Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: Climate Change Narratives

Instructor: Erin Sroka

Narratives explaining climate change in our culture range from apocalyptic tales of collapse to arguments that the whole thing is a hoax. In Climate Change Narratives, we will parse through the stories that have made their way into popular thinking from the 1990s to today, examining how the issue continues to evolve through stories that define the nature of the problem, and either call us to action or keep us in place. The course will be part critical thinking and part creative writing: students will read and analyze course texts, and pursue their own ideas and questions through the genre of creative nonfiction.

Course content will include various forms of nonfiction: essays, journalism, public policy, scholary articles, books, and documentary films. We will hear from environmentalists, skeptics, climate-change deniers, thought leaders, and mainstream media. We will also study the narratives of people whose lives are being impacted by climate change in the present, such as those effected by sea level rise and major storms. Course discussions will investigate how the findings of scientists and international panels on climate change make their way into the media and shape popular understanding of the nature of the issue and what should be done.

Students will carry out their own investigations of the issue through assignments in creative nonfiction. Over the course of four writing assignments, students will be encouraged to explore personal, cultural, or research-based angles to investigate the intersection of environmental change and their own lives and interests. Each assignment will be edited and turned in as part of a final portfolio. The portfolio will include a critical introduction, in which students will analyze how their own contributions fit into the larger body of climate change narratives.

Required readings may include:

  • The Global Warming Reader: A Century of Writing About Climate Change, Bill McKibben, ed., 2012.
  • Eco-Sanity: A Common Sense Guide to Environmentalism, Joseph L. Bast, 1994.
  • An Inconvenient Truth (film), dir. Davis Guggenheim, 2006.
  • When the Levees Broke (film), dir. Spike Lee, 2006.
  • Zeitoun, Dave Eggers, 2009.
  • Eco-Tyranny: How the Left's Green Agenda Will Dismantle America, Brian Sussman, 2012.
  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, Naomi Klein, 2014.
  • Additional readings by Arundhati Roy, E.O. Wilson, and Elizabeth Kolbert.

Last Update: April 1, 2015