Ecospeak: Rhetoric and Environmental Politics in America

Ecospeak: Rhetoric and Environmental Politics in America

Ecospeak: Rhetoric and Environmental Politics in America

Ecospeak: Rhetoric and Environmental Politics in America

Synopsis

This first book-length study of rhetoric and environmental politics calls for an end to the present oversimplified conflict between economic and evolutionary progress and suggests instead a continuum embracing the full range of human views of nature.

The authors use a systematic analysis of well-known works of nonfiction literature (by such authors as Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, Barry Commoner, and Herman Daly) long neglected by literary, rhetorical, and cultural critics, as well as journalistic reports and stories, industry and activist polemics, government documents, textbooks, technical literature, and novels to show that rhetoric centered on the established dichotomy gives rise to ecospeak, which paralyzes instead of informing action.

Excerpt

Kenneth Burke's chief contribution to rhetorical theory was the concept of identification as the means by which a speaker or writer puts forth an image or character -- what the ancient rhetoricians called ethos -- and invites the audience to participate in a consubstantial relationship with that image. the analytical question to which this approach leads us in rhetorical criticism is, "Who is the person, or who does the person claim to represent, who puts forth arguments about the environment?" a variant question, one with great significance in the classical rhetorical situation, in which two opponents debate a question for an audience of judges, is this: "Who is the person described in the discourse as the opponent, the challenger, the other?" For usually, identity is revealed through efforts to build communities in the face of conflict. in this chapter, we will apply the question to our topic by asking, "Who is called an 'environmentalist,' by whom, and to what advantage?"

Our analysis reveals a tendency of political identities to develop in response to the experience of actual physical crises. Once these political positions have evolved, they tend to remain in place even as new ones come to the fore, resulting in a proliferation of perspectives. At the end of the last century, when Americans first realized the limits of the vast continental frontier, the conservation movement emerged. in its dominant version, it stressed the efficient use of natural resources -- the gospel of efficiency, as Samuel Hays has called it. Under the leadership of men like Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot . . .

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