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The core dilemma in environmental advocacy may be illustrated by the question, “When we communicate about the world, should we stress what we know or what we feel?” The contributors to The Symbolic Earth argue that it is more important to decide how we should talk about what we know and feel. In their view, the environment is largely a product of how we talk about the world.

Because the environment is a social construction, the only hope we have of preserving it is to understand and alter the fundamental ways we discuss it. This collection first examines the ways in which discourse creates environment perceptions. Subjects discussed range from the description of natural scenery to the advocacy of political interest groups, from the everyday interactions of citizens facing environmental crises to the greenwashing of corporate imagemakers, and from the psychology of the mass public to the social constructions of the mass media. The authors include nationally known scholars of environmental history, rhetorical theory, ethnography, communication and journalism studies, public policy, and media criticism.

James G. Cantrill is associate professor of communication and performance studies at Northern Michigan University. Christine L. Oravec is professor of communication at the University of Utah.

This valuable contribution to environmental studies will stimulate interdisciplinary approaches to the complex issues currently classified as 'environmental.' -- Choice

This collection of essays is stimulating reading and makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the complex interaction of communication and environment. -- Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment

Publication Date



University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Environmentalism, Environmental policy, United States


Environmental Sciences

The Symbolic Earth: Discourse and Our Creation of the Environment
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