Where is logos used in Rachel Carson's "The Obligation to Endure"?

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The term “logos” includes the use of logic, reason, or evidence to support claims and/or to encourage the reader to think in a logical way about the information provided. In this chapter of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson makes claims about the harmful effects that human actions—within the category of...

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The term “logos” includes the use of logic, reason, or evidence to support claims and/or to encourage the reader to think in a logical way about the information provided. In this chapter of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson makes claims about the harmful effects that human actions—within the category of “pollution”—have on the environment. She then offers quotations from and refers to scientifically based sources to support those claims.

Carson makes a strong claim, that humankind (which she calls “man”) has assaulted the environment by using with “dangerous and even lethal materials”; she views the resulting situation as “alarming.” In part because the resulting “pollution is for the most part irrecoverable.” The vehemence of her declarations necessitates her provision of well-chosen evidence to convince the reader of the situation’s urgency.

In Paragraph 4, for example, she refers both to human activity and the accelerating pace of change. That activity includes the “synthetic creation” of chemicals. In the next two paragraphs, she provides numbers , but not their sources, to support the claim of acceleration: “five hundred new chemicals enter U.S. usage annually.” The time frame and the specific use of some chemicals are also mentioned:

Since the mid-1940s over 200 basic chemicals have been created for use in killing insects, weeds, rodents, and other organisms….

Later in the essay, she returns to the question of time in a much longer frame—going back several “hundred million years”—and connects recent events with the creation and long-term distribution of organisms. Here she identifies a published source, Charles Elton’s The Ecology of Invasion, and summarizes the author’s explanation of species development. She uses Elton’s words to support her idea that technologically suppressing or killing such organisms is untenable, and humans should instead promote “balance” among diverse organisms.

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Carson sets up a basic pattern of organization in this chapter to prove her thesis that "only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species—man—acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world." She gives a very specific example and then extends that example to show how man is destroying the environment. First, she describes man's contamination of the earth by mentioning the following:

Strontium 90, released through nuclear explosions into the air, comes to earth in rain or drifts down as fallout, lodges in soil, enters the grass or corn or wheat drown there, and in no time takes up its abode in the bones of human beings, there to remain until his death.

The parallel structure of this sentence shows the progression of how one action by man (the use of nuclear bombs) has a rippling effect to humans who were not even present when the bomb exploded. She then compares that example to "chemicals sprayed on croplands or forests or gardens [which] lie long in soil, entering into living organisms, passing from one to another in a chain of poisoning and death."

Carson also uses her knowledge of biology to describe that while there are dangerous natural elements on earth, the envionment and living organisms adjust over the course of millenia to handle those hostile elements. However, after this specific example, she returns to the same structure of applying this to humanity's errors: "The rapidity of change and the speed with which new situations are created follow the impetuous and heedless pace of man rather than the deliberate pace of nature." The earth and its organisms are not given enough time to adjust to all of the changes man introduces, especially in this last century, Carson argues. Carson then gives very specific details of chemicals that are used in agriculture to limit pests, but, because of our agricultural system, farmers have to use more and more pesticides to continue to see positive results. She ends her argument with the statement, "We have allowed these chemicals to be used with little or no advance investigation of their effect on soil, water, wildlife, and man himself."

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When any speaker or writer presents an argument, the speaker uses three elements to appeal to their audience: ethos, pathos, and logos. A speaker uses ethos when they establish themselves as a credible source of information; a speaker uses pathos when they engage the emotions of their audience; a speaker uses logos when they use facts, data, or logic to persuade their audience.

In "The Obligation to Endure," Carson uses logos in a variety of ways. Primarily, she tracks the historical and ecological evidence in America for the last two centuries to explain why, as a nation, the US is so dependent on DDT. She uses specific, concrete details ("The United States Office of Plant Induction alone has introduced almost 200,000 species") as well as expert opinion, such as quotes from Connecticut entomologist Neely Turner.

It is important to remember that ethos, pathos, and logos all work together. When Carson uses logos, she is also appealing to pathos (by shocking us with the damage caused by DDT) and developing her ethos (by proving that she is knowledgeable on the subject).

 

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