CMM2006 - Communications and Climate Crisis

2022/3 Module description

StaffDr Alexander R. E. Taylor - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

Climate crisis is the defining issue of our era, threatening the future viability of human life on planet Earth. This module critically examines the media’s role in framing the parameters of climate change debates and how it represents visions of the natural world. It also interrogates some of the ways that the communications technologies and the media industries contribute to climate crisis themselves in terms of carbon footprints and digital (un)sustainability. Topics will include mapping the history of environmental awareness, the impact of digital technologies on the natural world, fictional and non-fictional stories about environmentalism, celebrity activism, and exploring a range of critical approaches to thinking about the climate crisis.

No specialist knowledge, skills, or experience are required to take this module. It is suitable for all students in Humanities and on interdisciplinary pathways.

Module aims

This module aims to give you an excellent knowledge and critical understanding of the roles that communication technologies play in narrating and representing the climate crisis as well as the ways they materially contribute to the crisis. You will critically examine: the origins and historical development of the discourse of climate crisis; the environmental impact of digital infrastructure; mainstream news media reporting on climate breakdown; environmental documentaries; fictional representations of climate crisis and environmentalism in cinema, literature, and on social media platforms; critical theories of the environment, including eco-Leninism and liberal accounts that focus on the habits of individuals; and environmentalism and celebrity.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of key aspects of the rise of climate crisis discourse.
  • 2. Relate developments in communications technologies to broader historical forces and contexts.
  • 3. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the relevant scholarly literature on communication technologies and climate crisis.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse key developments in communication technology
  • 5. Exercise sound judgement in researching, collecting, and interpreting information from a range of appropriate primary and secondary sources.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Demonstrate skills in critical thinking and building a coherent argument in a video/visual essay.
  • 7. Question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to critically reflect your own learning process.

Syllabus plan

The module will take a thematic approach to the study of communication technology and climate crisis. Topics covered might include: the historical rise of climate crisis discourse; the environmental impact of digital communication technologies; news media and climate crisis reportage; fictional representations of climate crisis and environmentalism; documentary film and climate crisis; climate crisis and ideology; celebrity activism; activist celebrities; critical theories of the environment.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activities11Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activities11Seminars
Guided Independent Study35Seminar preparation
Guided Independent Study93Reading, research, and assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Video Essay plan500 words1, 2, 3, 5Oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Video Essay10010 minutes1-7Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Video Essay (10 minutes)Video Essay (10 minutes)1-7Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Alexander, J. (2013) “The case of the green vampire: eco-celebrity, Twitter and youth engagement”, Celebrity Studies, 4:3.
  • Anderson, A. (2013) “’Together we can save the arctic’: celebrity activism and the Rio Earth Summit 2012” Celebrity Studies, 13:3.
  • Berners-Lee, M. (2019) There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years. Cambridge: CUP
  • Brockington, D. (2013) Celebrity and the Environment. London: Zed.
  • Davis, M. (2022). The Monster Enters: Covid-19, Avian Flu, and the Plagues of Capitalism. London: Verso.
  • Davis, M. (2017). Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the making of the Third World. London: Verso.
  • Davis, M. (2002). Dead Cities and other tales. New York: The New Press.
  • Davis, M. (2000). Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination on Disaster. London: Picador.
  • Dawson, A. (2017) Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change. London: Verso.
  • Fletcher, R. (2015) “Blinded by the Stars? Celebrity, fantasy and desire in neoliberal environmental governance”, Celebrity Studies 6:4.
  • Gould, A.S. (2016) “Restorying the groud: digital environmental media studies”, Networking Knowledge 9:5.
  • Grusin, R. (2018) After Extinction. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.
  • Hansen, A. (2018) Environment, Media and Communication. London: Routledge.
  • Hatzisavvidou, S. (2019) “’The climate has always been changing’: Sarah Palin, climage change denialism, and American conservativism’, Celebrity Studies (forthcoming 2019).
  • Klein, N. (2015) This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. London: Penguin
  • Klein, N. (2019) On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal. London: Allen Lane.
  • Lewis, S. and Maslin, M. (2018) The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene. London: Penguin
  • Mann, G and Wainwright, J. (2017) Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of our Planetary Future. London: Verso.
  • Malm, A. (2016) Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming. London: Verso.
  • Malm, A. (2021). How to blow up a pipeline: Learning to fight in a world on fire. London: Verso.
  • Malm, A. (2021). White skin, Black fuel: On the danger of fossil fascism. London: Verso.
  • Miller, T. (2018) Greenwashing Culture, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Monbiot, G. (2017) How Did We Get Into This Mess? London: Verso.
  • Moore, J. (2015) Capitalism in the Web of Life. London: Verso.
  • Moore, J and Patel, R. (2020) A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things. London: Verso.
  • Parikka, J. (2015) A Geology of Media. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.
  • Pettifor, A. (2019) The Burning Case for the Green New Deal. London: Verso.
  • Roberts, T and Van Den Bulck, H. (2019) “‘Hypocritical investor’ or hollywood ‘do-gooder’? A framing analysis of media and audiences negotiating Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘green’ persona through his involvement in Formula E”, Celebrity Studies (forthcoming 2019)
  • Rodgers, H. (2013) Green Gone Wrong: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Eco-Capitalism. London: Verso
  • Thunberg, G. (2019) No One is Too Small to Make a Difference. London: Penguin.
  • Wallace-Wells, D. (2019) The Unihabitable Earth: A Story of the Future. London: Penguin. 

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Key words search

Communications, climate, media, infrastructure, digital, film, crisis, environment, Capitalism, Green, celebrity

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