The Energy of Slaves: An Interview with Andrew Nikiforuk

Slavery, Oil, and Servitude

Very pleased to finally share my brief but hugely illuminating interview with Andrew Nikiforuk about his important new book, The Energy of Slaves, Oil and the New Servitude.

If you looking for a little light reading I recommend that you check out whatever it is that they’re selling at the local Costco. This is not the book for you.

Hope that you’ll listen to the conversation with Andrew located at the bottom of this post. Really nice guy, super smart, articulate, and passionate about the subject.

For those of you interested in an overview of what the book contains, here’s some website copy:

A radical analysis of our master-and-slave relationship to energy and a call for change.

Ancient civilizations routinely relied on shackled human muscle. It took the energy of slaves to plant crops, clothe emperors, and build cities. In the early nineteenth century, the slave trade became one of the most profitable enterprises on the planet, and slaveholders viewed religious critics as hostilely as oil companies now regard environmentalists. Yet when the abolition movement finally triumphed in the 1850s, it had an invisible ally: coal and oil. As the world’s most portable and versatile workers, fossil fuels dramatically replenished slavery’s ranks with combustion engines and other labour-saving tools. Since then, oil has transformed politics, economics, science, agriculture, gender, and even our concept of happiness. But as Andrew Nikiforuk argues in this provocative new book, we still behave like slaveholders in the way we use energy, and that urgently needs to change.

Many North Americans and Europeans today enjoy lifestyles as extravagant as those of Caribbean plantation owners. Like slaveholders, we feel entitled to surplus energy and rationalize inequality, even barbarity, to get it. But endless growth is an illusion, and now that half of the world’s oil has been burned, our energy slaves are becoming more expensive by the day. What we need, Nikiforuk argues, is a radical new emancipation movement.

Sean Cranbury is the Executive Editor of Books on the Radio. He's also Founder and Creative Director of the Real Vancouver Writers' Series. Sean is General Manager at the legendary Storm Crow Tavern and consults with literary arts organizations on digital communications strategies.

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