Climate Literacy: Exploring the Shades of Environmentalism

Institution: Carleton University (Carleton University)
Category: Faculty of Public Affairs
Language: English

Course Description

How we talk about climate change matters. On a fundamental level, our discourses give us insights into our beliefs and values. They can also help shape our creativity for imagining what is possible.

At surface level in today's world, it may seem like conversations surrounding climate change and climate solutions are everywhere, but once you dig deeper, you will discover that not all perspectives see both the problem and the solutions in the same way. Understanding these discursive differences and the implications they have for how we approach the climate crisis is the core of this course.

Language is a vehicle for education and influence giving it the power to impact our daily interactions, thought processes, classrooms, and ultimately the policy decisions of our leaders. In today’s time of transition emerging from the pandemic with increased climate urgency, we must be mindful about how we, and others use language to convey meaning and imagine pathways forward.

Over 5 days, students will be exposed to ‘environmental discourse analysis’ as a tool for understanding and unpacking the common rhetorics surrounding climate change today.

This is a two-part course. First drawing primarily from scholar John Dryzek’s work in “Politics of the Earth”, I will introduce 9 core discourses and their attached meaning, values, and worldviews that shape understandings about what is possible for the future of our world (Dryzek 2013). Depending on the age group of students, I will adjust my language and vocabulary when introducing these groups to ensure understanding. Students will be provided with examples of these discourses and will have ample opportunities to ask questions and seek clarification.

Next, I will separate students into groups and will ask them to apply discourse analysis to identify, dissect and present common environmental discourses we are exposed to in everyday media through various mediums (ie. documentary clips, speeches, social media posts, blog posts, news articles). They will be given one particular form of pre-selected media that they will be analyzing as a group. The selected media will feature a range of environmental perspectives allowing students to identify discursive differences. The goal of this workshop is to develop critical thinking skills to achieve a more nuanced understanding of the different shades of environmentalism by putting discourse analysis into practice.

On the last day, the student’s analysis will then be presented in a medium of choice (flip chart paper, PowerPoint presentation, tiktok etc).
The course will conclude with a personal reflection followed by a group discussion about key takeaways from the course. Students should leave this course with a wider understanding of the complexity of environmental conversations, as well as an improved appreciation and capacity for media literacy and critical thinking.