Athenaeum will once again host the STS Seminar Series this semester. Please join us!

Jennifer Lawrence
The Global Forum on Urban & Regional Resilience (VT)
Friday, January 26



Deepwater drilling, hydrofracking, and strip mining of tar sands have become routine forms of extraction. Such extreme energy development requires intensified methods, complex technologies, and precarious terrains as easily extractable carbon has become increasingly scarce (Tompt, 2013). The normalization of extreme energy processes, and their ruinous consequences, signal the age of “Tough Oil” (Klare, 2007), a term that specifies this regime of extraction. Alongside the development of these hard-to-reach fossil fuel resources, acute environmental disasters like the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe and the Dilbit disaster have also become commonplace. The dangers of extreme energy development have recently materialized in the form of: oil train explosions and spills, pipeline leaks, earthquakes tied to fracking, and water sources contaminated with extractive waste material. But, the danger of extreme energy is not confined to explosions or leaks; there are many cascading effects for human and ecosystem health. Examining the simultaneous production of vulnerability and rhetoric of security, this talk offers insight into the contradictory logic governing extreme energy. I argue that the era of extreme energy has created new vulnerabilities that necessitate resilient subjects on a number of registers, from individual to societal. The Canadian tar sands in Alberta, as a major oil producing region, provides insight into the biopolitical realities that attend the end of easy oil, e.g. catalyzing climate change and the manifestation of tentacular socio-environmental consequences like displacement, adverse health effects, and loss of biodiversity. This presents a situation whereby the effects of extreme energy production appear predetermined and uncontestable, and requires citizens, communities, and ecosystems to be resilient.