Volatile Futures/Earthly Matters conference ties science and politics

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BENNINGTON — The future of our earth and the societies it hosts is a poignant question for scientists and policymakers alike. This weekend, the Volatile Futures/Earthly Matters Conference at Bennington College will take a closer look at the issues surrounding these environmental tensions with leading scholars from across the country.

Beginning on Friday, May 26 and ending on May, 27 the conference, hosted by the Center for the Advancement of Public Action (CAPA) was organized by Professor David Bond, the associate director of CAPA, and Professor Joseph Masco from the University of Chicago.

"It came about through several conversations that I had with a colleague at the University of Chicago," said Bond. "He invited me to a conference a few years ago, and we began to think about what conversations needed to happen and how we could foster them."

The conference explores the various tensions arising from climate change and other man made environmental hazards including nuclear weapons.

"This conference is part of a number of conversations going on in the social sciences, especially anthropology," said Bond. "It's a conference that will offer a front seat to the debates happening right now, and how the social sciences are trying to grapple with a whole host of problems surrounding the planetary crisis."

While the discussion spurred over these two days is not intended to answer these questions necessarily, but analyze how they will shape and inform policy in a future beleaguered by planetary injury.

"It's a conference that's geared towards a number of big debates right now about how planetary injury will impact our societies and policies," said Bond. "We're bringing together a number of leading anthropologists that are trying to think about how we might re-calibrate and reorient research to this emerging reality."

Bond and his colleagues hope that this conference will not only foster a continuation of this dialogue, but draw attention to the interactions between science and policy in a vitriolic political era.

"This has stakes for the very constitution of politics and its practice," said Bond. "I think a lot of us are attuned to this and trying to think about what politics will look like in a world where environmental sustainability becomes the new norm."

The Volatile Futures/Earthly Matters Conference will kick off on Friday, May 26 with a discussion titled "Between the Planetary and the Personal," hosted by Amy Moran-Thomas of MIT and Joseph Masco of the University of Chicago at 10:15.

At 1 p.m. that day the conference will continue with "The Storms Already Among Us," with Alex Blanchette of Tufts University and Kristina Lyons of UC Santa Cruz.

The final event held on Friday will be "Sensing an Unruly Beyond," at 2:45 p.m. with Andrea Ballestero of Rice University and Andrew Matthews of UC Santa Cruz.

The conference will continue into Saturday with "Breaking Away," hosted by Adriana Petryna of the University of Pennsylvania and Nicholas Shapiro of the Chemical Foundation at 10:00 a.m.

The final event of the weekend will begin at 12:30 with a presentation titled, "Living in and Against Planetary Crisis," by Juno Salazar Parrenas of Ohio State University and Lucas Bessire of the University of Oklahoma.

The Volatile Futures/Earthly Matters conference is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Bennington College's Center for the Advancement of Public Action at capa@bennington.edu.

Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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