Faculty News, Institutional News

NSF Awards Bond Grant to Study "The Ends of Oil" in Alaska

The National Science Foundation has awarded an $18,000 EAGER Research Grant to David Bond, Associate Director of CAPA, to support his ongoing research on the role of fossil fuels in driving contemporary social and environmental change. Bond is joined on the grant by Lucas Bessire, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oklahoma.

Supported by NSF’s Arctic Social Science Program, the project – “The Ends of Oil” – takes an ethnographic look at how the economic finitude and environmental instabilities of fossil fuels pose difficult questions for communities across Alaska. Bond and Bessire will travel to villages and towns on the Alaska North Slope this August to meet with earth scientists, state officials, and First Alaskans and to document firsthand how the ends of oil are altering the conditions of life and livelihood in northern communities.

Alaska is facing a real crisis around the intersecting endpoints of oil, David Bond 

“Alaskan reserves of crude oil are on the decline, as are the dividends they’ve long provided to residents and rural communities," said Bond. At the same time, global warming – another terminus of fossil fuels – is having an outsized and accelerated impact on the Arctic as coastlines erode, frozen landscapes melt, and wildfires sweep through boreal forests with unprecedented ferocity. This project, in conversation with local communities navigating these changes with creativity and determination, takes a closer look at how oil ends and what comes next.”

“The stakes of such changes are undoubtedly highest for First Alaskan communities committed to cultural survival on ancestral homelands,” Bessire said. “First Alaskans represent diverse groups invested in a broad spectrum of life projects. Our research pays special attention to how these life-projects are increasingly articulated in relation to oil and its afterlives."

Bearing witness to the financial and environmental endpoints of oil, this research will document how communities across Alaska are grappling with these premonitory changes. As an EAGER Grant – a funding mechanism used to support, as NSF describes it, new and “potentially transformative research ideas, or approaches” – this project will work to build a collaborative foundation with local communities and local partners upon which a more robust collective engagement can take shape.

Bond also hopes to build a new class at Bennington College around what he finds in Alaska.