During J-Term 2020, 243 students and 26 program leaders will participate in one of Luther's 14 courses around the globe. Each course is a different journey and has a different blogger (or several). Below you'll find a blog post from the Communications 239: "Environmental Communication" course in Belize. Check out the January Term 2020 Course Blogs page for more on each of the courses! Although it's impossible to keep up with everyone, these blogs are designed to provide glimpses into our students' adventures.
Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary has been our home for the past six days. It is a wildlife protected area. Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is extremely meticulous about being as eco-friendly as possible. Such a place is only necessary for a class about environmental communication.
For our class, we read a piece by Tema Milstein called “When Whales ‘Speak for Themselves’: Communication as a Mediating Force in Wildlife Tourism”. This scholarly article is an ethnographic investigation about communication with whale watching operations. It may focus upon whale watching, but it is directed to view communication as a mediating force between human-nature relations. Our class focuses upon how we view communicative and cultural experiences with nature.
We began our first official full day in Belize with the Monkey Bay orientation and then a hike through the jungle. We got to learn about many of the native plants and animals during the hike. Interestingly, Naked and Afraid was filmed in this jungle! After the hot, rainy hike with some bug bites, we got to end it with dipping into the Sibun River. The next day, we took a guided canoe trip on the Sibun River. We learned about the exploitation of natural resources taken from the river, while spotting wildlife that relies on this environment.
The next day, we got to tour the Xunantunich Mayan ruins. Today, we got to zip-line through the jungle. Every day, we have interacted with nature, followed by discussions in class about environmental communication. We focus upon how our tourist activities affect nature and the environment. We also speak upon our relations with nature and how communication affects this relationship.
Milstein’s article may have been about whales, but the ethnographic investigation applies everywhere. We may be studying environmental communication in Belize, but it does not eliminate the importance globally.
Until next time!