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COURSE NAME: "Media and the Environment"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Antonio Lopez
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 1:30-2:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: COM 220

As we transition from an industrial model of media distribution to networked communications, corporations and grassroots environmental activists are vying to define environmental opinion in an evolving media landscape. By applying media literacy tools to examine paradigms of communication and ecology we’ll seek to understand how media impact environmental concepts, and explore media strategies for addressing issues such as global climate change. The course covers three core concepts: 1) comparing media and environmental ethics and paradigms, 2) environmental messaging, and 3) the interrelationship between the form of media systems and sustainable business practices.

Using a sustainable media ecosystem framework, students will gain insight into how environmental issues are framed in the media. We examine how the political economy of media influences marketing, news, popular culture and the production of screen technology. Students will explore environmental ideologies and claims making by critically examining advertising, social marketing, documentaries, news and feature films. In addition, the material economy of media gadgets and screen technology will be extensively examined. Finally, this course will demonstrate how alternative approaches to environmental discourses, green cultural citizenship and green technology can lead to a healthy media ecosystem.



Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

· Connect media with their physiological impact on living systems;

· Evaluate media’s interdependence with the global economy, and how the current model of globalization impacts living systems;

· Analyze how media form symbolic associations and discourses that promote environmental ideologies and claims making in the news, popular culture and advertising; and

· Comprehend how media impact our ability to engage in sustainable cultural practices by exploring alternative uses of media that promote sustainability. 

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy: Skills for a Changing WorldArran Stibbe Green Books978-1900322607  Please use almost corner books
The Media EcosystemAntonio LopezNorth Atlantic Books978-1583944592 Please use almost corner books
Communicating Nature: How We Create and Understand Environmental MessagesJulia B. CorbettIsland Press978-1597260688 Please use almost corner books
Green Media and Popular CultureJohn ParhamPalgrave9781137009463  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Greening the Media Maxwell and MillerOxford978-0195325201  
Making Sense of Nature Noel CastreeRoutledge978-0415545501  
Global Spin: The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism Sharon BederChelsea Green978-1890132125  
Media and the Ecological Crisis Maxwell, Raundalen and VestbergRoutledge978-0415709231  
Sustainable Media: Critical Approaches to Media and Environment Nicole Starosielski (Editor), Janet Walker (Editor)Routledge978-1138014060   
Environment, Media and Communication Anders HansenRoutledge978-0415425766  

Midterm essayA take-home analytical essay that will examine key issues from the first half of the semester. 35%
Mediasphere analysisPaper and presentation based on an ecological assessment of a media object.35%
Reading quizzesThere will be two reading quizzes during the semester, each worth 10%20%
Attendance and participation More than three unexcused absences and excessive tardiness will result in an automatic F for attendance and participation.10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cours
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

More than three unexcused absences will result in the automatic loss of a letter grade. Being late three times counts as an absence. Chronic tardiness will also impact your attendance/participation grade.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Readings and schedule are subject to change. Please consult the website weekly for the most current assignments and bibliographic references. 

A note on required readings. Several of the assigned books are very short. Some of the chapters listed below are only five pages long (for example Stibee), so when you see "Stibbe chs. 2, 3, 4, 26," that only accounts for 20 pages. Several of the books that are listed as reserve readings will only be a few chapters per book. The amount of reading per week is on a par with all other CMS classes. 

Week 1: Constructing Environmental Paradigms

Corbett: Intro, 1-2

"Environmental ethics: A literature review," Pat Brereton, from Environmental Ethics and Film (read only pp. 1-29)

Week 2: Constructing Environmental Paradigms

Stibbe: 1, 16

Lopez: 2-3

Greg Garrard: Intro

Honors/Go deeper (extra credit questions will be given on the quizzes):

The Media Commons: Globalization and Environmental Discourses, by Murphy: Chapter 1 (only)

Dryzek: Ch. 1

“The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature” by William Cronon File (PDF)

Week 3: Advertising and Popular Culture

Stibbe: 2, 4, 25, 26

Corbett: 3-4

Lopez: 3

Honors/Go deeper (extra credit questions will be given on the quizzes):

Parham: Forward, Ch. 1

Week 4: Advertising and Popular Culture

Corbett: 5-7

"Selling with Gaia: Advertising and the natural world," Joseph Clark  (Ecomedia, PDF)


Week 5: Constructing Environmental Issues and Claims Making

"Communication, media and social construction of the environment," Anders Hansen (Routledge Handbook of Environmental Communication, PDF)

"Systems dynamics meets the press," Donella Meadows (PDF)

"Interview with Kim Sheehan: Greenwashing in the experience of the Greenwashing Index, " Mitchell Hobbs (Carbon Capitalism, PDF)

Week 6: Constructing Environmental Issues and Claims Making

Corbett: 9

"Democracy, climate crisis and journalism: Normative touchstones," Robert Hackett (Journalism and Climate Crisis, PDF)

"Conclusion: Media reform for climate action," Robert Hackett (Journalism and Climate Crisis, PDF)

"An interview with Michael E Mann: Fighting for science against climate change deniers's propaganda," Benedetta Brevini (Carbon capitalism, PDF)

Honors/Go deeper (extra credit questions will be given on the quizzes):

Parham: 4

"Alternative approaches to environment coverage in the digital era: The Guardian's 'Keep it in the Ground' campaign," (Journalism and Climate Crisis, PDF)

Week 7: Corporate PR and Activist Image Events

Day one:

"Media, publics, politics and environmental issues," Anders Hansen (Environment, Media and Communication, PDF)

"Introduction," Bader (Global Spin)

"Interview with David Ritter: Mobilising on change--The experience of Greenpeace, Benedetta Brevini (Carbon Capitalism, PDF)

Day two:

Catch-up and review

Week 8: Political/material economy of media (intro)

Stibbe: 3, 11, 18, 20, 21, 22

"Carbon, capitalism, communication" (read only pp. 1-15),  Graham Murdock and Benedetta Brevini (Carbon Capitalism, PDF)

"An interview with Naomi Klein: Capitalism versus the climate," Christopher Wright (Carbon Capitalism, PDF)

"Digital technology and the environment: Challenges for green citizenship and environmental organizations," Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller  (Carbon Capitalism, PDF)

"Digital Desires: Mediated consumerism and climate crisis," Justin Lewis (Carbon Capitalism, PDF)

Honors/Go deeper (extra credit questions will be given on the quizzes):

"Introduction," Lisa Parks and Nicole Starosielski (Signal Traffic, reserve)

"Conclusion: One month in the life of the planet--Carbon capitalism and the struggle for the commons," (Carbon Capitalism, PDF)

Week 9: Political/material economy of media (conflict minerals/production)

"Workers," Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller (Greening the Media, reserve)

"Departure: A changing world" (ch. 1) and "A temporary closure" (ch. 6), Jack Linchuan Qiu (Goodbye i-Slave, reserve)

"Immaterial culture? The (Un)sustainability of screens," Paul Micklethwaite (Media and the Ecological Crisis, reserve)

Honors/Go deeper (extra credit questions will be given on the quizzes):

"Ecologies of fabrication", Sean Cubitt (Sustainable Media, reserve)

"Matter," Sean Cubitt (Finite Media, PDF)

Week 10: Political/material economy of media (energy/e-waste)


"Making data sustainable: Backup culture and risk perception," Shane Brennan (Sustainable Media, reserve)

"The art of waste: Contemporary culture and unsustainable energy use," Toby Miller (Signal Traffic, reserve)

"Powering the digital: From energy ecologies to electronic environmentalism," Jennifer Gabrys (Media and the Ecological Crisis, reserve)


"Re-thingifying the internet of things," Jennifer Gabrys (Sustainable Media, reserve)

"E-waste, human-waste, infoflation," Sophia Kaitatzi-Whitlock (Media and the Ecological Crisis, reserve)

Honors/Go deeper (extra credit questions will be given on the quizzes):

"From 'Waste Village to "Urban Circular Economic System": The changing landscape of waste in Beijing," Xin Tong  (Carbon Capitalism, PDF)

"The next internet," Vincent Mosco (Carbon Capitalism, PDF)

"'Where the internet lives': Data centers and cloud infrastructure," Jennifer Holt and Patrick Vonderau (Signal Traffic, reserve)

Week 11: Political/material economy of media (infrastructure)

"Pipeline ecologies: Rural Entanglements of fiber-optic cables," Nicole Starosielski (Sustainable Media, PDF)

"Mediating infrastructure: (Im)Mobile toxicity and cell antenna publics," Rahul Ishida (Sustainable Media, PDF)

"Energy," Sean Cubbit, (Finite Media, PDF)

Honors/Go deeper (extra credit questions will be given on the quizzes):

"Earth observation and signal territories: US broadcast infrastructure, historical network maps, Google Earth, and field work, Lisa Parks (Ecomedia, PDF)

Week 12: Selfworld/Affect

Stibbe: 10, 12, 24, 27, 28

Lopez: 4

"Mind your media: From distraction to attention," Jennifer Rauch (Slow Media, PDF)

Week 13: Green Cultural Citizenship and Healthy Media Ecosystems

Lopez: 1

Stibbe: Intro, 6, 8, 10, 11

Corbett: 3, 10

Week 14: Green Cultural Citizenship and Healthy Media Ecosystems

Lopez: 5, 6

Stibbe: 29-32