J Term in New Orleans

During January 2011, 12 J-Term students in the course “Environmental Communications: Lessons Learned from the BP Oil Spill” will travel with Nina Flournoy, senior lecturer of communication studies in Meadows School of the Arts, on a 10-day journey to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to examine the communication strategies surrounding the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history

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The big picture

An update from Nina Flournoy:

flournoy.jpgIn this TED film author Naomi Klein talks about her recent trip out to sea with scientists exploring the impact of BP’s oil in the Gulf of Mexico. She touches on questions running through almost every conversation our class had with academics, nonprofits, wetlands experts and those charged with protecting the Gulf coastline. When is the risk too high? What will it take to prompt real change? How can we continue to accept such risks with our precious resources?

As our SMU van hummed along the Gulf Coast, students were astonished to learn the extent of the environmental damage caused by oil companies over the years. Even though students prepared for the trip by reading articles, browsing the Internet and watching videos in class, they never expected to see whole towns covered over in water, where people resided only 20 years ago, or the stark contrast of a beautiful beach sunset against a backdrop of giant oil rigs. So it came as no surprise that as we neared the end of our trip, the questions students posed to guest speakers became tougher, more pointed, and often started with the word “why.”

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