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Donnelly 19 April 2011 Group Textual Contribution The Environmental Crisis
On February 24, 2011, Focus the Nation, a national organization, focused on the environment crisis and alternative energy sources, held a forum at Ball State University. Twenty seven speakers attended and presented information on a variety of energy topics. Among those were John Motloch, who presented “Clean Energy, Economy, and Community Change,” and Bob Koester who presented “Institutionalizing Sustainability.” In addition to these two live presentations, our group will also focus on analyzing An Inconvenient Truth, presented by former Vice President Al Gore. These presentations are just a piece of the larger picture of public discourse on the environmental crisis. Each of them presents ethos, pathos, and logos during their lectures. Our group viewed all of the presentations and analyzed their rhetorical appeals. Throughout our background research, we found that the media often criticizes people who present on the environmental crisis for relying too heavily on appeals to pathos, concluding that they lack credibility. The presentations we found; however, seem to be very credible. Although they use instances of pathos and ethos to support their arguments, speakers about the environment crisis rely mainly on appeals to logos to persuade audiences.
Stocker, Lewis, Barber 2 First, we would like to address how different definitions of rhetoric play into the presentations we viewed. There are several different definitions of rhetoric in play within our examples. First, rhetoric can be defined as persuasion with pathos, where the goal is to persuade and the main appeals are to emotions. Some examples of speakers operating on this definition come from Motloch’s presentation in which he described our “destructive decisions” and suggested that our “health and survival depends on” changing our behaviors. Here, Motloch is trying to persuade the audience into new behaviors and does so by appealing to emotions by using loaded words and phrases. Also, in Koester’s presentation, he repeated the term “selfsustainable,” which is a feel good term. If we feel that our university is self sustainable, there is a sense of pride that Ball State can make it on our own. There is also a sense of ownership for the decisions being made because it is self-driven. In Koester’s example, he is persuading the audience that Ball State’s actions toward ‘greening’ the campus are both positive and sufficient. The other definition of rhetoric is persuasion with logos and pathos. Here, the speakers still attempt to change the attitude of the audience, but do so relying on appeals to their own credibility and the logic of their arguments. Both of these examples come from Koester’s presentation. Koester attempts to bolster Ball State’s ethos by citing all of the commitments Ball State administration has signed (such as the American Colleges and Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment ACUPCC, and the Talloires Declaration). The idea is that if the university has signed agreements with other large organizations, that the university must be a trustworthy authority. If the university is a trustworthy authority, the audience should have more reason to listen and agree. A second example using Koester’s speech is when he lays out the logic behind Ball State’s decision making. He explains that the geothermal project is not only environmentally friendly, but switching to geothermal provides an “eight percent return on
Stocker, Lewis, Barber 3 investment” which is a lot better than most banks. Koester outlines the finances of the decision and shows why moving toward greener energy is a logical choice for Ball State and should be a logical choice for other universities. In both examples, Koester is trying to persuade the audience that other universities should follow Ball State’s lead because Ball State has good credibility and because it makes logical sense to do so. There is also an understood meaning of public sphere in these examples of public discourse. For the live presentations that were given as part of the Focus the Nation program, the public sphere was comprised of students, faculty, and community members who were already interested in the university and already agreed that action should be taken to be more green. Because this is how the speakers understood their audience, there was little to no time spent on persuading why this is an important topic. For An Inconvenient Truth, the public sphere is much broader. For one thing, the movie format allows it to reach larger audiences. Also, Gore’s message is more tailored to an audience that does not already agree with him. He spends much more time convincing us why climate change is an issue (showing pictures of melted glaciers, graphics of drowning polar bears, and digital simulations of large coastal cities going under water). When researching the public discourse surrounding the Environmental Crisis it is important to gather from many different types of media, including in-person presentations. Keeping this in mind our group decided to attend a “Focus on the Nation” event that hosted speakers, from many different universities. Every presentation was environmentally biased. John Motloch, a professor of Landscape Architecture at Ball Sate University, gave in intriguing presentation about “Clean Energy, Economy, and Community Change” that two of our group members were able to attend.
Stocker, Lewis, Barber 4 During Professor Motloch’s presentation he used a power point to present his information. He used pictures of old buildings, factories, new “green” buildings, and the rainforest. Along with those pictures were some lines of text and a few charts and graphs. His discourse focused mainly on our economy, how it is an old economy, and how we must move into a new economy of self-sustainability. He used the pictures as visual rhetoric to further explain what he meant by “old economy” and “new economy”. It was obvious that he wanted to get his audience to make the connection of dirty air, death, and pollution with the “old economy” and life, growth, and health with the “new economy”. Throughout Motloch’s presentation, our members noticed reoccurring word choices and phrases such as “partnering with the earth”, “natural systems versus human systems”, “clean energy”, “sustainability”, “destructive decisions”, “carbon footprint “emissions”, “regenerative” etc. Some of the rhetoric, that stuck out to our group members, we analyzed as scare tactics and a bit sensationalist. Two phrases that we found to be particularly dramatic were “We must ‘give back’, we must be Earth’s partner, we must do that to have a future!” and “We can no longer afford to make destructive decisions!” Both of these phrases refer to our future well-being and call to attention the actions or decisions we have been making that, in Professor Motloch’s opinion, we must change. These phrases and the dramatic way in which they were exclaimed really come across to the audience as dire warnings and predictions of impending doom. They really play on the audiences emotions and self-preservation instincts, which causes us to ponder are these honest exclamations biased in truth or are these scare tactics to get us to change our behavior but are not truthful. This examination of Professor Motloch’s rhetoric and the other discourse surrounding our topic caused us to call into question what we deemed a reliable source of truthful information. We realized much of the discourse on and about the environmental crisis is all too often biased in
Stocker, Lewis, Barber 5 pathos and begs an emotional response of the audience. And where the discourse presents logos there is missing evidence and holes that can be poked in the arguments. We found it incredibly significant that most of the discourse is biased in pathos and not logos. Herrick identifies several issues of rhetoric and each of these can be applied to the public discourse on the environment. Herrick’s issues are rhetoric and power, rhetoric and truth, rhetoric and ethics, rhetoric and audience, and rhetoric and society. For the purposes of this paper, we will focus on power, truth, and society. First, rhetoric and power has to do with the way in which rhetoric determines distribution of power among people. In addition, power determines who is allowed to use rhetoric for persuasion. These two ideas work in tandem. As an illustration of rhetoric and power, the Ball State presentation “Institutionalizing Sustainability” was presented by a professor. He was allowed to make the presentation to students and other faculty because he had a position of power. Ball State was allowed to host the Focus the Nation summit because the university has gained a position of power among universities. Ball State got power by building ethos among the environmentally conscious community, and built that ethos by creating the Green Initiative Award and Exemplar Award and receiving the Technology Innovation of the Year Award and joining the Global Reporter’s Project, National Wildlife Foundation, and American Colleges and Universities President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). A second illustration comes from An Inconvenient Truth, where Gore (who has power because he was a former presidential candidate) argues for a new distribution of power in which climate scientists are granted more credibility with the public. Herrick’s next issue is rhetoric and truth. Particularly in the case of An Inconvenient Truth, rhetoric about the environment tends to encourage a new conception of the truth. Even
Stocker, Lewis, Barber 6 though Gore has science to support his claims, there will always be an audience member who doubt his facts. Many people in the audience will say that correlation does not mean causation and therefore we should not believe what Gore is telling us. The focus of An Inconvenient Truth is not just to present scientific evidence and personal anecdotes, but to actually persuade the audience that global warming due to human actions is real. Even mathematical and scientific evidence must be supported with persuasive rhetoric in order for it to be accepted as new truth. With “Institutionalizing Sustainability,” Koester had to convince the audience of a new perspective of truth which puts green energy as an economically sound decision, not just a moral one. Finally, Herrick’s issue of rhetoric and society is important to the discussion of the environment crisis. Each of these presentations has to do with inspiring change within society. No matter the means of appeal, all three speakers are trying to persuade audiences that global warming is real and there are things we can and should do to slow it down. The key word there is we. All of the changes presented must take place on a community level in order for them to have an impact. In Motloch’s “Clean Energy Economy and Community Change” presentation; he is urging people to work together as a small part of society in order to create community change. In Koester’s Institutionalizing Sustainability, he is urging universities to follow suit with Ball State and create a change toward green behaviors among the society of university administrations from around the world. Finally, in Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth(italicized?), he is urging the American people as a whole to create change in the way America operates. For each of these examples, rhetoric is the vehicle for organizing people within a community and inspiring them to create change.
Stocker, Lewis, Barber 7 We found examples of auditory and visual rhetoric in these presentations. In some cases, switching from spoken to visual rhetoric can change the dynamic of the message. Instead of handing out flyers, e-mails, or writing a book I believe Mr. Gore chose the best option to present his material and that was giving a presentation. He traveled around the world speaking and presenting his global warming material. When the material is presented by an actual person, face to face, along with visual I think it makes the presentation more personal, and people can connect with the issues and material better. Also because this was Al Gore “The former Vice President of the United States” I think it gives him credibility being in politics, and being mildly famous for such makes people want to listen to him more, and actually care what he is saying. If it were let us say Whittley, Ashley, or even myself that were traveling and presenting the exact same material and presenting on global warming we wouldn’t get nearly as many people to hear us out as Al Gore does. We aren’t famous or popular therefore we have no credibility and people do not care. Another thing Mr. Gore has going for him are his personal stories of his family throughout his presentation. The stories about his son, sister, and himself evoke ethos and pathos within us, people not only are listening to him for him being Al Gore but because now he is relatable they are paying even more attention to what he is saying. In addition to spoken rhetoric, An Inconvenient Truth, with Al Gore, uses copious amount of visuals to reiterate his points on global warming. The beginning of the documentary starts out showing us the pristine, rivers, mountains, and other various scenery around our planet Earth, Al Gore is showing us the beauty around us. Gore wants us to be appreciative of what we have. He then shifts gears and shows us several short clips of factories with smoke billowing from the stacks, and natural disasters such as mud slides, and floods. He even shows a clip from the popular cartoon Futurama poking fun at the global warming issue, he uses this visual to show us
Stocker, Lewis, Barber 8 that many people have the mindset that global warming is not all that serious, and that showing it in a cartoon in a lighthearted way somehow lessens the blow. He shows us a short animated clip of a polar bear swimming around in the ocean looking for ice, the polar bear tries to climb on a small piece but it breaks apart when he tries to climb on it. This clip evokes pathos, and tugs at our heart strings, as he speaks of how many polar bears have drowned looking for ice. He also uses many, charts, graphs, and other various animations to support his global warming claims which I will talk about in the next paragraph. The visuals he provides not only makes his speech more interesting, but also showing these things appeals to out ethos, logos, and pathos, and he knows how to use them in the correct way to evoke all of these things within us. Mr. Gore has also analyzed extensive amounts of scientific data to show us in his presentation. He uses charts, graphs, and maps to illustrate to us that he knows what he is talking about, and he uses logic to get us to buy into what he’s talking about. He is very logical in his presentation when presenting us with facts such as the rise in temperature over the past some odd years, and how it will continue to climb in the coming years because of global warming. He shows us maps of Greenland and how over the years the ice will continue to melt, and ice shelves will continue to melt off and increase the sea level at an alarming rate, he also evokes pathos when he shows us the maps, he scares us by implying millions of people could potentially die if the sea level rises by 20 feet. Combined with his speech, pictures, and other various visuals Mr. Gore makes a melting pot of global warming facts and information that he spoon feeds us and we inevitably buy into it because of his excellent rhetoric and presenting skills. Visual and auditory rhetorical appeals cannot stand alone, and in fact they work together in combination. Working with each other, pictures augment the spoken in Motloch’s presentation. For example, Motloch explains the new relationships that should develop in the
Stocker, Lewis, Barber 9 new economy. During the explanation of old economy, Motloch shows images of old architecture and smoke stacks next to images of the polluted White River. During the explanation of new economy, he shows pictures of ‘green’ architecture juxtaposed with pictures of the rainforest. Here, the visual argument is that old architecture was polluting the environment and not healthy for the planet but that new types of architecture are eco-friendly and can exist harmoniously with nature. When the visual and spoken forms of rhetoric combine, it provides visual context for the real life, concrete examples of what is being discussed. Pictures also augment spoken with visual representations of data. In some instances, logos is augmented by pathos. For example, Gore uses graphics to support his data in several instances. There is one graphic depicting flood patterns in the northeastern United States. Gore points out that in this graphic, Ground Zero from September 11th would be under water. This is a loaded appeal to pathos and an allusion to recent American history that is still unfolding. Some may say that this is gratuitous emotional reference. However, one can also argue that Gore uses emotional appeals such as this to keep the attention of his audience. In another graphic, a polar bear is shown swimming alone in the Arctic. The bear tries to climb up onto an ice flow, which only breaks and the bear is again left swimming alone. The appeal to pathos comes in the implication that the bear will die because all the ice is melting and he has nowhere to go. However, that graphic is only shown after Gore appeals to logos and explains the data on increasing temperatures and disintegrating icebergs. In this case, the polar bear is used as a specific example to illustrate what kind of impacts this temperature data could have.
Stocker, Lewis, Barber 10 After examining these presentations and taking into account all of the different tactics they employ, there is one main question we would still like to address: can you have an effective argument using only logos or only pathos? Aristotle would argue that one must have a balance of appeals to all three; ethos, logos, and pathos in order to be effective, but that logos is the most important. Our group would have to agree with Aristotle and point out that these presentations each attempt to balance their appeals. It is important to strike a balance because if a speaker were only to rely on logos, he or she would lose the attention of his or her audience. Much like Postman’s argument about a TV nation, our current digital nation needs entertaining fluff to keep us interested and give us a reason to get involved.
Stocker, Lewis, Barber 11 Works Cited An Inconvenient Truth. By Al A. Gore. Perf. Mr. Al Gore. Paramount Classics, 2006. DVD. Koester, Bob. "Institutionalizing Sustainability." Focus the Nation. Ball State University, Muncie. 24 Feb. 2011. Lecture. Motloch, John. "Clean Energy, Economy, & Community Change." Focus the Nation. Ball State University, Muncie. 24 Feb. 2011. Lecture.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?