Spring 2020 - CMNS 349 D100

Environment, Media and Communication (4)

Class Number: 1122

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

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

  • 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.


What role do different forms of media and culture play in raising (or suppressing) public awareness about key environmental issues such as climate change, (un)sustainable resource use, or the pollution of social and natural spaces? How do different social, economic and political actors (e.g., corporations, governments, environmental groups) talk about the environment in different ways, depending upon their economic, political and/or cultural objectives? Is ‘green consumerism’ an oxymoron? What opinions do the public hold about environmental issues, and how are they influenced and represented? What communicative practices and principles are necessary in order to encourage and facilitate public debate, dialogue and deliberation on environmental politics and policies? What role does communication play in environmental advocacy and activism? In this course, we will explore these questions by investigating some of the many ways in which we use different media to represent and communicate about the natural environment.

Naomi Klein’s On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green Deal will be used as a supplementary text in this course. A collection of her climate related journalism and advocacy over the past decade, the items in On Fire offer provocative insights and arguments about the dynamic intersection between the politics of climate, energy and social justice. The book will provide an opportunity to explore the possibilities and limitations of passionate climate advocacy as a means of generating public awareness, concern and engagement with environmental issues.


  • *To be confirmed in the first class
  • Tutorial Attendance and Participation 20%
  • In-Class Writing/Discussion Exercises 10%
  • Commentaries on Environmental News 10%
  • Research Proposal (due February 10) 5%
  • Research Essay/Project (due March 16) 30%
  • Take-Home Final Exam (due April 13) 25%


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.

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 CGPA of 2.5, and approval as a communication student is required for entry into most communication upper division courses.



Naomi Klein, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal.  Toronto: Knopf Canada, 2019. [Hardcover]. Note: using the e-version of this book is fine, and it is significantly cheaper than the hardcover book.
ISBN: 9780735279223

Additional readings will be available through the course website on Canvas or the SFU Library.

Students will also be required to regularly review mainstream and alternative news coverage of climate change.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html 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. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html