Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Nancy Welch


The year of 2020 revealed many things about the fragility of socially constructed institutions and the public trust which grants such entities legitimacy, which is perhaps what reinvigorated social discourse surrounding the existential threat posed by climate change. Amid a pandemic, Americans watched wildfires engulf much of the west coast, environmental regulations unravel in the hands of the Trump administration, and Wall Street begin trading futures contracts on the U.S.’s water supply. Given the ever-expanding record of environmental travesties, how are citizens to respond, and from where should they derive their inspiration for response?

This thesis answers the above question by examining how different approaches to environmental rhetoric both contribute to and detract from the goal of fostering more individual and community-based responsibility for the enormous project of mitigating global warming and the resultant climate change.

By dividing the thesis into three primary sections, I address how environmental scholars, artists, and writers have contributed to an ongoing study of how best to impart a sense of responsibility on behalf of the reader to understand their relationship to the environment. The first chapter examines the genesis of the term “climate change,” and its public reception. I suggest that a collective sense of denial rooted in complex psychological constructs, and an inexhaustible belief in the founding narrative myths of the U.S. impede meaningful commitments to mitigating anthropocentric warming. The second chapter observes individual writers’ interactions with the natural world through works of nonfiction, poetry, and sculpture, assessing the content for its successes and limitations in stirring audiences to imagine their own environmental experiences into a rhetorical text. The concluding chapter addresses climate fatalism (ecofatalism)—the cynical acceptance of unavoidable ecological suffering—as a response to society’s inability to meaningfully address global warming before further irreversible feedback loops are triggered. In this concluding section, I also explore the role of memory and its function in both bonding and eroding a sense of communal solidarity around the places we call “home.”



Number of Pages

111 p.