Audio Version (January 2022):
Below is a sample essay prompt that calls on students to make a case that a particular environmental focus will meet certain criteria for engaging the public. We offer one sample argument outline to respond to the prompt.
Sample Evaluation Argument Prompt
Environmental groups and journalists choose many different approaches to engaging the public. Clearly, they need to raise awareness about urgent concerns, but they also need to consider what viewers will connect to emotionally. Some issues have direct adverse effects for humans, like toxins in the water we drink. Others have immediate effects on ecosystems, like the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Others, like endangered species such as elephants and whales, become symbols of human longing, empathy, and reverence.
Choose one environmental issue you would recommend such groups to focus on and explain your choice. What makes this issue both scientifically urgent and emotionally appealing? In order to make your case, consider how you will measure urgency (By statistics on health impacts? Species extinction? Economic disruptions?) and how you will gauge the emotional appeal (By the popularity of past memes and documentaries and campaigns on the issue? By its connection to popular leisure activities? By how relatable it is?).
Sample Evaluation Argument Outline
Title: My Love is as Great as the Ocean: Engaging Citizen Oceanic Stewards
I. Thesis Statement: Because of its scientific importance and its power in the human imagination, the ocean should be a focus of environmental advocacy.
II. Topic Sentence: The ocean has symbolic resonance because in many cultures, it is connected with the birth of life and powerful goddesses and gods.
- Mami Wata, a West African water goddess, is important to many in the African Diaspora and has her own priests today.
- In Hindu mythology and classic texts, Samudra and Varuna play key roles as gods of the ocean.
- In Greek mythology, Eros, or love, gave birth to earth, Gaia, which included the sea.
- Greek gods like Poseidon and Roman Neptune have figured in western popular culture for many centuries.
- In the Ancient Summerian text Enuma Elish, the goddess Tiamat gives birth to all life by releasing her waters around Earth.
III. Topic Sentence: The ocean also has symbolic resonance because it gave rise to the first life forms.
- Ancient myths have their parallel in scientific fact.
- Science has popularized the idea that life likely originated in the oceans over 3 billion years ago.
- 2021 research into microbe fossils in South African gold mines supports the idea that life first formed in thermal vents on the sea floor.
III. Topic Sentence: Our visceral response to the ocean's presence is even more powerful than its symbolism.
- Our intuitive sensory and emotional response to the ocean is deep.
- We love the ocean because it’s powerful; it humbles us with its relentless kinetic energy.
- It grounds us with its refreshing breeze and rhythmic waves, renewing our spirits.
- It promotes well-being: water contains negative ions which counter the positive ions that cause bad moods.
III. Topic Sentence: Oceans help heal our planet; they counteract various environmental problems.
- In addition to fast-disappearing rainforests, oceans provide the majority of our oxygen
- Recent climate science tells us we’re at the tipping point. Oceans help maintain atmospheric temperatures by absorbing carbon dioxide.
IV. Topic Sentence: Yet oceans are being profoundly damaged by human activities.
- As oceans absorb carbon dioxide, they get more acidic, which threatens species that depend on hard shells.
- Millions of tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, creating huge garbage patches.
- Overfishing has depleted fish stocks: there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 unless trends change.
Conclusion: Perhaps if environmental groups focus more on spreading these ideas, many more people will help protect the ocean and feel their love for it grow.
- While science is an excellent reason to take action, our basic humanity should be commanding us to protect and cherish the oceans that begat us.
- Love is the greatest quality humans possess and it can and should guide us to protect our mother ocean.
Original content by Allison Murray with additions by Anna Mills, licensed CC BY-NC 4.0.