation to encourage a discussion over how struggles for autonomous livelihoods in the dialectics between waste and value can redefine how we might live differently in a world made by capitalism's ecology. 

This talk with be co-chaired by Andrew Baldwin and Carlos Tornel.

The zoom link will be sent out via the mailing list of the Centre for Culture and Ecology (normally on Tuesdays before the event). You can be added to the list by emailing

If you want to join for just this talk, you can register via