Environment and Media

Program Leader: Associate Professor Belinda Smaill

Environmental crisis, largely caused by human activity, has produced the greatest challenge of our time. We urgently require deeply historicised and interdisciplinary knowledge that can help make sense of environmental change in the twenty-first century. The media does not simply represent environmental crisis, it plays a pivotal role in shaping attitudes to the environment and leads the way on producing knowledge of the human dimension of environmental change and the motivation for constructing a sustainable future. Issues of climate warming, sustainability, disaster management and habitat degradation continue to be produced, imagined, stabilised, problematised and mobilised by media forms. In an era where the communication of environmental science has become deeply politicised and shapes actions for the future, we urgently need in-depth analysis of the role media plays in the changing relationships between people and the environment.

The Environment & Media Research Program is made up of researchers from across Film and Screen Studies, Media & Communications and Journalism. Members pursue research and engagement activities in order to grapple with key problems presented by the relationship between environment and media practices:

The problem of environmental communication:

  • How does media reflect and negotiate the dilemma of promoting environmental awareness through technologies, texts and activities that also generate their own significant ecological footprints;
  • How might we confront the presumed centrality of media power in communicating environmental issues through cross-disciplinary ways of researching media use and understanding “media agency” in its everyday, lived context;
  • How do we understand the media sector’s lack of effectivity in prioritising environmental issues and communicating to a national public?

The relationship between the human, the environment and media:

  • How might we rethink underlying assumptions about the multiform connections between media and environment and the means by which we study it? These assumptions encompass the traditions and systems through which we understand the human and humanism (including disciplinary formations); and the links between environment, colonialism, Indigenous resistance and knowledge practices.

The broader objectives of Environment and Media are to produce new knowledge about the media and the environment and facilitate new forms of media activity. The program's research outputs extend across the study of screen culture, social and digital media, public and private broadcasting and narrowcasting. This research cluster aims to harness research and form partnerships across industries, communities and scholarly disciplines including the environmental humanities, environmental education, climate and conservation policy and the biological and earth sciences.



  • Aneta Podkalicka Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living projects:
    • CRC LCL Media and Communication Strategies to Achieve Carbon Reduction Through Renovation of Australia’s Existing Housing. Collaboration between Swinburne University, Sustainability Victoria, BlueScope Steel Australia, CSR, Housing Industry Association, Master Builders Association, Victorian Building Authority
    • CRC LCL A “market” for analysing residential housing and business policy interventions. Collaboration between CSIRO, Swinburne University, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage