Assignments (1000 points)

  • Reflection paper (40 points)
  • Climate Change Outline (25 points)
  • Elements of Style Quizzes (40 points)
  • Journalism Analysis (50 points)
  • Twitter Analysis (50 points)
  • Semiotic Analysis (100 points)
  • Film Treatment (50 points)
  • Film Analysis (100 points)
  • Film (200 points)
  • Commentary on “Learning to Die in the Anthropocene” (150 points)
  • Commentary about Fisher-Sponsored Conferences (25 points)
  • Class Discussion and Reading Preparation (150 points)

Reflection paper

In 250-350 words, each student will reflect upon their own current views of climate change.  No research is required, and students should feel free to speak honestly about their understanding and attitudes about the subject.  The form of this essay is open-ended, and students may write about experiences, attitudes, family attitudes, experiences with peers, news stories, etc..  The paper will be graded primarily on clarity of ideas/explanations and writing style (including grammar).

Climate Change Outline

Each student is asked to outline the chapter “Climate Change: A Primer”  The facts included should include those facts that seem the most significant to the student and are the most likely to prove useful to make written arguments later in the semester.  The entire outline should not exceed two sides of one piece of paper.  It must be at least one full page.

Elements of Style Quizzes

You will take four quizzes on the contents of the book, “The Elements of Style”.

Journalism Analysis
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Assessment

Students will complete a close reading of three (journalistic) articles related to climate change and its effects on either developing countries or poorer communities in the United States; gender; or environmental racism.   The articles should be thematically similar.  The paper should begin with an analysis of each article that includes a summary of the article, along with a consideration of accuracy, bias, and persuasiveness.  Each of the three distinct analyses should be clearly marked with a heading. To conclude, each student will summarize the findings based on a comprehensive consideration of the three articles.  The total paper should be 900-1200 words.  You may paraphrase or quote each article—use a journalistic style to make the citation: (In the August 23, 2019 issue of the New York Times, the reporter states that, “…”.)  In the conclusion, if you refer to an article again, place the name of the publication in parentheses (e.g., “(New York Times)”).

None of the previously assigned articles may be used. 

Twitter Analysis

This assignment will address the range of opinions that one must sort through when using social media.  Using, or another twitter hashtag site of a student’s preference, each student will examine tweets about climate change that use various hastags (#climatechange, #newgreendeal, #climateapartheid, #climatechangehoax, #climatecrisis) to complete an analysis of their choice—answering one question below.

Some possible options to address:

      1. Who are the top influencers and why do they have that distinction?  Do they in fact have a reasonable authority in commenting on the topic?
      2. What is the difference between the positive and negative posts?  Is the sentiment analysis correct?
      3. Is there any additional insights you can gain by examining the “related topics” visualization?
      4. What insights can you make considering which media sources are most often tweeted?
      5. Does the device upon which the tweet originated offer any insights?
      6. What percentage (roughly) of the posts are fact-based vs. opinion/meme-based?
      7. Other questions are encouraged.

The findings will be presented orally. Students will hand in a brief, one paragraph written summary of their findings on Blackboard.

Semiotic Analysis

After reading the graphic novel, Climate Changed by Philippe Squarzoni, students will write a 1000 word paper using semiotic analysis: consider what messages can be conveyed through an image (or sequence) within the graphic novel.  Students will be asked to consider one aspect of climate change (e.g., economic, human health, biodiversity, climate change denial, politics, psychology) and explore how each of these are conveyed visually in the text. 

Choose one sequences, 1 panel to 5 pages.  Explain how the sequence is effective by describing each panel and then discussing how/why the entire sequence creates meaning through both its text and visual elements.  You should consider such characteristics as the size of the panel, content of the panel, arrangement of the panel, etc..  See Blackboard for more the types of panel configurations.

The paper must have an introduction and conclusion related to the value and place of graphic novels as a form of media —consider the questions we discussed at the beginning of class on October 10.

You are not required to do research, but certainly may do so.  Please make it clear somehow which panels/pages you are analyzing—you may include figures that include images of the book.

Film Analysis

Students will choose one sequence in a film we watched in class:

    • IO
    • Take Shelter
    • Beyond the Flood
    • Inconvenient Truth

or from another film (narrative or documentary) related to climate change:

    • Beasts of the Southern Wild
    • Snowpiercer
    • Wall-E
    • Day After Tomorrow
    • Another film approved by Professor Sarachan

Students will discuss what makes the sequence (e.g., a series of one or more connected scenes) effective in terms of communicating about climate change [I mean this in the most broad sense], defining the sequence using Metz’s definitions/categorizations of shots and scenes.  The analysis should refer to elements of mise-en-scene (including cinematography) and editing in making the argument.

Students are encourage to embed video and or stills from the film when appropriate in their paper.  They must also title their paper; the style of “short phrase”: “more specific phrase” is recommended (e.g., “The End of Denial: The Reality of the Incoming Storm in Taking Shelter”).    Reference to other reviews/articles is required; cite at least two other sources using MLA style.   The paper should be between 500+ words.

Film, including Treatment

Collaboration and Leadership Assessment

Groups of 2-3 students will develop a short 60-90 second film in which they make an argument about climate change action.  The film will be storyboarded (using concepts learned from the visual analysis paper and the graphic novel that is read for class) with narration added to the filmed images.  Students must create a script using 3-4 reliable sources, creating a visual message of what could happen over the next 15-50 years (students choose the time frame) and what action the viewers should take.  The treatment (handed in first) will include a discussion of the sources, the completed storyboard, and the narrator’s script.   In designing the storyboard, consider the type of imagery found in the graphic novel.  Online images may be used, but should not make up the majority of screen time.  Consider fair use and copyright when choosing online images and/or video.  (Include “public domain” in your Google searches and consider this article:  Alternate forms of a documentary–interviewing experts or other students, etc., having a narrator in the film (think Super Size Me) may also be proposed.  Fictional narratives are not allowed.

Commentary on “Learning to Die in the Anthropocene”
Written, Oral, and Visual Communication; Integrative and Applied Learning; Citizenship & Civic Engagement Assessments

After completing the text, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of Civilization, by Roy Scranton, students will write their own personal take on Climate Change by responding to the memoir (600-800 words), considering all the knowledge and insight gained during the semester, and integrating it with their own attitudes and beliefs.  Students must choose two chapters from the book,  addressing the content of the chapters in relation to their own personal perspective.  The paper must include an introduction and conclusion, offering a thesis and conclusion related to the integration of the book with the student’s perspective.  MLA style is required.


A small group of students will promote and host an event on campus in which they lead a discussion using ideas from Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of Civilization as a starting point..  They will lead the conversation, allowing for a variety of viewpoints and attempting to inform and encourage listening among all attendees.  More information to follow.

Commentary about Fisher-Sponsored Conferences

Students will be asked to attend two talks at the three academic conferences listed in the syllabus: NAAS’s Regional Conference on October 3-5; the Teach-In on October 23, and the Feminist-Pragmatist Colloquium on November 14-17.  The two panels may be from the same conference.  You will provide a short paragraph summarizing the talk (and more significantly) providing your view of what you saw/heard.

Class Discussion and Reading Preparation

Students will be expected to be prepared to participate in all class discussions by completing all readings for each class.  The professor will call on students randomly, whether or not a student volunteers.  Preparation at such moments will heavily contribute to this grade.

Grade Chart

A 930-1000 C 730-769
A- 900-929 C- 700-729
B+ 870-899 D+ 670-699
B 830-869 D 630-669
B- 800-829 D- 600-629
C+ 770-799 F 0-599