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Topics in American Religion (369-0-24)


Media, Earth and Making a Difference


Sarah McFarland Taylor
847 4914361
Crowe hall, 4-144

Meeting Info

Kresge Centennial Hall 3-410: Fri 2:00PM - 4:30PM

Overview of class

The central question of this course is: What Makes a Difference? Analyzing a variety of works of media addressing environmental themes, including works drawn from advertising and marketing, we will consider different types of environmental messaging and attempts to mobilize public moral engagement. Specifically, we will be looking at strategies for implementing media interventions as moral interventions. Discussion taken up in this class will include evaluating the comparative value of media messaging that emphasizes individual action and personal responsibility, versus messaging that promotes collective action, policy, and structural changes. Students will consider and debate what constitutes authentic "green" messaging versus mere corporate "greenwashing." Throughout, we will ask what kind of media we need in what has been called the "Anthropocene" (a time when humans are now a major geologic force affecting the future of the planet). When motivating public moral engagement in climate crisis, are the solutions being offered those that the planet will actually "register" or "notice" on a global scale? If not, what kinds of "media interventions" do we need to be making and how? Course content will include discussion of media interventions as moral interventions, media activism for social change, eco-media responses by religious communities and organizations, participatory digital culture, and the challenges of addressing environmental crisis in the distraction economy and what has been called the "post-truth era." Students will have the opportunity to learn by doing, proposing and crafting their own environmental media interventions as the course's final project. This course is about taking action and making a true difference. [Format: lecture/seminar/discussion hybrid combination]

Registration Requirements

No prerequisites.
*This course is for undergraduate students only and not for graduate students.

Learning Objectives

- To gain insights into the production of media and its moral implications.
- To gain an understanding of how religious authority works, and how it can affect (both negatively and positively) environmental messaging.
- To think about what it means to live in the Anthropocene.
- To recognize and identify the political dimensions of who and what does and does not become the subject of media attention.
- To gain the opportunity for "hands on" media making and media messaging, tactics, and strategies.
- To develop analytical tools for identifying and evaluating media interventions.
- To develop cognizance and discernment of "making a difference" versus "making a true difference".
- To gain a literacy in the environmental humanities, particularly analysis of ecomedia

Teaching Method

The course focuses both lecture and seminar/class discussion.

Evaluation Method

A midterm mediamaking project and a final mediamaking project.

Class Materials (Required)

All course materials will be available on Canvas.

Class Attributes

Ethics & Values Distro Area