The Paper Person: A Comparative Analysis of Rhetoric and Truth in Environmental Economics, Literature, and Policy
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Environmental issues such as deforestation and climate change are some of the most pressing concerns today and require a concentrated global response. How does the rhetoric surrounding these topics affect how people understand them and form potential solutions? First, I analyze the rhetoric in Garrett Hardin’s 1968 “The Tragedy of the Commons,” one of the most influential economic articles in environmental studies. Hardin considers potential solutions to the overconsumption of natural goods with his famous example of a herdsman allowing his cattle to overgraze in a pasture. His scientific rhetoric that constructs an objective, factual truth dehumanizes the individual. This is reflected in his proposal to restrict human reproduction to stop overpopulation. Hardin’s solution reflects the dangers of removing the individual from the conversation when trying to solve an innately human problem. Next, I analyze three examples of environmental literature, focusing on how historical accounts centered around lived human experiences and imagined spaces provide platforms to explore environmental issues through a subjective, experiential construction of truth. I juxtapose these analyses of environmental economics and literature with a rhetorical analysis of the Paris Agreement, one of the most significant international environmental laws concerning climate change. In my thesis, I explore how the rhetoric around these concerns influences the policies constructed and implemented to combat them. I argue that while the Paris Agreement considers human rights issues and the ways in which countries are capable of combating climate change, there is a lack of enforceability that may lead to countries not reducing their carbon emissions. I conclude that there must be a combination of flexibility and accountability in environmental policies to ensure equitable and effective implementation.