You are here

Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere

Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere

Fifth Edition

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.

For instructors

Select a Purchasing Option

Electronic version
Prices from
*180 day rental