The Case for Critical Media Literacy: A Comparison of Climate Discourses in Canadian Mainstream and Alternative Media
CO2 emissions have been rising and the Earth’s atmosphere is warming to perilous temperatures, making it urgent to address the climate crisis. The climate crisis has been exacerbated by neoliberalism, which is sometimes referred to as the corporate agenda. This research examines the discourses related to the climate crisis in one mainstream media outlet and two alternative media outlets. The main research question for the study was: What are the main discourses about the climate crisis and the Green New Deal in Canadian mainstream text-based media compared to alternative text-based media from September 1, 2019, to December 31, 2020? Mainstream media is media that is funded by corporations and is mass produced and distributed. Another type of media is alternative media, which is structurally different from mainstream media and is less influenced by corporate sponsorship. This research questioned how these media outlets the National Post, The Tyee, and Rabble report on the climate crisis. It studied whether they are hegemonic devices that promote the neoliberal agenda, particularly pertaining to the fossil fuel industries? How the Green New Deal is presented to the masses in the media is also analyzed. The study analyzed the discourses used by the three media outlets in various categories pertaining to this existential problem, namely, the climate crisis. It used critical discourse analysis to analyze and interpret the media coverage about the climate crisis and the Green New Deal in Canadian mainstream and alternative media. The National Post mostly used neoliberal discourses in its articles about the climate crisis, often supporting corporate interests over environmental concerns, including those posed by Indigenous protestors attempting to protect the land. By comparison, The Tyee and Rabble used counterhegemonic discourses in virtually all the categories in every article in the data. The study demonstrates the need for critical media literacy in classrooms to help understand the seriousness of the climate crisis. Critical media literacy interrogates how power is connected to language and helps students develop critical thinking skills. These skills can help students identify and interpret hegemonic discourses that may hinder climate action. This type of literacy can help students become informed citizens, which in turn could help them demand climate action. This research demonstrates where power and ideology are in media discourses and how hegemonic discourses are a barrier to climate action. Critical media literacy is necessary as a counter-hegemonic strategy, especially in high school classrooms. This research is rooted in social and ecological justice.
climate crisis, critical media literacy
Master of Education (M.Ed.)