Saturday, December 4, 2010

Freudenburg on the Gulf Oil Spill and more

Noted environmental sociologist William Freudenburg is, unfortunately, in ill health. This hasn't affected his productivity, however, as he completed his most recent book about the Deep Water Horizon drilling accident, Blowout in the Gulf, in a mere 60 days. Despite the rapidity with which the book was written, it doesn't suffer in depth as the work is informed by Freudenburg and Gramling's combined 60 years of research on the oil industry and energy issues. As Charles Perrow noted in his review of the book:
Freudenburg and Gramling put the spill into the perspective of energy dependence, take us gracefully through technical details blurred by the popular press, grasp the local and national politics (offering some political detergents of their own along the way), and give the spill what will likely be its most masterful handling. The authors' years of work on oil drilling and the carbon economy get a dramatic payoff in this very timely book.

Freudenburg presented a lecture based on the book, Learning Lessons from Disaster? The BP Oil Spill and the Future of Energy in America on November 15 and the webpage has a link to a video of the lecture. Unfortunately, the 'rtsp' based link didn't work for me, but the folks at Santa Barabara were nice enough to provide this alternative http based link that did. The talk has four significant sections: 1)a brief discussion of the recently released findings from the Presidential Commission looking into the accident, 2) some basic background on oil, its formation, and the drilling process, 3) a discussion of risk and risk management and, in particular, an analysis of the extent to which BP's behaviours differ from those of other industry players, and ends with 4) a detailed history of US energy policy aimed at illuminating the question of why the US is in the position of drilling for oil in water more than a mile deep. While the effects of his health are evident (Freudenburg delivers the lecture sitting down), he remains the energetic and engaging speaker he always has been. There are reasons his undergraduate lectures frequently end with applause, and those reasons are clearly exemplified in this talk.

Finally, Freudenburg was honoured at Freudenfest 2010: a day long collaborative discussion and celebration of his contributions to sociology, environmental studies, and society held November 6, 2010, at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

The Freudenfest webpage includes a program of the events, powerpoint slides from the following presentations, and a gallery of images taken at the event.

*The Said and Unsaid: Disproportionality and How it is Supported through Discourse, Debra Davidson, Dept. of Rural Economy, University of Alberta

*Working with Bill, Robert Gramling

*Social Change in Natural Resource-Based Rural Communities: The Evolution of Sociological Research and Knowledge As Influenced by the Contributions of William E. Freudenburg, Richard S. Krannich, Dept. of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology, Utah State University

*Transcending Human Exemptionalism: Freudenburg's Sociology in Which Nature Matters, Raymond Murphy, University of Ottawa, Canada, and Riley Dunlap, Oklahoma State University, USA

*Resource Dependency and Diversity: From Findings to Metaphors (and Back Again?), Richard C. Stedman, Dept. of Natural Resources, Cornell University

*Political Science: The Intricacies of Activism Among Coastal Restoration Scientists, Lee Clarke, Rutgers University

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