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PWR 2KA: The Rhetoric of Everyday Conservation

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From drones that map the deforestation of the Amazon, to apps that suggest the least-overfished fish for dinner, to sculptures of ocean detritus—there are many ways to support conservation in our world. Taking a broad approach to what “conservation” means: linguistic conservation, location conservation, animal conservation, this class asks: How can we approach the problem of conservation fatigue by focusing on everyday change? The “rhetoric of everyday change” might be defined as ways to approach conservation in manageable communicable bites—visual, multi-media, and written. In this class you’ll look at one issue within conservation and research innovative, design, and communicative practices around it to demonstrate the ways in which we, as a society, can encourage everyday changes. We’ll explore what inspires and keeps us engaged in the conservation of our world using an ethical, research-based scientific approach.

Using open access course materials, students will pull inspiration from articles on recent innovations in conservation before exploring their topics in written, spoken, filmed, and even hand-drawn-forms.

Potential course topics include the plastics problem, ocean conservation, flexitarianism, oil dependence, lithium-ion batteries, language-conservation, seed-saving, and solar. Students will learn rhetorical skills to encourage everyday change including public speaking, concise and engaging written and spoken work, and translating scientific data into audience action.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5 minutes of oral presentation, written text of 900-1200 words): Students will propose a conservation issue—such as tribal conservation, overfishing, or deforestation—to delve into for the quarter. Your proposal will utilize secondary sources to offer a rationale for study of one communication issue. It will include a clear research question with concretely defined terms and assertions of possible research methods.

Written Research-Based Argument

(10-12 pages or 3000-3600 words of research-based writing): After conducting one type of primary research (as proposed in your RP) you will create an academic argument that incorporates a range of sources on a conservation topic. The final project should be aimed at a journal appropriate to the discourse community of the conservation issue, whether it is barriers to animal movement, land-use, biodiversity, or water or air pollution.  

Delivery of Research

(10 minutes of live oral presentation with multimedia support): You will translate a research-based argument and present it in a live, oral presentation engaging with visual support. Potential ideas for this are using Instagram visuals that inspire others to use less plastic, highlighting a website that tracks deforestation, or interspersing audio or visual data, such as a brief clip or imagery from a Ted Talk on conservation and conservation research.

Genre/Modes Assignment

You will translate conservation research and argument into an alternate mode or genre, such as a plastics podcast, a land-use op-ed, an otter-conservation YouTube video, a turtle-saving Twitter thread, or an overfishing poster-infographic.