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)

All courses offered during the first and second year of the degree program (particularly those related to science history, philosophy and communication) will represent a key conceptual basis for dealing with the topics taught in the course.

Final Examination: 
Scritto e Orale Congiunti

The final exam is aimed at making sure that the needed knowledge and skills have been acquired; there will be one, 1.5-hour long written exam, consisting of 3 open-end questions centered on the course slides.
Every answer will be graded with 0 to 10 points. In order to be admitted to the oral exam, a minimum of 14 points will be needed.
After essays have been graded, those admitted to the oral exam will first engage in a preliminary discussion with the teacher about the essay’s results, and then will be asked a few questions aimed at testing their knowledge of the required textbook (maximum 4 points).

Voto Finale

The course is aimed at providing the students with a broad conceptual framework about environmental risks and disasters, in terms of both their natural and industrial/technological implications. Emphasis will be placed on the sociological, psychological and cultural factors that control public perception of environmental hazards; particular attention will be devoted to highlighting the ways in which the media (both new and traditional) represent environmental-related topics.
The overall goals will be to offer the students tools and strategies that may enable them to write essays revolving around risk-related themes (climate change, seismic and flood hazard, nuclear risk…).

Learning objectives will be:

- To gain an in-depth knowledge and awareness of such topics as risk, hazard, vulnerability, environmental crisis subdivided into the different typologies (seismic, volcanic, hydrogeologic, nuclear);
- to be able to tell actual environmental risk from perceived risk, and assess the main factors affecting public perception of risk;
- to critically analyze media coverage of risk and disasters, on both print and TV media outlets;
- to apply the above knowledge to the production of essays, which will have to be based on the collection of scientifically-reliable data from the web and institutional organizations that are committed to monitoring hazard and managing environmental catastrophes.
The expected learning outcomes are fully consistent with the overall purposes of the BA in Communication Studies.

- Hazard, risk, vulnerability, environmental crisis (duration 2 hours).
- Public perception of natural hazards (seismic, volcanic, hydrogeologic) and return interval of extreme natural events (duration 2 hours).
– Examples of natural and man-induced disasters from the 50s onward, both in Italy and worldwide (duration 10 hours).
- Environmental risks and science: how scientists predicted extreme natural events like the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami in 2004, hurricane Katrina, 2005, the earthquake in Haiti, 2010 and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, 2011). (Duration: 6 hours).
- Climate hazard: science and media duration: 4 hours)
- The earthquake in L’Aquila (April 6, 2009): seismic sequence, civil protection management of the seismic crisis; the trial and the sentence against seven scientists belonging to the Major Hazard Commission (duration: 4 hours).
- The sinking of the Deepwater Horizon Oil rig in the Gulf Of Mexico: events, ecological and legal consequences (duration: 4 hours).
- The Emilia-Romagna earthquake: media coverage of the alleged cause-effect relationship between oil extraction activities and the onset of the seismic sequence (duration: 4 hours).
- The giant snow avalanche in Rigopiano, southern Italy: weather-related causes and human responsibilities (duration: 4 hours).

The slides will be available at the end of the course, uploaded on the e-learning platform.
One textbook from the following two is required prior to taking the exam:
2. F. Pasquaré Mariotto, A. Tibaldi. "Terra senza tregua", MIMESIS Edizioni, Milano, 2019.
3. L. Mercalli, A. Goria. "Clima bene comune", Bruno Mondadori, Milano, 2013.

Lessons (40 hours) and tutorial activities (8 hours), during which 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.

Office hours
Appointment, upon email request, during class intermissions and at the end of each class.