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Effective Rhetorical Techniques of Carson

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Within her excerpt, Carson introduces various facts and statistics regarding pesticides while using scientific evidence to support her claims as to why these chemically-based products are so damaging towards the environment and potentially human beings. One very effective rhetorical technique that Carson utilizes is refutating a weak general argument to strengthen her own. First she describes the harsh consequences pesticides have on the environment, then explains why it is unnecessary to use pesticides in the way they are currently being used and finally refutes the common argument that pesticides are, “necessary to maintain farm production”. It is evident from the very start that Carson is well-informed about this topic and an expert in this field which strengthens her ethos as a writer. By using scientific fact to explain how irrevocable and detrimental radioactive chemicals found in pesticides can be to the soil, the audience cannot help but think of the harm such chemicals could have on themselves. By pointing out all of the ways pesticides have proven to do more harm than good the reader is already questioning whether the use of pesticides is actually necessary which allows Carson to transition perfectly into her next point. In an effort to prove that pesticides are not necessary and to strengthen her own ethos, Carson looks to Charles Darwin, another expert in this field, for support.

Darwin developed the biological concept of survival of the fittest that is defined as reproductive success which many species of insects have proven to be successful in surviving evolutionary odds. Therefore, no matter how deadly the chemical used to temporarily eradicate some type of insect, those species have, “evolved super races immune to the particular insecticide used, hence a deadlier one always has to be developed”. With this, Carson concludes that pesticides really are useless because the insects will continue to come back.

In order to fully solidify her argument, she uses two different rhetorical techniques to strengthen her own. First, Carson offers several different rhetorical questions regarding the risk of pesticides, if it is worth it, and even questions man’s sense of proportion. This technique is really beneficial for the specific argument as well as her overall claim within “The Obligation to Endure.” By asking the audience these questions she is subtly and effectively influencing her audience to agree with her point of view. Her second technique is refuting the argument that pesticides are necessary for crop production. Within paragraph eleven Carson states, “yet is our real problem not one of overproduction?” because it is supposed that pesticides are an integral part to crop production; however, there is now a clear issue with overproduction. She points out that many American taxpayers are paying out more than one billion dollars in order to handle the excess of crops that pesticides helped create. Ultimately Carson distinctly communicates her stance that there is an insect problem that requires control but that control does not and should not be harming human beings in the way that it currently is. Between Carson’s extensive use of scientific verification and strong logic, her argument is left standing awfully convincing.

According to the Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, cause and effect relationships constitute as one of the most fruitful sources of arguments. This rhetorical strategy can best be described as something that enables some event to occur. By incorporating this type of approach into paragraph fifteen of her essay, Carson is attempting to speculate on possible consequences of a particular cause, namely the structure of American agriculture. Carson begins by drawing on her earlier claims that nature is a delicate entity capable of reconfiguring itself as time progresses and, “under primitive agricultural conditions the farmer had few insect problems”. However, that is no longer the case. Nature was designed with various checks and balance to keep species contained. One particular natural check that Carson mentions is, “the limit on the amount of sustainable habitat for each species” but unfortunately this balance was disrupted through man’s development of single-crop farming and the intensification of agriculture. By farming one type of product on a mass scale it allows for a single species of insect to build up in population and become a much bigger issue for humans than if farms were designed to sustain other crops to which the particular species was not adapted. The cause is man’s need to simplify nature’s landscape in order to benefit financially and the unwarranted consequence is an unruly problem with insects.

Despite having been written in the 1960s regarding a different crisis that we face at present day, I have boundless respect for Carson as a writer and as a human being. Her ability to communicate such a paramount issue with astonishing logic and passion during a time of heavy controversy is truly remarkable. She was able to keep a clear, level and consistent point of view with a tight argument throughout and provided reasonable solutions to such devastating realities being faced at the time. Although the environmental hardships that exist within the 21st century extend far beyond what Carson discussed within “The Obligation To Endure”, her essay has exhibited one can always learn to treat their environmental surroundings with additional mindfulness and care.

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