Environmental Communication is a growing field of academic study as scholars, scientists, activists, professionals, and citizens have become increasingly aware that how we communicate about the environment affects how we treat the environment. Thus, environmental communication is also an activity, and we must learn to critically analyze environmental discourse if we are to be ethical communicators.
Environmental communication is everywhere-IPCC scientific reports, oil company advertising and PR, international conferences on climate change, environmental journalism, activist websites and protest marches, social media like Facebook and Twitter, local town meetings, the Weather Channel, documentaries (like Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth), etc.-and thus there are several areas of study within the field of Environmental Communication.
According to Robert Cox in Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere, these areas include: environmental rhetoric (should we say ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ or ‘climate disruption’ or something else? - each term shapes our perception in a different way); media and journalism; public participation in environmental decision making; representations of nature in popular culture; environmental collaboration and conflict resolution; science and risk communication; and social marketing and advocacy campaigns.
To this list we must add “the voice of nature,” or the ways that nature communicates to us rather than how we communicate about nature. This area of study focuses on nonverbal communication and how humans may learn to listen, whether to the songs of other species, providing insights into biodiversity and our place on the planet, or the lessons of nature, which we can mimic in new technologies, or messages of crisis, like melting ice in the Artic. Such listening informs the quality of our communication about nature, of which we are part and parcel, and ultimately the possibilities for creating a sustainable world.
Environmental Communication, then, is a timely and important field of study. And there is plenty of meaningful work that needs to be done. Businesses, nonprofits, governmental agencies, political organizations, PR firms, media and journalism, law firms, educational institutions, etc. employ staff and consultants in environmental communication. Activists and artists also utilize insights from the study of environmental communication.
- Identify, describe, and investigate differing but related areas of study within the field of Environmental Communication.
- Practice critical thinking, writing, and discussion skills.
- Discover insights through experiential learning.
- Demonstrate knowledge through creative projects.