Communication of environmental emergencies

Degree course: 
Corso di First cycle degree in Communication Sciences
Academic year when starting the degree: 
Academic year in which the course will be held: 
Course type: 
Supplementary compulsory subjects
Second semester
Standard lectures hours: 
Detail of lecture’s hours: 
Lesson (48 hours)

No previous knowledge of the topics covered by the course is required; anyhow, the courses in History of Science and Science Communication will provide a useful background.

Final Examination: 

TThe final exam will be subdivided into a written test and an oral test.
The 40-minute long written test will be composed of 4 questions (from 0 to 6 points each), all of which are intended to assess the students' knowledge of the PowerPoint slides shown during classes.
The students who gain a minimum of 14 points in the written test will have access to the oral, during which they will be asked two questions (maximum 6 points overall) based on the exam's textbooks. The final grade will represent the combination of the grades obtained during the written and oral tests, respectively.

Voto Finale

The main purpose of this course is to provide a conceptual overview of the methods, tools, and strategies of science communication. A further goal is to offer the critical abilities aimed at the critical understanding of how the media cover scientific topics related to environmental and climate hazards.
The expected learning outcomes include:
- the acquisition of basic scientific concepts, and of the related scientific language, in regard to topics such as climate and geological-environmental hazards and risks;
- the ability to understand, interpret and discuss the social and mass-media implications of the scientific issues dealt with during the course;
- the ability to read and interpret the contents of scientific papers as well as news articles focused on environmental hazards and risks.
The expected learning outcomes, with particular reference to the latter learning outcome, are fully consistent with the overall purposes of the BA in Communication Studies.

The first part of the course is centered on the main themes associated with the risks and disasters related to the climate and the environment (duration 12 hours).
The second part of the course is aimed at illustrating the fundamentals of science communication (duration 4 hours):
a. Facts and news. Types of science journalism. Reporting, interviewing, investigative journalism;
b. Fake news and pseudoscience: Italian and international case studies.
The third part of the course is dedicated to the illustration of a number of case studies (listed below) aimed at conducting a critical analysis of scientific and environmental topics characterized by major social relevance and impact (duration 12 hours):
- The Vajont disaster (1963): the role of science and the representation of the event by the print media of the 60s;
- The Chernobyl nuclear incident (1987) and its coverage by the Italian press;
- Climate change and the media;
- L'Aquila earthquake (2009): “Seven scientists on trial”
- The "Deepwater Horizon" ecological disaster (2010)
- Was the earthquake in Emilia (2012) triggered by oil extraction activities?
- The Rigopiano snow avalanche (2017)
The final part of the course (10 hours) is dedicated to analyzing how environmental risks and disasters are portrayed by fiction movies and documentary films;
- Fiction movies and the environment: "Vajont"; "The Day After Tomorrow"; "Erin Brockovich"; "San Andreas", “The Core”.
- Documentary movies and the environment: "Before the Flood"; "An Inconvenient Truth"; "An Inconvenient Sequel"; "Gasland"; “Cowspiracy”.
As detailed hereunder, the lessons will be integrated by 10 hours dedicated to the production of science communication essays, centred on the topics dealt with during the course.entred on the topics dealt with during the course.

1. PowerPoint slides uploaded on the e-learning website at the end of the course.
2. F. Pasquaré Mariotto, A. Tibaldi. "Terra senza tregua", MIMESIS Edizioni, Milano, 2019.
3. S. Bencivelli, F.P. De Ceglia. "Comunicare la scienza", Carocci, Roma, 2013.

Thanks to the combination of lessons (38 hours) and tutorial activities (10 hours), the students will be provided with specific guidelines to gathering scientific information from institutional websites and the available literature; basic techniques for writing short essays dealing with environmental risks and disasters will also be taught. The above-mentioned learning outcomes are consistent with the expected learning outcomes.

Appointment, upon email request, during class intermissions and at the end of each class.
E-mail address:

Borrowed from

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