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Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere

Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere

Fifth Edition
  • Phaedra C. Pezzullo - University of Colorado, Boulder, USA, Indiana University, USA
  • Robert Cox - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

November 2017 | 448 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

“This is the best undergraduate text devoted to environmental communication. It’s the standard book for an introduction to the field.” 
—Jeffrey L. Courtright, Illinois State University

The Fifth Edition of the award-winning Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere remains the most comprehensive introductory text in the growing field of environmental communication.  This groundbreaking book focuses on the role that human communication plays in influencing the ways we perceive the environment. It also examines how we define what constitutes an environmental problem and how we decide what actions to take concerning the natural world. 

In the highly anticipated Fifth Edition, internationally recognized researcher Phaedra Pezzullo and three-time Sierra Club President Robert Cox leverage their vast experience to offer insights into the news media, Congress, environmental conflict, advocacy campaigns, and other real-world applications of environmental communication. This edition also explores recent events—the Trump Administration, wolf conservation, public land milestones, the Flint water crisis, corporate disinformation campaigns, new alliances for a “just transition” in a growing renewable energy economy, the People’s Climate March, international legal precedents, and more—to illustrate key terms and the significance of environmental communication. 



Chapter 1: Defining Environmental Communication
What is “Environmental Communication”?  
Ways of Studying Environmental Communication  
The Ethics of Crisis and Care  
Communication, the Environment, and the Public Sphere  
Communication as Symbolic Action: Wolves  
Why Communication Matters to “The Environment”  
Public Spheres as Democratic Spaces  
Diverse Environmental Voices in the Public Sphere  
Citizens and Civil Society  
Nongovernmental Organizations  
Politicians and Public Officials  
Scientists and Scholars  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Chapter 2: Contested Meanings: A Brief History
Learning to Love Nature  
Wilderness Preservation Versus Natural Resource Conservation  
John Muir and the Wilderness Preservation Movement  
Gifford Pinchot and the Conservation of Natural Resources  
Cultivating an Ecological Consciousness  
Public Health and the Ecology Movement  
Rachel Carson and the Public Health Movement  
Earth Day and Legislative Landmarks  
Environmental Justice: Linking Social Justice and Environmental Quality  
Redefining the Meaning of “Environment”  
Defining Sacrifice Zones and Environmental Justice  
Movements for Sustainability and Climate Justice  
Introducing Sustainability  
Moving Toward Climate Justice and a Just Transition  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Part II: Constructions of the Environment
Chapter 3: Symbolic Constructions of the Environment
A Rhetorical Perspective  
Terministic Screens and Naming  
Constructing an Environmental Problem: The “Rhetorical Situation”  
Tropes and Genres  
Dominant and Critical Discourses  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Chapter 4: The Environment in/of Visual and Popular Culture
The Environment and Popular Culture  
Encoding/Decoding Environmental Media  
Media’s Lifecycle  
Looking at the Environment  
Visual Rhetoric and Nature  
Seeing the American West  
Picturing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge  
Moving Images of Disasters  
Witnessing Ecological Crises  
Polar Bears as Condensation Symbols  
Pollution in Real Time  
Green Art, Marketing, and Graphic Design  
Environmental Art  
Viral Marketing  
Failed Persuasion  
Green Graphic Design  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Chapter 5: Environmental Journalism
Growth and Changes in Environmental News  
Emergence and Cycles in Environmental News  
A Perfect Storm: Decline of Traditional News Media and Rise of Digital News  
Breaking News and Environmental Journalism  
Media Frames  
Norms of Objectivity and Balance  
Political Economy of News Media  
Gatekeeping and Newsroom Routines  
Media Effects and Influences  
Agenda Setting  
Narrative Framing  
Cultivation Analysis  
Media Engagement Continuum  
Digital Technologies and the Transformation of Environmental News  
Digitizing Environmental Journalism  
Social Media and Citizen Environmental Journalism  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Part III: Communicating in an Age of Ecological Crises
Chapter 6: Scientists, Technology, and Environmental Controversies
Scientific Argumentation  
Symbolic Legitimacy and the “Eclipse” of the Public  
Fracking and the Environmental Sciences  
The Precautionary Principle  
Uncertainty and Risk  
The Precautionary Principle  
Early Warners: Environmental Scientists and the Public  
Dilemmas of Neutrality and Scientists’ Credibility  
Environmental Scientists as Early Warners  
Science and the Trope of Uncertainty  
A Trope of Uncertainty  
Challenging the Environmental Sciences  
Communicating Climate Science  
Climate Scientists Go Digital  
Media and Popular Culture  
Inventing New Climate Change Messages  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Dangerous Environments: Assessment in a Risk Society  
Risk Assessment  
Technical Risk Assessment  
A Cultural Theory of Risk Assessment  
Communicating Environmental Risks in the Public Sphere  
A Technical Model of Risk Communication  
A Cultural Model of Risk Communication  
Citizens Becoming Scientists  
Mainstream News Media and Environmental Risk  
News Media Reports of Risk: Accurate Information or Sensational Stories?  
Whose Voices Speak of Risk?  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Sustainability: An Interdisciplinary Approach  
Economic Discourse and the Environment  
Corporate Sustainability Communication: Reflection or Deflection?  
Green Product Advertising  
Green Image Enhancement  
Green Corporate Image Repairs  
Greenwashing and the Discourse of Green Consumerism  
Corporate Greenwashing  
Discourse of Green Consumerism  
Communicating Sustainability on and Through Campuses  
Communicating Sustainability Curricula  
Communication Through Infrastructure  
Communication Education at Tourist Sites  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Part IV: Environmental Campaigns and Movements
Environmental Advocacy  
Campaigns Differ From Critical Rhetoric  
Environmental Advocacy Campaigns  
Campaigns’ Objectives  
Identifying Key Decision Makers  
Developing a Strategy to Influence Decision Makers  
The Campaign to Protect Zuni Salt Lake  
Zuni Salt Lake and a Coal Mine  
A Coalition’s Campaign  
Success for Zuni Salt Lake  
Message Construction  
The Attitude–Behavior Gap and the Importance of Values  
Message Construction: Values and Framing  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Grassroots Activism and Digital Media  
Alert, Amplify, and Engage  
Affordances of Digital Communication Technologies  
Environmental NGOs and Digital Campaigns  
“Sustainable Self-Representation”  
Action Alerts: Environmental NGOs’ Digital Mobilizing  
Online/Offline and “Public Will” Campaigns  
Multimodality and Networked Campaigns  
Environmental Activism and Multimodal Networks  
NGOs’ Sponsored Networks  
Network of Networks: Global Environmental Activism  
Scaling Up: The People’s Climate March and the March for Science
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Environmental Justice: Challenges, Critiques, and Change  
The Beginnings of a “New” Movement  
We Speak for Ourselves: Naming “Environmental Racism”  
Building the Movement for Environmental Justice  
Institutionalization of Environmental Justice  
Honoring Frontline Knowledge and Traveling on Toxic Tours  
The Politics of Voice  
The Politics of Place  
The Global Movement for Climate Justice  
Climate Justice: A Frame to Connect the World  
Mobilizing for Climate Justice  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Part V: Environmental Laws and Engagement
Chapter 12: Public Participation in Environmental Decisions
Right to Know: Access to Information  
Freedom of Information Act  
Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act  
Right to Comment  
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)  
Public Hearings and Citizen Comments  
SLAPP: Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation  
Sued for Speaking Out  
Response to SLAPPs  
Growth of Public Participation Internationally  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Chapter 13: Environmental Conflict Management and Collaboration
Addressing Environmental Disputes  
Criticism of Public Hearings  
Beyond Public Hearings  
Collaborating to Resolve Environmental Conflicts  
Principles of Successful Collaboration  
From Conflict to Collaboration in the Great Bear Rainforest  
Limits of Collaboration and Consensus  
Evaluating Collaboration: The “Progress Triangle”  
The Quincy Library Group: Conflict in the Sierra Nevada Mountains  
Common Criticisms of Collaboration  
Suggested Resources
Key Terms
Discussion Questions
Chapter 14: Legal Arguments for the Standing of Citizens and Nature
Right of Standing and Citizen Suits  
Standing in a Court of Law  
Citizen Suits and the Environment  
Landmark Cases on Environmental Standing  
Sierra Club v. Morton (1972)  
Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife (1992)  
Friends of the Earth, Inc. V. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc. (2000)  
Global Warming and the Right of Standing  
Who Should Have a Right of Standing?  
Who can Speak—and What is Speech?  
The Standing of Future Generations  
Nonhuman Nature: Should Trees, Dolphins, and Rivers Have Standing?  
Suggested Resources
Discussion Questions

“This is the best undergraduate text devoted to environmental communication. It’s the standard book for an introduction to the field.” 

Jeffrey L. Courtright
Illinois State University

“Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere engages a medley of terms, frames, and controversies that are useful for fusing theory and practice. The authors address an impressive breadth of material and numerous case studies that provide depth and context-specific opportunities for critical thinking and engaged learning. Well-researched texts of this quality are essential for providing students and faculty with the communication savvy necessary for imagining and enacting environments that are conducive to human and planetary thriving amidst our colliding ecological crises. I have relied on the 3rd and 4th editions of this textbook in my previous Communicating Sustainability classes and look forward to using the next edition.”

Catalina M. de Onís
Willamette University

“This is a great text that clearly explains a difficult concept and then provides several examples of how it permeates society via the ways we communicate about the natural world and our role in it.”

Damon M. Hall
Saint Louis University

“In the field of environmental communication, Pezzullo and Cox’s text is fundamental. With tremendous breadth and depth, it offers both contemporary and historical public discourse on the complicated fight for environmental protections. Students find this text book enlightening and highly readable given the many opportunities for engagement in contemporary issues provided in text blocks throughout the book.”

Jennifer L. Adams
DePauw University

This interdisciplinary overview is an accessible introduction to environmental communication. The careful grounding in rhetorical and media theory is especially helpful, and the many current case studies are interesting and informative. This book is valuable for students of environmental science and policy as well as environmental activists.”

Joan Faber McAlister
Drake University
Key features
  • Discussions of environmental communication crisis and care encourage students with positive examples of environmental care such as hunters and anglers sharing their love of public lands to resist privatization by the US Congress.
  • The Fifth Edition reflects our growing community of scholars and practitioners, making it easier for students to note major trends.
  • Engaging new research helps students connect the content to topics ranging from industrial apocalyptic rhetoric to emerging methods for assessing media impact.
  • Recent controversies and milestones illustrate real-life examples of environmental communication, including the coalition of water protectors involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy, the Flint water crisis as systemic environmental racism, allegations of disinformation campaigns about climate research and The March for Science in response, new alliances for a “just transition” in a growing renewable energy economy, and more. 
  • Globally diverse images and case studies of environmental leaders, practices, and movements kindle students’ imaginations and reinforce the theories introduced in the text.
  • Exploration of controversial topics such as hydraulic fracking, climate science, and the legal standing of nonhuman species illustrates relevant application of the principles in environmental practices and decision-making.
  •  Act Locally! exercises offer more ways to encourage citizen participation and give students opportunities to apply the principles of environmental communication to their campus and community.
  • Suggested Resources in each chapter continue to provide recommended readings, documentary films, movies, and websites for readers interested in further examination of the topics covered.
  • Comprehensive and updated coverage of the complexity and range of major issues and practices in the field is included throughout the text. All the basic themes are surveyed, with new information about climate science communication, sustainability, environmental journalism, social media (Twitter, Facebook, social networking, mobile apps, etc.), climate justice, corporate advocacy, new trends in art and on campuses, natural resource collaboration practices, and legal precedents.
  • Scholarship blended with application creates an active learning experience for students through diverse examples, case students, and a variety of voices and groups speaking about the environment—climate scientists, citizens, environmentalists, journalists, bloggers, students, corporate PR campaigns, climate justice activists, public officials, artists, lawyers, and more.

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