Environment and Media: Geographies of Nature, Climate Change, and Natural Hazards

Humanities & Social Sciences
Geography and the Environment
Course Code
GEOG 1140
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Course Designation
Certificate in Global Competency
Industry Designation
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course introduces students to the field of geography by integrating approaches and concepts from both human and physical geography in order to examine the role that media play in shaping our understandings of - and reactions to - nature and natural processes. In particular, it focuses on the role of maps, popular visual media such as movies and television, print and web-based news media, and social media – in representations of nature, climate change, and natural hazards. In addressing these topics, the course will provide students with a foundational understanding of key geographic concepts such as spatial analysis, interactions of the human and physical landscapes, and the influence of human populations on natural processes.
Course Content

1. Course Introduction: Geography, Media, and Construction of Geographic Knowledge

  • Geography and its major subfields
  • Geographic inquiry
  • Media representations and geographical knowledge
  • Geographic approaches to media and communications

2. Cartographic Communication

  • Maps as media
  • Evolution of cartographic representations from historic terra incognita to GIS and Google Earth
  • Mapping nature: Maps of natural hazards and climate change

3. Social Construction of Place and Nature

  • Social construction of place
  • Newspapers and sense of place
  • Changing perceptions and philosophies of nature
  • Geographic knowledge and visuality
  • Visual portrayal of the natural environment in documentary and fictional film

4. Fear, Anxiety, and Media Depictions of Natural Hazards

  • Geography of hazards
  • Approaches to audience reception
  • Social construction of geographic risk in news media
  • Geographic media as life-saving source of information
  • Fear and hazards in film

5. Climate Change

  • Greenhouse effect and global warming
  • Paleoclimatology and climate models
  • Natural hazards and climate change
  • Public policy and climate change
  • Climate change mitigation and adaption
  • Forced displacement
  • Climate change in popular media

6. Avalanches

  • Geography of avalanches
  • Avalanches and society
  • Snowpack observation
  • Slab avalanche anatomy
  • Human factors and avalanches
  • Avalanches in popular media

7. Hurricanes and Storm Surges

  • Geography of hurricanes
  • Hurricanes and society
  • Spatial distribution of hurricanes
  • Hurricane mapping
  • Storm surge engineering responses
  • Societal response to extreme weather

8. Earthquake and Tsunamis

  • Plate tectonics
  • Geography of plate boundaries
  • Tsunami warning system
  • News media and response and preparedness
  • Risk and society
  • Earthquake education
Learning Activities

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including: lectures, small group discussions, visual presentations (PowerPoint, DVDs and online media), individual and team projects and/or presentations, field observations, guest speaker presentations, and map analysis. This course could be delivered in a team taught environment or by an individual instructor.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria during the first week of classes.

An example of a possible evaluation scheme would be:

Preparation and participation:  5%
Film Analysis:    15%
Research Project and Presentation: 30%
Midterm Exam:   25%
Final Exam:  25%



Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, successful students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate familiarity with the overall field of geography as well as its human and physical subfields, and understand different types of geographic inquiry within and across those subfields.
  • Describe and analyze the role of media in constructing geographic knowledge and shaping public perceptions of the environment and environmental risks.
  • Demonstrate a foundation in scientific concepts and processes of physical geography, natural hazards and climate change.
  • Interpret, utilize, analyze and create maps.
  • Create media that displays competence in research, critical thinking, and analytical skills, as they relate to the field of geography. 
  • Communicate effectively orally, graphically, in writing, and using quantitative methods.
Textbook Materials

A textbook or coursepack may be used. Texts and coursepack readings will be updated periodically. Examples of typical textbooks and coursepack articles are as follows:


  • Anderson, A. (1997). Media, Culture and the Environment. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Lester, L. (2010). Media and Environment: Conflict, Politics and the News. Polity Press: Cambridge.

Coursepack Articles

  • Christophers, B. (2006). Visions of nature, spaces of empire: Framing natural history programming within geometries of power. Geoforum, 37, 973–985.
  • Clague, J.J, Bobrowsky, P. (2010). International year of Planet Earth 8. Natural Hazards in Canada. Geoscience Canada. 37(1). 17 – 37.
  • Ford, J., King, D. (2015). Coverage and framing of climate change adaptation in the media: A review of influential North American newspapers during 1993-2013. Environmental Science and Policy. 48. 137-146.
  • Hansen, A. (2011). Communication, media and environment: Towards reconnecting research on the production, content and social implications of environmental communication. International Communication Gazette, 73(1-2), 7-25.
  • Knight, J. (2004). Science in the movies: Hollywood or bust. Nature, 430 (7001), 720-722.
  • Lachlan, K. A., Spence, P. R., Lin, X., & Del Greco, M. (2014). Screaming into the Wind: Examining the Volume and Content of Tweets Associated with Hurricane Sandy. Communication Studies, 65(5), 500-518.
  • Meisner, M.S., Takahashi, B. (2011). The Nature of Time: How the Covers of the World's Most Widely Read Weekly News Magazine Visualize Environmental Affairs. Environmental Communication, 7(2), 255-276.
  • Smith, N. (2006). There's no such thing as a natural disaster. Understanding Katrina: Perspectives from the Social Sciences. Social Science Research Council. Available at







No equivalent courses.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for GEOG 1140
Alexander College (ALEX) ALEX SOSC 1XX (3)
Athabasca University (AU) AU GEOG 2XX (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU GEOG 2XX (3)
Coast Mountain College (CMTN) CMTN GEOG 215 (3)
College of New Caledonia (CNC) CNC GEOG 1XX (3)
College of the Rockies (COTR) COTR GEOG 1XX (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU GEOG 1XXX (3)
Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) No credit
North Island College (NIC) NIC GEO 1XX (3)
Northern Lights College (NLC) NLC GEOG 1XX (3)
Okanagan College (OC) OC GEOG 1XX (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU GEOG 1XX (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU GEOG 1XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU ENVS 1XX (3) or TWU GEOG 1XX (3)
University Canada West (UCW) UCW ARTS 1XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO GEOG 1st (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV GEOG 1st (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC GEOG 1XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV GEOG 105 (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC GEOG 1XX (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU GEOG 1st (3)

Course Offerings

Summer 2023