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

Course Code: GEOG 1140
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

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

Methods of Instruction

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.

course prerequisites




curriculum 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 schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.