The Golden Institute: a “counterfactual history”

This project by Sascha Pohflepp is a terrifically rich example of environmental communication. It is a thought experiment about The Golden Institute, an energy R&D group formed in an imaginary past–after Carter beat Reagan in 1980.


What I find most compelling about the project is how it offers some critical distance on the discourses surrounding energy, technology, and ecology. It suggests some paths that might make contemporary environmentalists wince, or at least reflect on how idealized visions get transformed in practice. On the other hand, who wouldn’t want to play Lightning Bingo??

There is a great line near the end of the video, around 5:40, that would be good fodder for classroom discussion:

Our main goal is to create technologies that will provide our nation with infinite power, and for the first time in history, we are taking charge of our planet as a system.

I’d be interested to know from readers how Pohflepp’s project might be understood in relation to other utopian and dystopian cultural works with an enviromental theme. Here’s Pohflepp’s own take on it, from the website:

Positioned at the right spot in the past, such counterfactual histories might offer an understanding of the forces at work as well as a fresh perspective on our present challenges.

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One Response to The Golden Institute: a “counterfactual history”

  1. Martin Parkinson says:

    Wow yes – it’s certainly ‘terrifically rich’ – and somewhat arresting. I’d be inclined to call it just ‘Art’ rather than ‘Environmental Communication’ though, because it is makes its points so obliquely (or at least those points *I* take from it).

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