Story posted November 24, 2009
This fall, a senior-level environmental studies class at Bowdoin is assisting the towns of Brunswick and Topsham in the development of a climate action plan for their communities. The project is a partnership between Bowdoin and the committees at the local level charged with inventorying greenhouse gas emissions and developing a plan for reducing these emissions.
The students will give their final presentation to the community at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, December 3, 2009, at the Frontier Café in Brunswick. The presentation is intended both as an opportunity to share the results of the research and to facilitate a community dialogue focusing on next steps.
Recently, Bowdoin College drafted its own Climate Action Plan for the campus. One important component of the plan is to increase opportunities for the College to build sustainable communities both globally and at a local scale through connecting faculty, staff and students with local organizations and communities working on the issue of climate change. The Environmental Studies Program at Bowdoin has had a longstanding tradition of engaging students with the community through fellowships and community-based courses. Since 2000, more than 800 students have worked with over 25 different organizations as part of community-based learning courses.
This current project had its inception with a student project during the summer of 2008. Brooks Winner, now a Bowdoin senior, received a Kappa Psi Upsilon Summer Fellowship to assist the City of Bath in inventorying greenhouse gas emissions and developing a Climate Action Plan for the city.
Winner's model was so successful that this past summer two additional students, current seniors David Funk and Thai Ha-Ngoc, received fellowships to work with the towns of Brunswick and Topsham respectively to begin a greenhouse gas inventory for each of these towns.
Building upon this initial work, students in the senior capstone course have been analyzing and collecting additional data to get a better handle on energy usage within the towns. Recently, students sent out a survey to 2,000 Topsham and Brunswick residents on household energy use and transportation patterns; results were incorporated in the overall community analysis.
During the course of the semester, students in the class have made interim presentations to members of the Topsham Cool Communities Committee and the Brunswick Sustainability Committee as well as to members of the general public. These presentations have focused on examining what percentage of the greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to transportation, electricity usage, and heating of homes and businesses within the towns. Based upon feedback received from community members, students have refined their analyses and begun to identify opportunities for community-based reduction measures.
A community Web site has been developed by students as a means of connecting the two communities and providing a vehicle for comments and feedback on this project.