Eng 122EA, Fall 2018

The Rhetoric of Environmental Activism

This course is an experiment. It begins with the assumption that global climate change is real and that its causes are anthropogenic (i.e. human caused). Consequently, solutions will not be just technological, or even mostly so, but will also need to involved profound cultural changes to our beliefs, practices, and styles of life. The difficulty in bringing this about is not only that many Americans are skeptical of climate change, even if this is acknowledged, the causes and solutions to the problem are being fiercely debated on the public stage. It has also, sadly, become a political issue dividing our nation. This course will carefully look at the rhetoric of these debates.

We will be critically reading a variety of contemporary texts that deal with the issue of climate change. In the process, we will be honing our skills as critical, active readers. One of the keys to effective reading, regardless of whether the text at hand is a Victorian novel or content on a website, is that the process be active. When reading for pleasure, it is perfectly fine to enter into an imaginative world and just enjoy your time there. However, in reading critically—which is, or at least should be, an essential skill taught in university literature departments—it is necessary to carefully consider what an author and text are doing. Authors have enormous power, as they can, one word at a time, influence each step of a reader’s experience of a text. In this sense, an author is like a guide walking you through what may be unknown territory. They not only decide what you see (and don’t) and when you see it, they are also in a position to influence how you see it though their careful representations. The more skillful the author, the more power they have over the representation and hence also over the reader. Note that for our purposes a “text” can be a written work (like on a website), a photograph or painting, a film or video, or a range of additional creations and that any of these can be “read” in our sense of being actively studied.


“Please rate the overall quality of the Instructor’s teaching using the following scales”

Average rating: 4.9 of 5 (♣♣♣♣♣ Excellent; ♣♣♣♣ Very Good; ♣♣♣ Good; ♣♣ Fair; ♣ Poor)

♣♣♣♣♣ Very informative class. I really appreciated the setup of the materials and the discussions that we engaged in during each class meeting. Grateful for the opportunity to discuss this vital information with my fellow peers in a safe, respectful space.

♣♣♣♣♣ I am working on my second degree here at UCSB now. With educators like Hiltner, it makes me want to stay in school as long as I can. However, it is because of amazing, life-changing, mind-opening courses such as this that make me want to invoke change within the world.

♣♣♣♣♣ An excellent balance of instruction and discussion to make a greatly interactive course.

♣♣♣♣♣ Great instructor. Easily one of the most interesting and informative courses I have ever been in. Lucky to be in a classroom full of progressive, educated, bright individuals headed by a Prof. and TA who are great educators and great men. Thank you!

♣♣♣♣♣ This class was excellent in engaging students in important environmental issues. I definitely left the class with a deeper understanding and connection of so many aspects of world culture to the state of our environment.

♣♣♣♣♣ I really appreciated everyone in this class, and how the format was us teaching each other and doing research to present to one another. I learned a lot from the presentations and even more during discussion. Thank you Ken!

♣♣♣♣♣ This was a really interesting class, and I really liked Professor Hiltner’s teaching style—it made the class much more interactive, which is how English classes should be.

♣♣♣♣♣ I really liked this class. This class helped me learn about the things that are going on in our world. This is the best class. Everything was great in this class.

♣♣♣♣♣ The student-led aspect of this class is amazing. I’ve never been emerged into environmental issues and I’m so happy I took this class.

♣♣♣♣♣ Ken is extremely knowledgeable in content of the course and presents it in a very understandable way. Overall, great course!

♣♣♣♣♣ The way the class was set up was different than any other class I’ve ever taken at UCSB, very engaging and very interesting!

♣♣♣♣♣ Thank you for this class. Definitely learned a lot! The discussions were very interesting to listen to.

♣♣♣♣♣ I enjoyed this class because I learned so much about the environment that I did not know of before. I also liked the format of the class with student presentations and choice of final creative project.

♣♣♣♣♣ Great course and super necessary to keep around. People need to be educated about these topics.

♣♣♣♣♣ Great class – wish there was maybe a few required readings because some of what we gathered was not very helpful.

No rating I am extremely impressed with Prof. Hiltner’s knowledge and ability to teach us about climate change.