Summer 2019 - CMNS 349 D100

Environment, Media and Communication (4)

Class Number: 1402

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    HCC 1800, Vancouver

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Aug 12, 2019
    6:31 PM – 6:31 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including at least one upper division course in CMNS, DIAL, EVSC, GEOG or BlSC.



An examination of how media, culture and communication shape public opinion and behaviour about environmental issues such as global warming, (un)sustainable resource use and pollution, with special attention to the impact of practices such as advertising, public relations, science and risk communication, journalism and advocacy communication upon public discourse about the environment, and the role of dialogue and deliberation in mediating and resolving conflict over environmental issues.


This course examines how environmental narratives are constituted and constructed through media practices and contemporary communicative forms such as journalism, social media, corporate public relations, advertising, public opinion polls, images, social media, risk communication and political messaging.

 The social, visual and media landscape is saturated with messages about the natural world and our individual, and collective, role within it. Drawing heavily upon the Canadian experience, we journey through behavioural psychology, media theory, media political economy, public opinion polls, environmental advocacy campaigns and industry public relations to explore various competing visions of our shared environment. In particular, we pay close attention to how discourses of decolonization, progress, sustainability and consumption intersect with broader political and environmental theories of social and cultural change. From preservation to conservation, from ecological modernization to the New Green Deal and the Leap Manifesto, how do varying media modalities and communicative practices shape and contest our societal beliefs about climate change? What tensions and competing narratives do industry and eco activist depictions of resource extraction provoke? Can fossil fuel corporations be environmentalists? Is green consumption an oxymoron? Is it possible to grow the economy and save the environment at the same time? How does colonization inform our thinking about natural and built spaces? Addressing these questions and others, we critically assess various theories and concepts about the role that information and social values play in directing environmental behaviours and understandings. Finally, we consider the emerging philosophical concepts of the Anthropocene, the Capitalocene and Hyperobjects, and how, in the context of mediated discourses of climate change and ecological crisis, these ideas invite us to consider, and reconsider, how we engage with our shared earth.


Course Format:

The course is organized around a series of weekly themes, which will be explored in lectures, readings and tutorial discussions.  While there will be some overlap between the lectures, readings and tutorials, there will also be important material that is only covered in one of these formats.  In other words, students are expected to do the readings, attend the lectures and tutorials to cover all of the material to be drawn upon in research essays or projects, as well as the final exam.

Lectures will be divided into two parts.  The first part will cover the weekly theme, and will usually occupy two hours.  The second part will consist of either a guest lecture or a class discussion of a selection from Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life or Don’t Even Think About It, and its relevance to the study and practice of environmental communication.


  • Tutorial Attendance and Participation 20%
  • In-Class Writing/Discussion Exercises 10%
  • Reading Commentaries (on "Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life") 10%
  • Research Essay/Project:
  • • (a) Proposal (due June 17) 5%
  • • (b) Essay/Project (due July 22) 30% 30%
  • Take Home Final Exam 25%
  • Grading to be confirmed in the first class


The School expects that the grades awarded in this course will bear some reasonable relation to established university-wide practices with respect to both levels and distribution of grades.  In addition, the School will follow Policy S10.01 with respect to Academic Integrity, and Policies S10.02, S10.03 and S10.04 as regards Student Discipline.  [Note: as of May 1, 2009, the previous T10 series of policies covering Intellectual Honesty (T10.02), and Academic Discipline (T10.03) have been replaced with the new S10 series of policies.


A minimum of 2.25 CMNS CGPA and 2.00 overall CGPA, and approval as a communication student is required for entry into most communication upper division courses. Students with credit for CMNS 388 (with this topic) may not take this course for further credit.       



Pezzulo, Phaedra C. and Robert Cox. (2017). Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere (5th Edition)Sage, USA [Paperback].  (It is also acceptable to use the 3rd or 4th editions.)   
ISBN: 9781506363592

Marshall, G. (2015). Don't even think about it: Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change. Bloomsbury Publishing, USA. 
ISBN: 9781632861023

Hern, M., Johal, A., & Sacco, J. (2018). Global warming and the sweetness of life: A tar stands tale. MIT Press, USA.
ISBN: 9780262037648

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.