Week Four: Supporting Materials

Featured Image: Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill Lingering Oil Slick, 2010. 


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Rob Nixon’s “Scenes from the Seabed: The Future of Dissent,” 263-280. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

1.What does the epigraph mean? What’s the relationship between the epithet and the rest of the essay?

2. Why does Nixon invoke Atlantas in the first sentence, “The island of Atlantis, according to Plato, vanished into the ocean ‘in a single night and day of misfortune’” (263)? Is his opening effective, why or why not?

3. What does Nixon mean by “slow violence”? Why is the process of “slow violence” so difficult for writers to communicate?

4. Spend a minute looking at the photo of the underwater cabinet meeting, how does Nixon “read the scene” (264)? How does the president of the Maldives, Mohamad Nasheen, communicate the slow changes from climate change that his country faces? What does he want to accomplish through his “underwater cabinet meeting”? Is President Nasheen successful, why/why not?

5. What does the planting of a flag traditionally symbolize? How do the planted flags that Nixon discusses challenge older notions of the symbolic gesture (266-7)?

6. What some of intersections between human rights and environmental rights that Nixon highlights through his reading of the two “seabed scenes” in the first section of the chapter?

7. BP brands itself as “Beyond Petroleum” (268). What does BP intend for that slogan to mean? What does Nixon suggest it means?

8. What does Nixon mean by the phrase “technological sublime” (268)? What sorts of imaginative tools do people have to counter the “technological sublime”?

9. Why is it useful or important to frame the conversation about climate change as a contest over the symbols we use to represent what is happening to the world?

10.Nixon concludes the section of the reading for last week by claiming, that developed nations “sewsaw” between two risky options: domestic drilling and dependance on foreign oil. What “third option” does he suggest? Do you agree?

12. Who’s responsible for environmental devastation? How can those responsible be held accountable? Who has the moral authority to hold responsible parties accountable? Why is it so hard for transnational corporations to be called to account for their misdeeds?

13. What’s the danger of bracketing foreign disasters as “foreign”? How is the concept of “foreign” faulty as it pertains to environmental issues?

14. If we remembered spills like the 1979 Ixtoc oil explosion, would the Even Horizon spill have been avoided? According to Nixon what keeps us from holding these disasters in our memories? What can we do to remember?

15. Nixon’s book came out in 2011, which means he probably finished writing it in 2010. How does the Gross Negligence ruling and subsequent claims settlement fit into with Nixon’s assessment of power of legislation?

16. What’s lost in these disasters? What’s gained from not taking preventative measures until after the disaster have occurred? The terror of unlearned lessons…

17. What’s “Corexit” (272) and why is it so scary?

18. If, in the first half of his Epilogue, Nixon focuses on the difficulty of rendering “slow violence,” why does he turn to the impossibility of rendering “unseen violence” (273) or the terrible effects of ecological disaster that culpable parties attempt erase?

19. What accounts for the discrepancy in responses between the Event Horizon spill and the “546 million gallons of oil spilled in the Niger Delta” (274)?

20. Consider this question that Nixon asks toward the end of his book, “How will writers, photographers, video artists, podcasters, and blogger navigate the possibilities–and possible perils–opened up by a new media culture characterized both by intensive, instant connectivity and by impatient, distractive staccato rhythms?” (276).

Working Group Preference Form

Week Three: Supporting Materials


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Heather Houser’s, “Human/Planetary.” The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

What, according to Houser, separates the “human” from the “planetary (i.e., nonhuman).”?

Why/how do the realities of climate change force us to rethink the way we conceive of human and nonhuman relationships?

What does it mean to say that human and nonhuman systems are fused or blended?

According to Houser, what are the advantages to living in “geological time” (144)? OR why must “we all get on geologic time if we are to understand and address climatic disturbance” (145)?

What’s the problem with the “(incomplete) bifurcation of human and planetary time” (145)?

How do the representational tools of “inhuman time give access at once the rift between human and planetary time, but also to their integration” (145)?

What sorts of timescales are humans used to operating on?

How is the manipulation of these timescales an example of human exceptionalism?

“One of the unique characteristics of the present, however, is that the range of time concepts keyed to human phenomenological experience will not suffice for apprehending environmental crisis.” (145).

To what does the word “Anthropocene” refer?

What are the drawbacks and advantages to a term like Anthropocene?

“How might climate change media conceptualize humanity in terms of the planetary or block that correspondence” (147)?

What makes it so hard to communicate climate change to audiences?

“Might carbon calculators make climate threat sense-able by quantifying it in the dollars and cents that fuel households, businesses, and governments rather than the datasets that fuel climatological research and modeling” (148)?

What are the representational drawbacks of carbon calculators?

What are the representational benefits of carbon calculators?

Week Two: Supporting Materials

In this post you’ll find discussion questions for this week’s reading. The questions are intended to guide you through your reading.

Caradonna, J. (2014). Introduction. Sustainability: a history (pp. 1-20). Oxford University Press.

What sorts of industries does “sustainability” cut across, according Caradonna?

What are some initial challenges leveled at “sustainability”?

Take a look at the way that the Fig.1. graph illustrates, “But since 1980 there has been an explosion of books and articles not only use those words as titles but also deal with the many facets of sustainability” (2).

How does Caradonna define the term “sustainability”? Are any of the terms Caradonna uses to define sustainability at odds with one another? Can a society be, for example, both prosperous and ecologically minded? What tools does he suggest, if any, to deal with possible discrepancies?

What other movements or terms does “sustainability” subsume?

Do you agree that “sustainability” is a “galvanizingly powerful term” (3)? That is, what or who is sustained? In whose interests do we sustain communities and ecosystems?

As a descriptive term, how does “sustainability” differ from some of the terms/movements that it subsumes? For instance, what does “Sustainability” communicate that say, “Climate Change” or “Global Warming” cannot? What do either of the other terms do that “sustainability” cannot?

When did “sustainability” first emerge as an “explicit social, environmental, and economic ideal” (1)? What were some early responses to the term?

What are the socio/economic conditions under which the term emerged?

What material processes does “substantiality” seek to redress, counter act, or adapt to?

What forces does “sustainability” seek to counteract?

Who does Caradonna call “sustainists”? What are their goals?

What’s your assessment of the rhetorical gestures in the following sentence: In short, for those who embrace sustainability in the fullest sense—as an environmental, social, economic, and political ideal—we’re at a crossroads in our civilization. There are two paths to take: continue with business as usual, ignore the science of climate change, and pretend that our economic system isn’t on life support or remake and redefine our society along the lines of sustainability” (5).

In what ways is “sustainability” necessarily interdisciplinary? What disciplines does the sustainability movement draw upon?

Is “sustainability” and endpoint or a process?

What is the etymology of the term and how does the history of the word itself help audience make sense of its contemporary applications?

What sorts of diagrams does Caradonna include? Spend a few minutes looking at the diagram on page 8, what ideas are represented and how do they overlap? How does the diagram of the “three E’s of sustainability” compare to the diagram on the facing page? What does the concentric circle model accomplish that the vendiagram cannot? Which of the two models is more successful and why?

Are economic systems both overlapping and independent, or are markets, as Daly argues, “’subsystems within the big biophysical system of ecological interdependence’” (9)?

What does Caradonna mean when he says, “an ecological point of view” (8)?

Grabill, J. T. & W. & Simmons, M. (1998). Toward a critical rhetoric of risk communications: producing citizens in the role of technical communications. Technical Communications Quarterly 7(4), 415-441

What are/were “Predominate Linear Models for Risk Communication”? How/why do Grabill, et. al. challenge those models?

What is the “critical rhetoric” risk communication?

What’s a typical definition of “Risk Communication”?

What are some drawbacks to that definition of risk communication above?

What are the current (1990’s) Approaches of Risk Assessment and Communication, Technocratic, Negotiated, Risk as Socially Constructed?

What is Participatory democracy and why do do Grabill and Simmons ultimately suggest it as a model for risk communication?

Why study Climate Change as an object of inquiry for questions of deliberative democracy?


Week One: Supporting Materials

In this post please find the IAC Class Blogs How-To slideshare, professional biography resources, Multimodal Basics Video.

IAC Class Blogs How-To

Professional Biography Resources

Guide to Writing a Bio (Business)

Guide to “Best Bios”

Academic Biography, Model

McKenna Rose

Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow; WCP Assistant Director for Assessment

Dr. McKenna Rose is a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she also serves as the Assistant Director for Assessment. Her research focuses on Renaissance literature and the Environmental Humanities. Her peer-reviewed articles have appeared in Shakespeare and Early Modern Culture. She also has a chapter forthcoming in the edited collection, Watery Thinking, published by Amsterdam University Press. Her book project Salvage Ecology on the Early Modern Stage, turns to the material history of the Renaissance theater to uncover the relationship between objects and the people they leave behind, while also exploring the environmental implications of a culture obsessed with expressing itself through the accumulation of reclaimed material commodities.Through its framing of the early theater as salvage operation, she argues that the constant cycling and recycling of both material substrates and rhetorical figures not only encodes the history of resource depletion, but also suggest methods to redress the dangers of anthropocentric climate change. At Georgia Tech, Dr. Rose teaches First-Year Writing and Technical Communication courses on sustainability and environmental justice.

Multimodal Basics (Video)