The natural environment exists independently of how we think and talk about it, but we can only know it in human terms through our discourse about it. Our understanding of the environment is unavoidably constructed through the symbols we use to depict it in public discourse. Through scientific studies, media coverage, government hearings and other forums, we define the environment and our relation to nature through speech, writing, and images. And the ways in which we depict nature have profound consequences for what we do to it, through individual acts of consumption or conservation, and social acts of policy making, pollution, and protest. Given the power of our symbol making for the fate of life on the earth, students of the environment can benefit from understanding the tools and theories of public communication. Because all life, including ours, depends on the health of natural systems, students of communication must pay attention to the environment.
Dr. Chad Raphael
Santa Clara University
Visit the PDF version of the Environmental communication syllabus to access it.