Spring 2020 - CMNS 349 J100

Environment, Media and Communication (4)

Class Number: 6622

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 5:30 PM – 9:20 PM
    HCC 1425, 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.


In The Great Derangement, Amitav Ghosh argues “the climate crisis is also a crisis of culture, and thus of the imagination.” What does Ghosh mean by this? What are the implications in terms of environmental communication? Drawing heavily upon the Canadian experience, we journey through media political economy, public opinion polls, behavioural psychology, image politics, risk communication, environmental advocacy campaigns, popular media, industry public relations and emergent calls for decolonization to explore the various competing visions of the environment. In particular, we pay close attention to how discourses of progress, sustainability and consumption intersect with broader political and environmental theories of social, political and cultural change. How do communicative practices shape and contest our societal beliefs about the natural world? How is energy production gendered through promotional discourses? In what ways do audiences shape how eco images are created and distributed? How do our values inform our thinking about natural and built environments? Are fear-based messages helpful or hurtful when it comes to communicating urgency? What is the political economy of climate change denial? Addressing these questions and others, we critically assess various theories and concepts about the role that information plays in directing environmental behaviours and understandings. Finally, we will consider the emerging philosophical concepts of the Anthropocene, Capitalocene and Petroculture, and how, in the context of mediated discourses of climate change and the ecological crisis, these ideas invite us to consider, and reconsider, how we come to know about the environment.


By the end of the course students should be able to demonstrate understanding in the following areas: a) Key concepts and theories in environmental communication; b) Contemporary issues and debates about climate change and energy transition in Canada; c) The application of ideas and concepts to current environmental issues and advocacy campaigns.


  • Class Participation 10%
  • In-Class Writing/Discussion Exercises 10%
  • Three Short Reading Commentaries 20%
  • Research Essay/Project Proposal 5%
  • Research Essay/Project 30%
  • Take Home Final Exam 25%
  • *To be confirmed first day of class.


The course is organized around a series of weekly themes, which will be explored in lectures, readings and seminar discussions. While there will be some overlap between the lectures, readings and seminars, 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 and attend the class to cover all of the material to be drawn upon in research essays or projects, as well as the final exam.

Class will be divided into two parts. The first part will be a multimedia lecture that covers the weekly theme, and will usually occupy two hours. The second part will consist of a class discussion based upon a selection from one of the course texts and its relevance to the study and practice of environmental communication. This latter half of the time will also incorporate small group activities and student presentations, and on occasion, a short field trip within the immediate area to a site of environmental importance.

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. 



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

Additional reading materials and supplementary texts will be available through the Canvas site.

Foer, J. S. (2019). We are the weather: saving the planet begins at breakfast. Toronto, Canada: Penguin.
ISBN: 9780735233072


Hern, K., Johal, A., & Sacco, J. (2018). Global warming and the sweetness of life: A tar sands tale. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Klein, N. (2019). On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. Toronto, Canada: Penguin.

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