Green Media and Popular Culture

This is part of our special feature Facing the Anthropocene.

Module Description

This module looks at the media’s role in raising environmental awareness. It will also ask you to think about how far popular culture can encourage us towards applying ecological values in our everyday lives. Supported by John Parham’s book Green Media and Popular Culture (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), the module follows the book in relating media and popular culture to scientific and social concepts of ‘ecology’ and in offering a comprehensive survey of ‘green’ popular forms. The module is available to students on the Media & Culture, Journalism, and Politics degrees.

In classroom sessions that will encompass lectures, screenings, ‘listenings,’ seminars, and workshops, the module covers press and broadcast news, environmental journalism, social media and environmental activism, varieties of film (Hollywood, documentary, and avant-garde cinema), television, animation, popular music, comedy, and computer games. Case studies include news reports (TV and press), social media and environmentalist websites, Disney and Japanese anime, Hollywood disaster movies, television nature programmes, UK and American ‘art films’, the country and the city in popular music, educational and meditative computer games, and comedy. A further, stand-alone session considers the resource implications of the media products that we use. Be prepared to confront the truth about the energy consumed by your phones, tablets, and laptops, the precious and sometimes toxic metals out of which they are made, and whether and where they are recycled or dumped! Each popular cultural form will be discussed in relation to ecological theory (an understanding of which will be developed and tested in assignment 1), the historic development of environmental themes in that form, and the political and economic constraints and possibilities that each offers to environmental activism.

The module has two assignments. The first portfolio assignment encompasses a series of small tasks designed to measure your understanding of the key concepts of the module (environment, ecology, and rhetoric) and an opportunity to pilot case studies for assignment 2, the long essay. In the essay, you will apply your understanding of arguments around ‘green media’ to a detailed examination of a popular cultural text of your choice.



Set text: John Parham (2016) Green Media and Popular Culture: An Introduction. London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

You might wish, however, to purchase one of the following, dependent upon your course of study or area of interest: for an alternative (more pessimistic!) take on green media, cultural studies & film, see Noël Sturgeon (2009) Environmentalism in Popular Culture: Gender, Race, Sexuality, and the Politics of the Natural. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press; for a detailed, book-length study of green journalism, try: Anders Hansen (2010) Environment, Media and Communication. London: Routledge.


Week 1: Introduction: Defining ‘Green Media and Popular Culture’       
Seminar: Screening, discussion, assignment exercise
Reading: Michael Allaby (2000) A Dictionary of Ecology. London: Routledge


Week 2: Green Screen: Hollywood Cinema
Seminar: Discussion and screening of The Day after Tomorrow
Reading: David Ingram (2009) ‘Four Recent Books on Ecocriticism and Film and Television’, Green Letters 10.

Week 3: News Agendas, Journalism, Environmental Activism
Seminar: Exercise around news journalism
Reading: Hansen, Environment, Media and Communication; Kevin Michael DeLuca (1999) Image Politics: The New Rhetoric of Environmental Activism. New York and London: The Guilford Press


Week 4: How Green is your Media? Production, Consumption, Sustainability
Seminar: Discussion; assignment 1 preparation workshop
Reading: Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller (2012) Greening the Media. New York: Oxford University Press. Sean Cubitt (2017) Finite Media. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


Week 5: Television Nature Documentaries
Seminar: Screening/discussion of nature documentaries – Planet Earth and Springwatch
Reading: Adrian Ivakhiv (2008) ‘Green Film Criticism and its Futures’, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 15(2).


Week 6: Environmentalism and Popular Music
Seminar: Screenings, Listenings, Workshop: from John Denver to Björk.
Reading: David Ingram (2010) The Jukebox in the Garden. Ecocriticism and American Popular Music. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi.

Week 7: Green Computer Games
Seminar: Screening/Discussion of EnerCities and Journey
Reading: Alenda Y. Chang (2011) ‘Games as Environmental Texts’, Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences 19(2)


Week 8: Alternative/Activist Green Journalism
Seminar: Finding examples of alternative journalism and social activism
Reading: Michael Frome (1998) Green Ink: An Introduction to Environmental Journalism. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press; Leah Lievrouw (2011) Alternative and Activist New Media. Cambridge: Polity.


Week 9: Art Film and Documentary
Seminar: Screening/discussion of Larry Gottheim Fog Line; Al Gore An Inconvenient Truth
Reading: Scott MacDonald (2002) The Garden in the Machine. : A Field Guide to Independent Films about Place. Berkeley and London: University of California Press; Ivakhiv, ‘Green Film Criticism’


Week 10: Green Humour
Seminar: Screening/discussion of ‘green’ stand-up comedy: Bill Bailey and Marcus Brigstocke
Reading: Parham, Green Media and Popular Culture, ch.5


Week 11: Animation: Hollywood/Anime
Seminar: Screening/discussion of Disney animation/anime: Finding Nemo; Spirited Away
Reading: David Whitley (2012 [2nd edn]) The Idea of Nature in Disney Animation. Farnham: Ashgate.


Week 12: Assignment 2: Assignment Workshop and Tutorials
Seminar: Assignment workshop
Reading: n/a


John Parham teaches Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Worcester (UK) where he is also Associate Head (Research) for the Institute of Humanities & Creative Arts. He is author of Green Media and Popular Culture: An Introduction (Palgrave Macmillan), co-editor (with Louise Westling) of The Cambridge History of Literature and Environment (Cambridge UP), and co-editor of the Routledge journal Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism.



Published on May 2, 2017


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