Use Your Voice: Addressing Climate Change Through Science Communication

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
July 19, 2021 - August 11, 20217/19 - 8/113 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineSamantha Lash

Course Description

The science is clear: the world is entering a period of ecological and climatic disruption. The science is, however, also incredibly complex. Data retrieval, analyses and interpretation, climate systems and the impacts of changes within those systems are all intricate. Climate change challenges us as individuals psychologically, intellectually, and practically. Climate change is also exacerbating systemic inequalities and challenging our patterns of consumerism and thus our social and economic ideals outright. Perhaps, this is why so many remain unconvinced, in denial, hopeless, anxious, untrusting, or angry. So what can we do about it? If facts alone don’t change minds, what does? This course seeks to address HOW we communicate the science of climate change and its physical, as well as social, economic, political, and psychological impacts. This course combines concepts in science communication, climatology, representation, and leadership, with the mission of developing socially responsible communicators well-versed in navigating the interdisciplinary and intersectional basics of global climate change and its impacts from the dinner table to city council chambers; from the classroom to the museum; from a land dispute to the comment section of social media.

The course employs an activity-based curriculum to provide students with an overview of effective science communication strategies and best practices particular to engaging with global climate change. We will contextualize and analyze examples of past and contemporary coverage of climate change, and reflect on a myriad of inherent tensions. For example, students will compare journalistic principles and priorities (e.g.,“breaking news”, objectivity) with the pace, scale, scope, complexity, and realities of climate change. Throughout the course, materials and topics will explicitly address intersections with issues of inclusivity in science communication and scientific fields as well as unequal access to data which plays a big role in environmental (in)justice. We will center Indigenous, Black, female-identifying, and other marginalized voices, leaders, and experiences through a mixture of podcasts, readings, short films, and lectures. The course culminates with a final project that will include an original piece of science communication to put into practice what students learn in this course. With the support of their peers and instructor, students will put into practice the concept of advocating for the wellbeing of their local community/socioecosystems (e.g. a letter to a local politician on a local issue, piece of policy, specific vote, advocating for a program or a particular resolution of a local dispute).

Students will learn (to):
-Science communication basics including
(a) the roles of communication in science,
(b) the cultural, practical and policy-related roles of science communication in wider society,
(c) the unique challenges, intersectionalities, and urgency associated with global climate change,
-Strengthen leadership qualities to improve collaboration, problem solving, and public literacy,
-Recognize and amplify diverse range of intellectual resources, data, voices, strategies,
-Identify target audiences, biases, and messages in popular and technical science communication,
-Clearly communicate concepts to various stakeholders through effective listening, speaking, writing, advocacy,
-Develop final original “piece” of science communication/advocacy on a climate issue within their community.

Prerequisites: A basic understanding of global climate systems and common misconceptions about climate change is useful. Students must be respectful towards a wide range of cultural forms, experts, and practices; be willing to challenge themselves and be challenged by others. Community development is critical to creating an inclusive space to learn publicly and practice leadership and communication skills. Students will be expected to join for at least two real time class discussions (scheduled and published in advance). Alternative assignments available for students unable to attend because of time differences or technical difficulties. Access to reliable Internet or cellular data is required.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEES0936

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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