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Austin, USA Anthropocenes

In light of the unprecedented frequency and intensity of recent heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and flash floods, Austin, Texas has joined a growing list of cities across the US committing to energy transition as a means of climate change mitigation. Yet, even after establishing that an energy transition away from carbon fuels is both necessary and urgent, challenges remain. In this collection, I will gather and analyze planning documents, news articles, blog posts, and transcripts of interviews and public hearings to discuss how local, conflicting discourses of responsibility influence the character of urban environmental governance in the Anthropocene. Different collectives of Austin's clean-energy actors are motivated and oriented by different kinds of data and knowledge claims, leading to divergent conceptions of the risks, affordances, and proper sociotechnical means of transitioning to carbon-free energy. While diverse communities in Austin are becoming increasingly restless and vocal about the exigency of energy transition, Austin’s publicly owned utility continually emphasizes the unpredictability of energy markets and the technical difficulties associated with stochastic renewable energy. Furthermore, the state government holds the threat of privatizing Austin’s utilities as political leverage, should the city’s environmental goals become “fiscally excessive.” This collection will curate and discuss artifacts that capture how the quotidian Anthropocene is being enacted in Austin through inter-collective struggles to understand and resolve these tensions between the urgency of climate change mitigation and the political, economic, and technological challenges of rapid energy transition.