This article analyses the discourse of 15- to 16-year-old Swiss junior high school students in order to understand public discourse on the environment and environmental protection. Discourse analysis reveals four interpretive repertoires as the building blocks for the so-called post-ecological discourse, which can be used to describe important aspects of current ways of talking about ecological issues in Europe. We show that 10 theoretically identifiable dimensions of this discourse can be understood in terms of a mutual interplay between the four interpretive repertoires. Post-ecological discourse in today’s (Swiss) society appears to be at its core a loss-of-control-discourse, which leads (in our students) to a latent eco-depression. Thus, the public understanding of science can be affected by unintended consequences of the talk itself (in this case an unintended environmental depression), that is, by the inherent characteristics of the involved repertoires, here especially the so-called folk science repertoire. Fostering public understanding of science is thus not merely a question of providing the public with scientific ‘facts’. It is also an issue of paying attention to the available discursive repertoires. If necessary, viable alternative repertoires may have to be offered. In school, for example, conversations about the nature of science, and about complexity and applied ethics might help students learn new interpretive repertoires and how to mobilize these in talking about the environment and environmental protection.