Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Human Communications

First Advisor

Christina Foust, Ph.D.


Climate change, Environmentalism, Animated films


Recent climate change discourse has tended to presume scientific knowledge and rational argumentation as the principle factor in convincing peoples and publics toward climate action. However, scholarship across numerous fields reveals myriad other contributing factors in how people think about and respond to this environmental crisis, which leans predominately toward silence and apathy. Alongside this, children are often centered as inheriting a calamity, yet find themselves largely disempowered. From out of this rhetorical milieu I interject by way of a multidisciplinary grounding to examine the predominate framings of efficacy in the context of children, climate change, and environmental discourse. To accomplish this, I conduct a rhetorical analysis of three animated environmental children's films (Happy Feet, WALL-E, and Moana). Through this process, I obverse three "efficacy frames" at work across the films. Speaking to their method and mode of responding to environmental catastrophe, I have delineated these frames as "Scientistic Messianism," "Neoluddic Asceticism," and "Reconciliatory Ecophronesis." Further, I explore how these frames function in climate discourse more broadly, paying special attention to rhetorics of science, social movement, and discourses of resistance, and especially regarding children. Among possible implications, I propose a turn toward a postcolonial refolding of deep ecology that embraces diversity, ecological systems thinking, and a storied morality alongside and with empiricism and criticism - and demonstrate how such an efficacy framework can empower both children and adults.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Jason Derry

File size

236 p.

File format





Communication, Rhetoric, Environmental studies

Available for download on Sunday, August 01, 2021