This course is an experiment. It begins with the assumption that global climate change is real and that its causes are anthropogenic (i.e. human caused). Consequently, solutions will not be just technological, or even mostly so, but will also need to involve profound changes to our human beliefs, practices, and styles of life. The difficulty in bringing this about is not only that a broad swathe of Americans are skeptical of climate change, even if this is acknowledged, the causes and solutions to the problem are being fiercely debated on the public stage. It has also, sadly, become a political issue dividing our nation. This course will carefully look at the rhetoric of these debates.
We will be critically reading a variety of contemporary texts that deal with the issue of climate change. In the process, we will be honing our skills as critical, active readers. One of the keys to effective reading, regardless of whether the text at hand is a Victorian novel or content on a website, is that the process be active. When reading for pleasure, it is perfectly fine to enter into an imaginative world and just enjoy your time there. However, in reading critically—which is, or at least should be, an essential skill taught in university literature departments—it is necessary to carefully consider what an author and text are doing. Authors have enormous power, as they can, one word at a time, influence each step of a reader's experience of a text. In this sense, an author is like a guide walking you through what may be unknown territory. They not only decide what you see (and don't) and when you see it, they are also in a position to influence how you see it though their careful representations. The more skillful the author, the more power they have over the representation and hence also over the reader. Note that for our purposes a "text" can be a written work (like on a website), a photograph or painting, a film or video, or a range of additional creations and that any of these can be "read" in our sense of being actively studied.