geography 442 – a student-directed seminar

About this blog

Landscapes of Energy was a student-directed seminar at the University of British Columbia in 2010.

Student Coordinator: George Rahi contact: rahigeo[at]
Faculty Sponsor: Philippe Le Billon

Mon + Wed 3–4:30 in room Geography 200

The focus of this course is to examine the relationships between energy and society. Energy issues are central not only to geopolitics of empire and climate change, but also to the most banal reproduction of everyday life. Mass awareness of the challenges ahead in the face of climate change and fossil-fuel dependency has given impetus to a widespread evaluation and critique of our current relationship to energy. How have governments and individuals been able to respond to these issues within the framework of global capitalism? Does a shift to “alternative” energy require an accompanying new mode of production and social relationship to capitalism? This course will explore the social, political, and spatial impacts of the present energy mode and the implications of the next.


Energy and Equity
The Tar Sands and the Thawing Arctic
Carbon Markets
Steady-State Economies
Discourse(s) of ‘sustainability’


Etymology of Energy

Ivan Illich – “The Social Construction of Energy” in New Geographies (vol 2)

Energy and Landscapes: the abstract made tangible, lucid, and visceral

Gavin Bridge – “The Hole World: Scales and Spaces of Extraction” in New Geographies (vol 2)

Carola Hein – “Global Landscapes of Oil” in New Geographies (Vol2)

Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline

Los-Angeles’s Urban Crude

Pavement Paradise

Energy and Capitalism

Matthew Huber – “Energizing Historical Materialism: Fossil Fuels, Space and the Capitalist Mode of Production” (facilitated by Matthew Baker – Monday Sept 27th)

Kolya Abramsky “Energy, Work, and Social Reproduction in the World-Economy” in Sparking a Worldwide Energy Revolution (facilitated by George Rahi – Wednesday Sept 29th)

James O’Conner – “The Second Contradiction of Capitalism” (facilitated by Alison Smith – Monday Oct. 4th)

James O’Conner – “Is Sustainable Capitalism Possible?” (facilitated by Heather Pottinger –
Wednesday Oct. 6th)

Northern Resources, Urbanization, and Climate Change

Monday Oct. 11th – Class Cancelled (Holiday)

Lola Sheppard and Mason White – “Meltdown: Thawing Geographies in the Artic” in New
Geographies (vol 1) (facilitated by Sam Santen – Wednesday Oct. 13th)

Andrew Nikiforuk – Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent (2008) (facilitated by Andy Longhurst – Monday Oct 18th)

Shannon Walsh and Macdonald Stainsby – “The Smell of Money: Alberta’s Tar Sands” in Sparking a Worldwide Energy Revolution (facilitated by Sam Santen – Wednesday Oct. 20th)

Steady State Economy

Herman Daly – “From a Failed Growth economy to a steady-state economy” (Facilitated by George Rahi – Monday Oct. 25th)

Tim Jackson- “Recovery without growth?” (facilitated by Khonrad Eckert – Wednesday Oct. 27th)

Tim Jackson – “Prosperity without growth” (Monday Nov. 1st)

Eco-State Restructuring and Carbon Regulation
(Week 9 +10)

Bumpus and Liverman – “Accumulation by decarbonization and the governance of carbon markets” (2008) (facilitated by Adam Cassidy – Wednesday Nov 3rd)

While, Jonas and Gibbs – “From sustainable development to carbon control: eco-state restructuring and the politics of urban and regional development” (2009) (facilitated by George Rahi – Monday Nov. 8th)

Chevron Oil Refinery Field Trip – Wednesday Nov 10th

Newell and Paterson – Climate Capitalism (2008) (facilitated by Alannah Johnston – Monday Nov. 15th)

Claire Fauset – “The Techno-Fix Approach to Climate Change and the Energy Crisis” in Sparking a Worldwide Energy Revolution (facilitated by Alison Franko – Wednesday Nov. 17th)

Political Ecology

Ivan Illich – Energy and Equity (1974) (facilitated by George Rahi – Monday Nov. 22nd)

Alf Hornberg – “The Unequal Exchange of Time and Space: Toward a Non-Normative Ecological Theory of Exploitation” (facilitated by Hannah Epperson – Wednesday Nov. 24th)

Matthew Huber – “The Use of Gasoline: Value, Oil and the American Way of Life” (facilitated by Will McClary – Monday Nov. 29th)