• Energy without Conscience: Oil, Climate Change, and Complicity

    Author(s):
    Pages: 208
    Illustrations: 29 illustrations
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
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    978-0-8223-6306-4
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    978-0-8223-6298-2
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  • Acknowledgments  ix
    Introduction  1
    Part I. Energy with Conscience
    1. Plantation Slaves, the First Fuel  29
    2. How Oil Missed Its Utopian Moment  41
    Part II. Ordinary Oil
    3. The Myth of Inevitability  65
    4. Lakeside, or the Petro-pastoral Sensibility  95
    5. Climate Change and the Victim Slot  120
    Conclusion  141
    Notes  153
    References  165
    Index  183
  • Honorable Mention, 2017 Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing, presented by the Society for Humanistic Anthropology

  • "Recommended."

    Awards

  • Honorable Mention, 2017 Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing, presented by the Society for Humanistic Anthropology

  • Reviews

  • "Recommended."

  • "This is a fascinating exploration of uncharted—and crucial—intellectual ground. It is hardest for us to see that which is hidden in plain sight, as David McDermott Hughes makes powerfully clear." — Bill McKibben, author of, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

    "An informative and entertaining work, Energy without Conscience probes deeply into different forms of energy and the related social systems that sustain them. David McDermott Hughes makes it clear that energy systems are embedded in moral economies, suggesting that they can be reconfigured in relation to activist politics and ethics. Passionately arguing against the silence and unwillingness to think about the immorality of using oil, Hughes sets a high standard of engaged anthropology." — Andrew S. Mathews, author of, Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise, and Power in Mexican Forests

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  • Description

    In Energy without Conscience David McDermott Hughes investigates why climate change has yet to be seen as a moral issue. He examines the forces that render the use of fossil fuels ordinary and therefore exempt from ethical evaluation. Hughes centers his analysis on Trinidad and Tobago, which is the world's oldest petro-state, having drilled the first continuously producing oil well in 1866. Marrying historical research with interviews with Trinidadian petroleum scientists, policymakers, technicians, and managers, he draws parallels between Trinidad's eighteenth- and nineteenth-century slave labor energy economy and its contemporary oil industry. Hughes shows how both forms of energy rely upon a complicity that absolves producers and consumers from acknowledging the immoral nature of each. He passionately argues that like slavery, producing oil is a moral choice and that oil is at its most dangerous when it is accepted as an ordinary part of everyday life. Only by rejecting arguments that oil is economically, politically, and technologically necessary, and by acknowledging our complicity in an immoral system, can we stem the damage being done to the planet.

    About The Author(s)

    David McDermott Hughes is Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University and the author of Whiteness in Zimbabwe: Race, Landscape, and the Problem of Belonging and From Enslavement to Environmentalism: Politics on a Southern African Frontier.
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