Dr. Kovarik Pilots a Science and Environmental Writing Course

Bill Kovarik

By Yasemin Atalay

A new opportunity for an elective class is now available to Radford students.

For the first time, Dr. Bill Kovarik is offering a Science and Environmental Writing class, COMS 407. This special elective is now open for registration for spring 2018.

What makes this class special is how much experience Kovarik has in environmental policy. 

Many Radford students know Kovarik as a professor in the School of Communication but prior to teaching, he was an environmental science journalist. 

“I started off doing trade publications covering energy resources and technology on Capitol Hill,” says Kovarik. “I was right in the middle of the energy crisis.”

Since working on Capitol Hill, Kovarik has written for Time Magazine, the Baltimore Sun, The Associated Press and worked as a former editor for Appalachian Voice, Energy Resources & Technology and other publications.

Kovarik has also served on the board of directors of the Society of Environmental Journalists and has worked with SEJ to improve the quality, accuracy, and visibility of science and environmental journalism.

Recently recognized for his work for SEJ in Pittsburg, Kovarik says, “This issue in Donora, kicked off a global policy discussion about air pollution and led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. That was the beginning of a movement to improve the quality of air in the United States.” 

The issue that took place 69 years ago in Donora, Pennsylvania, consisted of a temperature inversion, which created a wall of smoke that took the lives of 26 people in Donora. 

Recently, SEJ organized a bus tour to visit the site of Donora’s former zinc works and hear a presentation at the Donora Smog Museum. SEJ sponsored the tour in conjunction with its annual five-day conference.

Kovarik added that SEJ invited the U.S. Steel and the Pennsylvania Coal Association to attend the presentation in Donora but both organizations declined to participate. 

Kovarik says the fact that these organizations both declined to acknowledge the event in Donora is a sign of the times we are currently living in. 

“These organizations are now acting like there was never even an issue in Donora and this is consistent in many other environmental issues,” says Kovarik. “I see future generations mainly focusing on environmental issues and prejudice against race and gender, which is why COMS 407 is a great opportunity for students.” 

Described as a class for both science and communication students, this course will consider how news media covers, climate change, risk communication, environmental justice, toxic chemicals, biofuels, sustainability, alternative medicine, pollution, genetic engineering, nuclear power, vaccines and space science.

“The class will involve going to environmental sites, students’ publications in environmental science and getting students involved in podcasts,” says Kovarik. 

As a further reinforcement on why students should take COMS 407, Kovarik quotes renowned American biologist, Edward O. Wilson, “The defense of living Nature is a universal value. It doesn't rise from, nor does it promote, any religious or ideological dogma. Rather, it serves without discrimination the interests of all humanity.”

Students interested in uncovering the truth behind complex environmental issues should register for Kovarik’s COMS 407-01-CRN 20712

Nov 9, 2017
School of Communication