Energy transitions: learning from the past | Future making in the Anthropocene Podcast

Terranova-researcher Alexandre Martinez and Menne Kosian of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands

How can we learn from past transitions in systems of energy production and consumption? This is the main question for the sixth and last episode in the ‘Future Making in the Anthropocene’-podcast series. In order to sustain current lifestyles in the industrialized (Western) part of the world, enormous amounts of energy are needed. By studying past crises in energy systems starting with the agricultural revolution, we can learn what we need to do, to transition to a low-carbon future.

Terranova researcher Alex Martinez looked into the historical shift in the energy regime, starting with the transition from hunter-gatherer communities to an agricultural society. Every transition since has resulted in a higher demand for energy consumption, requiring higher levels of production. He concludes that our environment can no longer provide the energy needed to sustain the model of continuous growth and argues for a shift towards a more environmentally friendly way of living. “We are stuck in a loop. Each time we resolve a crisis, we create a new and larger one. In the current transition towards a low-carbon future, we find ourselves in a new resource- and energy crisis. We need to find a way to step out of this loop.”

Menne Kosian of the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands adds to Martinez’s insights with examples from practice. Whereas some people see changes to our landscapes such as the introduction of solar farms and wind parks as a threat, Kosian places them in a larger historical process of adaptation. “Change is the main characteristic of landscapes. If you preserve landscapes, you take away their main characteristic.” This doesn’t mean any kind of change contributes to the character of a landscape. In order to provide integrated solutions that answer to local characteristics, knowledge of historical developments in the landscape can be used as a source of inspiration.

Show notes