In the persuasive essay (magazine opinion article) Viewpoint: Air-Conditioning Will Be the End of Us, Eric Klinenberg uses ethos in the form of citing to current New York City weather conditions, wasteful uses of air conditioning (“AC”), and the generally -known problem of climate change , pathos in the form of images of frivolous air conditioning contrasted with images of situations where AC is needed to preserve life, and logos in the form of logical reasoning based on the idea that solutions to a problem should not merely alleviate symptoms of the problem in the short term, only to make them worse in the long run, to create a persuasive argument that Americans need to greatly reduce their reliance on air-conditioning.
Klinenberg uses ethos in several forms to support his argument that Americans rely entirely too much upon air conditioning. He cites to temperatures being over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and a heat index of over 100 in New York City leading to bizarre overreactions from New York business owners and residents alike, such as the now-banned practice of pumping cold air from air conditioning onto the streets of New York City, and “arctic” temperatures in air-conditioned movie theaters, stores, and private homes, as evidence of excessive energy use. That excessive use of energy leads to a short-term solution to the problem of climate change at the expense of making climate change exponentially worse from the greenhouse gases and heat created by the combustion of fossil fuels to power the air conditioning. Even worse, Klinenberg states, the amount of energy used for air conditioning in the U.S. doubled in the 20 years prior to the publication of this article, which would be from 1993 to 2013.
He further states:
"Part of the problem is that in recent decades, the fastest-growing U.S. cities—places like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Austin—have effectively been built on air-conditioning. (This is also true in the Middle East and Asia, and as a result, global energy consumption is soaring precisely when it needs to be lowered.)" [Sorry, I can't get this to indent, so I'm using quotes].
Obviously, Klinenberg relies greatly upon convincing evidence that U.S., and global energy policy, at least regarding air conditioning, is exactly the opposite of what it should be. He also includes his utility provider’s vague and ineffectual suggestion that customers use air conditioning “wisely” as an example of poor energy policy.
Klinenberg also uses logos to establish the point that if we know what causes global warming (i.e., the use of fossil fuels), but we pursue short-term solutions that simply worsen the problem by adding to the cause (i.e., using air conditioning powered by fossil fuels), we are simply making the problem worse while alleviating the symptoms temporarily. By anyone’s logic, a “solution” that actually exacerbates the problem in the long term is no solution at all.
Klinenberg acknowledges the problem of those with a medical or other need for access to air conditioning (e.g., the infirm or elderly living in poorly-designed apartments, field or factory workers who need relief from excessive heat), but points out that most of the air-conditioning used in the US is excessive and meant only for comfort, not for the preservation of human life.
This last concession, that is skillfully used to underscore Klinenberg’s point, makes very skillful use of imagery and powerful word choice. The author describes the apartments used by the elderly in need of access to air conditioning as “broiling,” the fields farm workers toil in as “sun-baked,” and factories and poorly-designed offices as exposing workers to “searing temperatures.” It sounds as though these unfortunate people are being cooked alive by the excessive heat. The author then contrasts these grim images with the image of “converting homes, offices and massive commercial outlets into igloos on summer days, regardless of how hot it is outdoors,“ and “burning through fossil fuels in a suicidal fashion,” conveying the sense a frivolous and wasteful use of energy, which will lead to global warming for no reason.
Klinenberg concludes his essay by stating
"I can’t help but wonder whether cities like New York will ever prohibit stores from cooling their facilities below, say, 70°F. No doubt a law like that would raise even more objections than Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to ban big sodas, but it might well be necessary if we can’t turn down the dial on our own." [Sorry, I can't get this to indent, so I'm using quotes].
While he concedes that restrictions on AC would be even less popular than a mayor’s limit on soda cup sizes, he states his well-supported opinion that limits on AC may be necessary to mitigate global warming, if people cannot be relied upon to use their own common-sense measures to conserve energy.
In Viewpoint: Air Conditioning Will Be the End of Us. Eric Klinenberg convincingly uses ethos (current events, science, and common-sense observations about everyday human behavior), logos (common-sense observations about the nature of a good solution to a problem), and pathos (powerful descriptive language and imagery) to create a persuasive argument that limits must be placed on AC usage in the U.S, and worldwide, perhaps by law, if people will not voluntarily limit their AC use. It is indeed a grim picture Klinenberg paints; hopefully, we can keep this picture from becoming reality.
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
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