Communicating Climate and Environmental Justice

Sponsor: Environmental Communication Division
Sat, 11/10: 2:00 PM  - 3:15 PM 
Salt Palace Convention Center 
Room: 253B (Level 2) 
Individual papers that address social and environmental justice and approach climate change as a justice issue.


Marek Muller, Ball State University  - Contact Me


Peter K. Bsumek, James Madison University  - Contact Me


Environmental Communication Division


Climate in Chaos: Colombian Coffee Farmers’ Experience of Climate Change

Climate change influences regional climates around the globe, often impacting agricultural systems. Regional climate change impacts are reducing the yield of Colombian coffee, the country's largest agricultural export indirectly responsible for the livelihoods of two million Colombians. This study, based on 45 in-person, in-depth interviews of coffee farmers in Risaralda, Colombia, uses a grounded theory approach to understand, in a highly contextualized manner, how the coffee farmers experience climate change. The results illustrate how Colombian coffee farmers experience climate change as unpredictable seasons and weather patterns: a climate in chaos. As a consequence of trying to farm in the face of uncertainty, farmers feel their livelihoods are threatened, and they attempt to make sense of humans' role in both climate change problems and solutions. The results are interpreted in terms of how they can inform a climate change communication and adaptation campaign in Colombia. Keywords: climate change, environmental communication, formative research, grounded theory, Colombia, coffee farming 


Natalie White, Purdue University  - Contact Me


Jessica Eise, Purdue University  - Contact Me

Consequences of Becoming a Movement: How Rhetoric and Performance Cemented McKibben’s Leadership

This paper contributes to both environmental communication and social movement theory as it interrogates the activist identity of founder, Bill McKibben. McKibben's self-portrayal is built from a comic frame where he is an "accidental activist"-an equal partner in a leaderless organization-but his high level decision making and acceptance of blame and responsibility within repeatedly shows his position as the leader. Because McKibben and are tied through this leadership, his use of comic frame to build his own activist identity inherently shapes the organizational identity of This paper seeks to examine the tensions between McKibben's actions and publicly stated refusal to accept himself as the "leader," and how these tensions impact the movement. I argue that the conflation of McKibben's identity with's weakens the organization, and that in order to succeed long-term, needs infrastructural change, or McKibben needs to stop refusing leadership. 


Megan E. Cullinan, University of Utah  - Contact Me

Environmental Nepantlisma: Theorizing Borderland Ecocultural Identities

In this chapter, the authors theorize ecocultural identity and the complexities of identity in a border landscape fraught with numerous, conflicting dualistic tensions – US/Mexico, English/Spanish, city/desert, nature/culture, human/more-than-human. Whereas the boundaries of these identities are patrolled and policed (both literally and symbolically), the border also provides a unique lens for understanding how (seemingly) oppositional tensions can conflict and converge in order to (re)create transformative perceptions and praxis. In developing their argument, the authors take up Anzaldúa's (1987) concept of the nepantlera to begin theorizing ecocultural identity in the Borderland. The claims in this chapter animate environmental nepantlisma as a "geography of self" that simultaneously constrains and enables possible modes of thought and practice. This essay contributes to a broader understanding of ecocultural identity by examining ways borderland theory can provide a framework for understanding ecocultural identity as transitory, in flux, bounded, and constantly negotiated through themes of alluvial diffusions, resistance, and resilience. 


Carlos A. Tarin, University of Texas, El Paso  - Contact Me


Sarah Upton, University of Texas, El Paso  - Contact Me
Stacey Sowards, University of Texas, El Paso  - Contact Me

Exxon Killed the Reef and we Deserve Justice: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Ideograph of Retributive Justice in the Climate Movement

Exxon, the world's largest fossil fuel corporation, is currently under investigation by the New York Attorney General due to newly arisen evidence that implicates the corporation to have knowingly deceived the public regarding the facts of climate change despite their clear understanding of the science. The climate movement, led by in this instance, supports the investigation for its significance and potential outcomes that could favor environmental justice. is opportunistically utilizing the investigation to advance their agenda to mitigate climate change. In this essay, I analyze the web pages for the Exxon Killed the Reef and the #ExxonKnew campaigns to understand how the climate movement rearticulates the ideograph of justice to discursively and organizationally create conflict with the fossil fuel corporations, namely Exxon in this case. I argue that the campaigns leverage the principles of retributive justice to motivate audiences to demand that the fossil fuel corporations be held accountable for their contributions to climate change. I then contend that the efforts to hold fossil fuel corporations accountable is comparable to the movement to hold tobacco corporations responsible for their public deception. 


Sean Quartz, University of Montana  - Contact Me