Transition / Transformation

Topic Director: Daniel Barber
Associate Professor and Chair of the Graduate Group in Architecture at the Weitzman School of Design

2020-21 Topic for the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities

Climate instability presents a complex challenge to social and cultural norms. At the heart of this challenge: how to encourage and effect a transition towards a world less dependent on fossil fuel. This transition exceeds adjustments to daily behaviors and to large scale infrastructures, and elicits ambitions towards a more consequential cultural transformation. Much of the discourse on energy transition focuses on how infrastructures can be reconfigured without dramatic effects on daily life: solar panels and electric vehicles, for example, endeavor to continue familiar patterns and behaviors while reducing carbon output, all purportedly possible within the framework of global capitalism. The expanded challenge and opportunity of transformation frames the climate challenge as a pathway towards a different kind of society, one that is at once more equitable and less carbon intensive. How do the technologies and tactics of transition open up to this possibility of transformation? The topic focus on Transition/Transformation will oscillate between discussions of practical pathways for a just energy transition and conceptual frameworks towards encouraging cultural and political transformation.