Analyzing arguments within a controversy

In his essay Driving Global Warming, Bill McKibben wants to illustrate the effect of non-fuel efficient cars on the environment. McKibben chooses the most popular class of cars in the US, the sports utility vehicle (SUV) and provides an argument to illustrate his point (McKibben 1).

In the introduction, Bill briefly explains how people of a certain class have over the years considered it normal to form membership clubs that essentially lock out people who do not belong to the social class (McKibben 1). He then goes ahead to introduce the sports utility vehicle and details how most people in America consider it normal to drive a SUV even though the cars were not designed for home-to-office-and-back operations (McKibben 1).

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In the third paragraph, McKibben provides the findings of the international panel on climate change detailing that if burning of fossil fuels is not cut down, the end of the century might see temperatures rise by up to 11 degrees. He then proceeds to explain how the SUV links into the negative effects of global warming. He supposes that if one were to shift from a SUV to a normal car for a period of one year, the energy saved would be enough to keep a bathroom light on for three decades. (McKibben 1). Other evidence that supports McKibben’s argument includes the fact that Americans now produce 12 percent more carbon dioxide than the time when Bill Clinton took office.

McKibben also illustrates how the excuse most people use that SUVs are safer is just that, an excuse (McKibben 1). He claims that in a head on collision, a SUV is more likely to cause more injury to the driver of the other car and at the same time cause more grievous harm to the passengers on board. He deduces that most people buy the huge SUVs because other people are driving them hence the class issue.

McKibben’s argument is generally from a moral and religious standpoint because he goes on to reference quotes from the Bible. He actually admits that his call on Americans to give up their SUVs is on moral grounds as it is not right for the rest of the world to suffer on account of America’s indulgences (McKibben 1). He that there are other aspects of American society that contribute to environmental destruction but the most notable is the use of oversize cars.

From McKibben’s argument the emotional appeal appears to dominate over the rational appeal. This is particularly presented by the fact that he tries to involve personal religious beliefs and includes these as the basis of his call on people to give up their SUVs for smaller cars (McKibben 1).

At some point readers are able to see the rationale in his argument especially when he cites conclusions arrived at by the International panel on climate change. His illustration that the amount of energy individuals would save in one year when they shift to smaller cars could power a bathroom light for three decades is based on professional findings and this makes his opinion rational up to this point.

By citing the flood situation in Bangladesh in 1998, McKibben tries to win the sympathy of the reader. In the same argument he quotes a verse from the Bible and tries to customize it to suite the topic, “I was naked and you did not clothe me. I was hungry and you drowned me with your Ford Explorer.” In this way, McKibben ends up turning a rational argument into an emotional one.

The fact that McKibben quotes the New York times in the suggestion that SUVs cause are likely to cause more injury to the other driver than smaller cars, gives his argument some rational credibility. However in the succeeding paragraphs Mckibben goes back to invoking religious sentiments giving his article a generally emotional perspective.

John Bragg’s The American Dream opposes McKibben’s argument that SUVs contribute more to environmental destruction than other cars. He breaks down the history that saw the rise of the SUV. He sees the popularity of SUVs as Americans rebellion against the government forcing citizens into small cars (Bragg 1).

Bragg explains that bigger cars offer the passengers more safety than smaller cars. He uses the analogy that fathers want their children to drive big cars when they are of age as opposed to small sports cars on the premise of safety (Bragg 1).

He also describes the SUV as America using the best available technology to better her people’s lives. In supporting this argument, Bragg argues that it is man’s ability to adapt to the environment and bring about changes to make his life comfortable that sets him apart from other animals.

Finally, Bragg argues that the SUVs should be retained on account of the fact that cars are America’s symbol of independence and freedom (Bragg 1). He describes the car as a meaningful property because “it has a price, it has economic utility, it has a limited lifespan, there are operating costs, and it must be used with respect for others or there will be consequences.” He sees cars as the symbol that makes America the envy of other countries in the world.

Bragg’s argument is almost entirely emotional. He admits that the SUVs use way more fuel than smaller cars but sees the space and comfort that these cars provide to be of more relevance than the environment (Bragg 1). He does not quote information from any credible research findings and uses observational conclusions to explain his viewpoint.

The proposal that the car is America’s symbol of independence and the description of a car as meaningful property is indeed a factful observation. It is the most rational statement from the entire essay because it does not just insinuate Bragg’s personal opinion but instead states a fact that is generally known to all people.

The description of the SUV as the symbol of Americanism (Bragg 1), is Bragg’s own outlook majorly because he does not give evidence to support this assertion. The argument that other countries are jealous of America because of the fact that even poor Americans can afford pickup trucks for their convenience is not agreeable, at least from the rational point of view. This is an opinion that is not supported by any credible data and actually gives the impression of arrogance.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that the referencing of plausible data in any piece of writing gives the article more mileage in terms of rational credibility. Usage of personal religious stand-points in an essay that is targeted at the wider public causes it to lose readership in terms of people who do not do not share the same faith. It also ends up giving the writing an emotional perspective hence losing its intended gravity.

Works Cited

John, Bragg. “The American dream: Why environmentalists attack the SUV.” Shasta College online. N.p. n.d. Leo Fong. Web. 19 Feb 2010

McKibben, Bill. “Driving global warming.” Shasta College online. N.p. n.d. Leo Fong. Web. 19 Feb 2010

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