Environment and Public Action

The environment matters. In advocacy and policy and scholarship today, the environment has become a potent site of meaning and action. Within CAPA, the initiative on the Environment and Public Action encourages students to engage more directly with local and national environmental issues, from installing LED lights in North Bennington to measuring (and lowering) the carbon footprint of the college, to work-shopping radical solutions to water crises from California to the Middle East to our own region. Through ongoing collaborations with the EPA and the local government, students get hands-on experience with issues of green design, energy efficiency, and sustainability. This initiative also reflects more pointedly on the relationship between the environment and public action; it seeks to foster critical and comparative scholarship on the historical formation of the environment (which remains a surprisingly recent domain of science, politics, and ethics). Topics explored in conferences and courses include: the outsized role disasters often play in giving ‘the environment’ empirical outline; the distinct publics that cohere around ‘the environment’ in different places; the ideals and practices of social change enabled by ‘the environment;’ and the democratic action that is sometimes sidelined by the technical and legal constitution of ‘the environment.’ CAPA’s investments in public action are uniquely poised to allow students to mobilize the strengths of a Bennington education toward a more nuanced understanding of the environment, as well as toward a more effective confrontation with and equitable solution to environmental problems today. Current program areas in this initiative address food systems, energy systems, and water systems.

Current Projects

Addressing Food Insecurity in Bennington County | With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Bennington College launched a three-year collaborative effort with local partners to address the systemic causes of food insecurity in Bennington County.

Beyond Plastics | Beyond Plastics is a nationwide project with the mission to end plastic pollution by being a catalyst for change at every level of our society. 

Understanding PFOA | With support from the National Science Foundation, Understanding PFOA trains students and local residents in the environmental science of the emergent water contaminant PFOA and equips science classrooms to produce independent data on PFOA.

TWIN: Transboundary Water In-Cooperation Network | More information coming soon.

Local Food Systems (Southern Vermont Regional Food System Network; Bennington Food Hub; Southshire Regenerative Food Center; Bennington Community Market) | More information coming soon.

Environmental Justice Begins in St CroixA recent Community Impact Survey found extensive environmental and health impacts from the troubled restart of the Limetree Bay Refinery (formerly HOVENSA) on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands.

Past Projects

Volatile Futures/Earthly Matters | This conference invites reflections on these tensions, not necessarily to resolve them but to reflect on what political realities they work to instantiate. As questions of planetary injury come to drive theoretical debates and reframe empirical studies, this conference inquires into the conditions of possibility for recognizing emergent scales and temporalities of earthly volatility. 

LED Project | In 2013, a CAPA class partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency, Efficiency Vermont, and local partners to convert all the streetlights in North Bennington to LEDs. 

Paran Creek Watershed Project | The mission of the Paran Creek Watershed Project is to support the village’s long term stewardship of renewable water resources; clean contaminants to improve the aquatic and riverine habitat; establish North Bennington as a model for energy independence; and form a sustainable, long-term watershed management plan by revitalizing existing infrastructure.