Inside Rensselaer
STS Presents Sustainability Film Series

With a green sustainable mindset picking up momentum on campus, efforts to focus on environmental sustainability will hit the big screen here with a new film series coordinated by the Department of Science and Technology Studies Working Group on Sustainability Studies.

According to Kim Fortun, professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and lead organizer of the program, the film series extends from recent work in STS to build sustainability programs for undergraduate students. Fortun’s research and teaching focuses on environmental health problems, and on developing ethnography as a way to understand and engage the complexities of the contemporary world.

“We also hope to build and deepen relationships among people working on environmental sustainability — bringing different kinds of expertise into conversation and collective deliberation.” — Kim Fortun

The film series is free and open to the public. Last month, the series kicked off with a viewing of Addicted to Plastic, a film that focuses on the global journey to investigate the ubiquity and toxic legacy of plastics, and creative efforts to develop alternatives.

Future films include: Gasland, which tracks how the largest domestic natural gas drilling boom in history has swept across the United States, contaminating communities, provoking protests. The screening will be held on Thursday, March 24, in Russell Sage Lab, room 3303. During Earth Week, on Thursday, April 21, the film Fresh celebrates the farmers, thinkers, and business people across America who are re-inventing our current food system. The screening will be held in the Darrin Communications Center, room 324. All screenings will begin at 7 p.m. Panel discussions will follow the screenings.

Fortun, a cultural anthropologist who studies environmental health issues, also noted that within STS, there is a growing depth of expertise in sustainability issues. For example, eight of the department’s 15 faculty center their research on and currently teach sustainability-related topics. In addition, three of the department’s junior faculty members — Assistant Professors Abby Kinchy, Michael Mascarenhas, and Dean Nieusma — are sustainability-oriented researchers.

In addition, last fall the STS sustainability minor was launched and now has more than 40 students enrolled.

In planning the film series, Fortun worked closely with several faculty members, academic departments, and student organizations. The film series is funded by the Office of Dean of Undergraduate Education's Vasudha Program. Additional co-sponsors include EcoLogic, Engineers for a Sustainable World, Engineers Without Borders, Student Sustainability Task Force, Terra Cafe, Society of Environmental Professionals, Vasudha, the Department of Economics, the Department of Arts, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology, and the School of Architecture.

“Across the campus, there’s a lot of work being done to understand and advance environmental sustainability,” Fortun said. “We look forward to extending peoples’ interest in the array of issues and debates related to the issue. We also hope to build and deepen relationships among people working on environmental sustainability — bringing different kinds of expertise into conversation and collective deliberation.”

For more information about the film series, contact Kim Fortun at for

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 4, March 4, 2011
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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