The Case for Conservation

This evening I attended an eloquent lecture given by John Nolt, a professor of Philosophy at UT. At first glance, it seemed a little odd to me that a philosophy professor was giving a lecture on climate change, but I almost instantly was captivated by his argument. I sat (similarly to Lauren Buckley’s lecture) in a room filled with a majority of graduate students and professors in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. This time was different, however. I followed his logic throughout the argument.

In class we have been discussing strategies for persuasion, because essentially, that is the only way we can accomplish any headway in the business of building a sustainable world. A very important medium of persuasion is data. That should be proof enough, right? However, I find that oftentimes data are hard to understand throughout the general public. People are rarely convinced by things they do not understand. Luckily, logic seems to be a universal mode of understanding. No complex graphs, no fancy terminology; just a down-to-earth sequence of thoughts that follow.

John Nolt achieved just that in his lecture this evening. His thesis was an argument as to why we should stop using unnecessary devices that emit GHGs, since it is morally inexcusable.  He then laid his argument out into 5 premises. Each one followed logically from the prior, and charged the individual with the moral responsibility for his own emissions, and for the well-being of posterity.

Following Nolt’s lecture, several audience members asked rather critical questions of his argument, most of which picked at the nitty-gritty details, or topics outside Nolt’s intended scope. None of the comments found any sort of logical fallacy associated with his argument.

In terms of convincing the general public of the harm involved with climate change, Nolt presented a compelling argument. His conclusion though was as such: that since it is morally inexcusable to produce GHG emissions through unnecessary activity, we should simply stop participating in those activities. Nolt’s definition of unnecessary devices included clothes dryers, Hummers, and many electrical commodities of the first world. His solution, then, may seem extremist. Feasibly, people are not going to stop driving their cars to the store, or turning a lamp on in the daytime.

Nonetheless, Nolt’s use of logical argumentation is an excellent form of persuasion in the general public. If scientists want to rid society of the doubt associated with the data of climate change, they must make rational and easily understood arguments to the masses.


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