John Katunich, Writing Program

Contemporary Rhetoric of Climate Change

I came into Valley & Ridge hoping to make significant progress on a new course WRPG 102 that will have students analyze contemporary rhetoric of climate change (denialism, alarmism, fatalism) in order to make their own contributions to the ongoing conversation of how humankind-- individually, but also at collective levels-- can or should respond to anthropogenic climate change.    Through the workshop, I was able to organize learning outcomes for the course around three broad goals: 

  • Exploring one’s values and dispositions toward not only the issue of climate change, but toward a respect for dialogue across differences, and the willingness to consider diverse and different perspectives from one’s own
  • Deepening one’s knowledge of current climate change debate, and in particular, being able to recognize and evaluate therhetorical moves being made by actors in this debate.  This would include a critical look at the post-truth phenomenon and the power of motivated reasoning in climate change arguments.
  • Building one’s own agency in this debate by identifying personal stakes and goals for climate action, which would lead to contributions that advance a bigger conversation about climate action in our communities, campus, country or world.

Based on these goals, I sketched out a structure for the course that starts with a “climate change autobiography” that explores how climate change has impacted oneself (and perhaps how each of us have contributed to climate change).   This leads into an exploration of rhetoric of climate change, an introduction of heuristic tools to make sense of this rhetoric, and then, in conclusion, an analysis of one piece of climate change rhetoric.  Such analysis will then point toward climate action, which itself could be rewritten into a revised and updated autobiography from the beginning of the course.