Sample lessons: Ecorhetoric

Lt. Raymond E. Haney with U.S. Navy (1960s)

How to approach place-based ecocomposition, ecocriticism, and environmental inquiry  by Carol Joan Haney McVey. 

(copyright by Carol Joan Haney McVey includes all pages, research, essays, photos, artwork,  and sample lessons included and added to this website)

(ISBN 978-0-99769-20-37 )


Assignment #1.   Write an essay based on one word related to the natural environment.  Use that word to link to concepts that relate to the linguistic and conceptual ecosystem of that one word.  The following essay sets sail with the word “ocean.” 

Below is a picture of the author of this project,  born and baptized with the name Carol Joan Haney.   I am seated on a couch  with my  brothers (oldest to youngest) Raymond Jr., David, and Robert Haney in 1960.  We are aboard a U.S. Navy ship where our father, Raymond Earl Haney, served with the United States Navy as a navigator. 

Ecocomposition:  a First Encounter with the Pacific Ocean.

I do not remember the magazine I was holding, I think it was Life magazine, but I remember holding a penny in my hand as I held the book and looked at the pictures.  Later, our father showed us around the ship that would soon take him to far away lands via the Pacific Ocean.  We gawked at the officer’s dining room table set with crisp white linens, and we squeezed through the narrow passages that led to dad’s cramped sleeping quarters.  A military mustang,  an autodidact, and an avid reader,  Ray Haney kept a small pile of books near his berth to relieve the solitude of life at sea.

That is the first time that I grasped the meaning of the word ocean, the vast distance it contained; yet it not only contained distance, but time.  The ocean harbored long stretches of time that recalled my father’s first voyages as an enlisted sailor with the U.S. Navy during World War II when my parents were married in a simple Navy Chapel Wedding ceremony in New Orleans.  Despite Raymond E. Haney’s dedication to a marriage that spanned more than five decades, my father divided his passion between family and Navy life wherein at least a dozen Navy ships became like mistresses holding the keys to his heart.

(Above is a picture of my late father, Raymond Earl Haney as an enlisted sailor in the Navy in 1942.  No these are not stock photos)

In my memory of family lore it is impossible to separate the romantic courtship and marriage of my parents with the Navy career that called so many to war in the early 1940s.

(Above is a picture of my mother, Norma Claire East Haney, a classic 40s war bride)

While learning my family history as a preteen and teen, I inherited my father’s love for military life, the sea, the ocean, and all things nautical.  The ocean connoted heavy days measured by star-gazing, storm-watching, and the breaking of waves upon the bow of the great gunmetal grey sailing vessel.  It conveyed the plodding hours and months of time as my brothers and I waited for dad to return home.   And I never tired of hearing the stories and viewing the photos that recorded this significant time in the history of the United States and the world.

Hand-written letters proved a vital link between home and military life at sea.   The envelope below, in my mother’s handwriting was posted from their home as Newlyweds on Canal Street in New Orleans, and this artifact of war reveals proof of my father’s first mission aboard the Alexander Graham Bell. 


How miraculous!  This stamped, postmarked, much handled piece of paper traveled the salty air of the ocean and survived several hurricanes in New Orleans (including Betsy), multiple military ordered moves, and robust generational conflicts and physical separations that spanned seven decades.   

It reminds me of the power of the written word entrusted to the power of our great nation and allies during the time of the Holocaust.  The letter prompts me to think of Anne Frank, writing her brilliant entries in her diary of hope from a shuttered attic of hiding in Amsterdam .  Anne Frank chronicled her captivity with her family at the same time that my parents, who were about the same age as Anne and Anne’s sister, Margot, sent out similar messages of hope for victory across the Pacific and Atlantic.   

I am still moved to tears to think that thousands of American teens and young adults all over the globe set sail to rescue and liberate other teens, children, and adults from the genocide and fascism of Hitler and Axis powers on the other side of the ocean.


Later, my mother, Norma Claire Haney, a Navy wife volunteer, a working secretary,  and full-time mother of four, was far too busy to just sit and wait for words of encouragement from her husband.  And so she kept busy at home and work, and still found time to write letters urging him to reply.  And reply he did.  She once wrote to his commanding officer to demand a reply from her beloved.  In those days, the U.S. postal worker and the military mail system functioned like Hermes, messenger of the gods, and all letters were written without spellcheck or any sort of computer assistance or social media.

And even in the close quarters on board ship, dad found time and space to reply to those letters from home and tell us about life at sea and his duties on shore.

Yet,  when I was a child, I would often think about just how deep, dark, oily, and brackish that water looked beside the dock.   The song “Anchors Aweigh” rang out as the men stood on deck in uniform and the hull of the ship began to glide away from the pier.  The silhouette diminished beyond the harbor and plunged into the enormous body of salt water that separated us for many seasons at a time.

The last sounds we heard as the ship vanished over the horizon were the sounds of water lapping, of gulls calling, and car doors slamming.  There was no time for tears, and sobs were strictly forbidden.  My father had given me a penny to hold on to, and although I held it very tightly, I think I knew that the book of shiny pages I had held on my lap in the wardroom of the ship was worth much more than the penny.

haney children aboard ship

A Sequence of college composition writing projects

2014-03-29_14.22.23by  Carol Joan Haney McVey, 2013

The Catholic University of America BFA 1979

The University of Maryland, College Park, BA 1993

Montgomery County, Maryland  Public Schools, MEQ 1997

CV-poetry, fiction, and brief essays published in Kalliope, a Journal for Women in the Arts, The Sligo Journal of Montgomery College, and posted on blogs for the Washington Post, New York Times, The Jewish Policy Center/Jerusalem Post.  A book of poetry titled Mansion of the Mind is registered with the Library of Congress with distribution pending.  Carol taught English/drama/humanities in public and private schools for more than ten years.

A social justice advocate and community volunteer for The Girl Scouts, the Catholic Legislative Affairs Committee, the Olney Manor Friends of the Dog Park, her  professional experience includes work in theatre, radio, video, and journalism.   She has also worked as a secretary, editor, and administrative assistant in banking, HR, non-profit, and educational organizations.

Her charitable contributions and interests include: The Wounded Warrior Project, The Good Will, Vietnam Veterans of America, The Salvation Army, The Humane Society, Children’s Hospital, Shriners Hospital for Children, TSiant Jude’s Hospital for Children, The American Red Cross, The Purple Heart,  The Southern Poverty Law Center, Disaster Relief through the 700 Club and  Catholic Charities, WETA, NPR, and The Chesapeake Bay Conservation Foundation.  She is particularly  interested in promoting scholarships and charitable contributions for direct aid  to Native Americans and U.S. Military Veterans.


Part I

In his introduction to Jean-Paul Sartre’s Collection of essays, What is Literature? And Other Essays, Steven Unger writes that Sartre once rebuked his contemporary, Gabriel Marcel, for calling him an existentialist: “Sartre replies that his is a philosophy of existence and that he doesn’t even know what Existentialism is! (Unger 7).

Unger further expands on the concept of  existentialism:

“This sense of writing for one’s time expresses what Edward Said describes as Sartre’s missionary aim of upholding literature’s singular capacity to disclose and reveal the present: ‘Literature was about the world, readers were in the world; the question was not whether to be but how to be, and this was best answered by carefully analyzing language’s symbolic enactments of the various existential possibilities available to human beings'” ( Unger on Sartre 7).

As many pundits and journalists have recently noted, we are facing an existential crisis regarding the ongoing war in the Middle East; however, another existential crisis looms to challenge our students. This crisis involves the ubiquitous and perpetual struggle for human existence and all life forms.   It is the purpose of these exercises to inspire students to practice critical thinking, reading, and writing skills as students explore problems that involve the environment and composition studies.

This  ecorhetorical approach to composition studies should not be taught in order to aggravate anxiety or guilt over problems that students did not create. The purpose of these exercises is to find understanding and sow the seeds of personal investment in the ecological needs of the planet and the survival of the human race.

The strategy of the project seeks multiple solutions to problems as we inculcate a love for the environmental needs and sustainability of multiple ecosystems.

The purpose of teaching students to write a place-based composition is to provide a means to imagine multiple ways of being in the world, so that this misunderstanding of existentialism can be corrected in order to bring a heightened awareness to the rhetoric of ecology and the environment. For, how can we presume to make choices about how to be in the world if we do not first understand the natural and artificial demarcations of place, setting, location, and geography, particularly with respect to natural landscape?

So this sequence of exercises will provide approaches to writing  place-based compositions including definition essays, comparison essays, reflective essays, persuasive essays, research models, and multimodal presentations.


Project I.   First we will read several model essays that can be described as place-based or place-oriented essays, even if that orientation is one of displacement and/or alienation. The first essay is excerpted from a larger work, a memoir about writing, as we read from Eudora Welty’s book, One Writer’s Beginnings. The focus of the excerpt from her work is on her experience of connecting an observation of the moon with learning vocabulary that informed her first literacy experience. For this writer, the connection with the natural world is internalized in the home environment.

Then we will read an extract from the “Prison Studies” chapter in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, wherein the author furthers his literacy education as an autodidact by reading and copying each word on every page of the dictionary while serving time in prison.   

Next we will read two essays in Writers on Writing, by several prolific writers of fiction. In her essay, “To Invirgorate Literary Mind, Start Moving Literary FeetJoyce Carrol Oates discusses the habitual walking exercises of the British writers such as Wordsworth, and Coleridge, Charles Dickens, and the American Henry David Thoreau; it is the outdoor exercise and experience of walking in both rural and city environments that proved inspiring to the literary activity of these writers.

Next, we will read an essay by James Baldwin titled “Stranger in the Village” about the African-American experience of writing in the monoculture of a Northern European village.

Finally, we will read how one Native-American writer attempts to reclaim the Ojibwe tribal language of her ancestry and discovers the inextricable linguistic and ontological connection this language sustains to the natural world in “Two Languages in Mind, but Just One in the Heart,” by Louise Erdrich.  These readings  are selected  because they involve setting or place as central to the writing experience and writing process and they treat the evolution of literacy at various stages of development. However, the purpose of these readings is this is not to privilege one experience over the other; for all of these authors discover the joy of freedom in their literacy and literary experiences.

For Eudora Welty, literacy is initially inspired by a nocturnal experience of gazing at the sky. For Malcolm X, a passion for etymology and history inspire his journey toward literacy. The prison walls for Malcolm X become invisible in a sense; and his level of awareness of the external world calls forth an immense metacognitive landscape that transcends both time and space to travel the world of natural AND social history through a reflective process of self-discovery, identity formation, conversion, anger and alienation.

For Joyce Carol Oates, the kinesthetic experience of walking through the town and country landscapes is one that has been documented by several classic writers with whom she identifies very closely regarding literacy and storytelling.

For Baldwin, the place of writing is a secluded Catholic European village that is sought as an African-American writer’s refuge.  The village  becomes an encounter with a landscape that invites introspection and reflection on race, history, and identity as those topics inform the writing life.

For Louise Erdrich, the act of moving between the linguistic foundations of her tribal tongue and English while relearning a language she had nearly forgotten heightens her awareness of place and ecological relationships to ancestry, literacy, and identity.


Project 1. Short essay focusing on one word.   “Moon on a Silver Spoon.” (aim for 1000 words). This is a definition essay.

The first project is a kind of ecocomposition designed to match concepts of ecology with the writing process as students map a literacy experience about a particular place.   The paragraphs that I have provided about learning the meaning of “ocean” at the top of this page provide the kind of ecocomposition students will write.  After reading the excerpt by Eudora Welty, students will proceed with the following writing assignment. The purpose is not to imitate the reading prompts by the experienced writers, but to capture the spirit of the reading selection as it relates literacy to environment.

  1. Read the Eudora Welty experience of her observation about the importance of learning words, the building blocks of writing, and reflect on the way that her particular outdoor experience with the night sky connects to her early learning literacy experience. Then think about a particular place and time that likewise resonated with your own experience learning vocabulary or developing a semiotic experience of literacy that you still associate with a particular place, especially one that is outdoors or one that involves a relationship of learning to speak and write as derived from a connection with some aspect of the natural world.   Welty’s focus on the word moon is quite elementary, yet it involves a recollection of the experience in a highly literate home environment. Her description demonstrates the concept of ecocomposition because she uses concepts from the natural ecosystem as she writes.  She relates her first encounter with the mooon and relates her intake of the word as one of consumption as if it were “fed to her on a silver spoon. ”   Write down other examples of how terms related to ecology and ecosystems are linked to Welty’s First Encounter with the Moon.
  2. Now write an essay or ecocomposition based on one word or phrase from the natural world.  For example, one student wrote about an early experience learning the meaning of chrysalis in a classroom as it related to the idea of transformation in nature. Another wrote about learning the meaning of Tsunami under tragic conditions. You do not have to have written about that experience at the time that you learned the particular word, as Welty is writing her recollection many years after the event. You simply need to recall it and relate the experience of learning vocabulary that is specific to a particular environment and the relationships in that environment.

The important thing is to “recollect in tranquility,” as William Wordsworth wrote, a particular experience of literacy as it relates to a particular setting. Where were you when you learned about this word or ecological term? The word or short phrase should be one that defines an organic life form  or a term describing something of  the natural world such as ozone, praying mantis, alkaline soil, fungus, deciduous tree, marsh, quartz, asteroid, coyote, Pleistocene, or osage orange, persimmon.

mushroom log

Project number 2: “Prison studies.” This is a reflection essay.

We will read a few paragraphs from the Malcolm X autobiography that focus on how the writer became an autodidact (self-taught individual) reading and copying words out of the dictionary, and how this experience of learning by rote, word-by-word, expanded into reading books in the prison library. The experience of confinement for Malcolm X is ironically freeing as he begins to experience the world through his self-taught literacy experience. Students will choose one of the following approaches or a synthesis of the two approaches to write about an experience with literacy in a confined location or one with natural or artificial boundaries.

Option 1. In this assignment, you will describe an experience of literacy that involved reading and copying text from a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a textbook, a religious book, or any other print material. This does not include printing an article found online or forwarding a text message. This assignment involves either copying by hand or on a keyboard, reciting, memorizing text in a manner that involved the metacognitive processes of learning vocabulary as it relates to etymology, sentence structure, grammar, and language acquisition. How did this lead to discovery about learning? How did this particular form of literacy help you cope with a difficult environment, or encourage you to explore a new environment or to acquire more knowledge?

You do not necessarily need to write about the place where you remember copying the sentences and paragraphs or memorizing the pledge, the psalm, the prayer, or song;  you might also write about a place where the memorized text later resonated with you in a particular place.  What is your recollection of this experience? How did it help you to learn about other concepts and ideas. How did it prompt or hinder your desire to read further and learn more from texts related to that environment?

If your modality is primarily audio, then perhaps you could relate an experience of learning “by heart” the lyrics to a particular song, or a speech, poem, prayer, or other memorization task. Where were you when you learned in this manner and how did your relationships to others contribute to your literacy experience at the time that you developed your writing skills in this manner? How did this lead you to explore a new dimension of learning and expand your literacy skills?

Option 2. Consider the confinement experience of a particular setting as it contributed to your literacy trajectory. Then write an essay that examines how that confinement helped or hindered your growth as a writer. The confinement need not be involuntary. You might chose to write about writing in a favorite room, library alcove, coffee shop or café. Or perhaps you will write about writing at a job site such as an office, a service-learning project, or an outdoor area with specific boundaries. Consider how the particular environment and the relationships you had to other people in that environment affected your writing process and literacy development. A classroom experience is fine as long as the classroom activity was a meaningful writing activity that expanded your growth as a writer.

Option #3  Read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance” and compare and contrast  this to Malcolm X’s path toward literacy regarding their disparate environments and historical contexts.

Option #4.  Read Virginia Woolf’s Essay “A Room of One’s Own” and evaluate the importance of having private space while writing.  Compare this to your own struggle to find private space to write and work.  Is there a way to compare this to some aspect of thriving in the natural world?

Option #5.  Read In Search of my Mother’s Garden by Alice Walker.   Analyze the experience of memory, family, inheritance, and identity.  Then relate this experience to one of your own experiences of honoring tradition while forming an individual identity through the writing process.

Project #2: Kinesthetic involvement with environment. Joyce Carol Oates and James Baldwin. This is a comparison/contrast essay. (1000 words minimum)

Students will read the excerpts as described in the introduction to this assignment. Then they will respond to the following prompt.

Read the essay by Joyce Carol Oates.  Research one of the outdoor walking experiences of one of the English Romantic writers in the pastoral setting or Charles Dickens walking experience in the 19th Century or Thoreau’s walking exercise through a brief research activity that involves online open source research into the essays sited in the article.

Then, take time to read the Baldwin essay with a critical thinking lens, allowing yourself to take notes based on your research of the outdoor walking activities of Wordsworth, Shelley, Coleridge, Dickens, or Thoreau as described in the Joyce Carol Oates essay.  Pay attention to the European location as one that is familiar for the English writers. If you chose to write about Thoreau in his American description of Walden or one of his other works and his involvement with abolition and the New England transcendentalist movement, then this research will augment  research on one of the English writers.

Now, reread Baldwin’s essay and record notes, observations, examples of his interaction and relationship to the environment and the people in his location of choice  to write in the Swiss village. Now you are ready to write your comparison contrast essay. Remember that you are comparing the authors’ relationships to their environment as it informed their literacy and/or literary experience.  Reflect on the terms monoculture and biodiversity as metaphors for describing the human experience of isolation in this essay.

Honors option. (This option is open to all students)

An alternate to this assignment involves reading “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” and comparing this to the prison studies narrative of literacy by Malcolm X. If you choose this assignment, you will need to consider, after research, Thoreau’s involvement in the literary, literacy, and political landscape as an advocate of civil rights, transcendentalism, self-reliance, and the abolition of slavery. You will also need to consider the historical context in which the two writers developed their literacy and literary skills.  Compare a  voluntary experience of incarceration with the involuntary experience as it relates to the matriculation of the writer.

Project #3 Rhetorical analysis

We will read two essays by Native-American Writers. Louise Erdrich and Scott Mommaday in Environmental Writing Since Thoreau:  American Earth.

Then we will read a chapter titled “Dwelling” in Ecocriticism by Greg Garrard.

Students will then begin a recursive process of writing that reviews the rhetoric of a definition essay and a comparison contrast essay. Then students will follow these steps to progress toward writing a rhetorical analysis of a particular ecological problem.

Step 1. Defining the problem.

“’Dwelling’” is not a transient state; rather, it implies the long-term imbrication of humans in a landscape of memory, ancestry and death, of ritual, life and work.’” (Greg Garrard in Ecocriticism)

Students will read the section of this essay titled, “The Ecological Indian” and “Writing ‘relations’: Silko and Erdrich (120-135). Then students will answer with a partner or in groups the following questions with five to ten sentence answers to be shared with class. This is an in-class writing assignment. Questions will be distributed in a jigsaw exercise: the first grouping session will focus on specific questions from the list below. Then students will be regrouped to share their responses with the second group. After this second sharing session students will write an essay on the reading regarding the concept of dwelling as it is discussed by the British ecocritic Greg Garrard.

        1. Who was “Iron-eyes Cody”? How was his image honored/and/or exploited as a rhetorical strategy to engage audience with the ecological awareness campaign of the 1970s? What aspect of the rhetorical triangle predominates: ethos, logos, or pathos in the use of this image to argue the case against “pollution”?
        2. What is the difference between anthropocentric and ecocentric world view as presented in this essay? How is this significant to the concept of ‘dwelling’ for the American Indian?  How does the ethos of the British world view compare and contrast with the perceived ethos of the Native-American view?
        3. Discuss the James Welch elegiac novel Fools Crow and the retelling of the Native-American legend of the Black Foot nation (Pikunis) Who are Feather Woman, Red Paint, Raven, and Skunk  Bear? How does this legend compare with the Dances with Wolves image of the “ecological Indian.”
        4.  How does the logos and ecological naming influence the rhetoric of argument for ecological connection to the land?
        5. What does the James Wilson book The Earth Shall Weep tell us, according to Garrard, about the struggle for existence in the Plains Indian environment? How does this resonate in terms of ecological problems today? What specific examples and facts are provided to support his argument?
        6. Define the following terms: Portmanteu biota; ecological imperialism; the vanishing “red-man”; frontier primitivism; homogenization; “communal narrative memory.” Compare and contrast “tribe” and “nation” as they are perceived by the ecocritic.
        7. Pay attention to the last paragraph of the “Ecological Indian” excerpt. What is the significance of the word ‘relations’ as it applies to the Native-American relationship to the human and non-human ecosystems? Why is this important to our understanding of any rhetorical discussion regarding ecology and the existential struggle?
        8. Part II. For homework students will read the essays written about  Leslie Marmon Silko and Louise Erdrich in the Garrard essay on “Dwelling”  and ready narratives and essays written by Silko, Erdrich and Mommady and begin comparing and contrasting questions about reading literacy narratives that impose “outside” belief systems.  Then students will write and post questions for other students to answer on a blog.                                                                             Questions should be formulated such as the ones posed for the section on the “ecological Indian” Questions should focus on key terms and the ecological questions and relationships of the writers to their land.   The questions will then be handed out to others in class to answer in groups with responses shared with the whole class.  Write a 500-1000 word comparative rhetorical analysis of the problem of dwelling as it was viewed from the 19th Century until the environmental movement of the 70’s and into the 1990s as perceived by the novels, advertising campaigns, and films discussed in the essays.
        9. Contrast and compare the British portrait of the “ecological Indian” as Garrard describes this trope with the ways in which Silko, Mommaday, and Erdrich view their identity and their relationships to the natural world and their Native-American community. How accurate is Garrard’s understanding of Native-American identity based on your reading of the  authentic Native-American texts?  What  rhetorical tropes and logical fallacies can you detect in the historicized portrayal as presented by Garrard
      1. Project 3 Continued. Individual rhetorical analysis.     Students will reread the essay, “Two Languages in Mind, but just one in the heart,” by Louise Erdrich The New York Times Writers on Writing anthology and the  excerpt from “Ceremony” by Leslie Marmon Silko as well as “A First American Views” his land by Scott Mommaday in Environmental Writing since Thoreau: American Earth. Students will also read the essay, “Why College English?” by Dr. Shirley Logan.  The article by Logan  articulates a rhetoric of argument for global skills in the English composition classroom and a particular call to action for a heuristic involving Native-American languages.    Students will engage in a formal group debate regarding the claims in the Logan article before proceeding with individual writing assignments.
      2.   Then students will write a 1000-2000 word rhetorical analysis of an environmental or ecological problem or a problem of preserving native literacy and discourse as presented by the Native-American writers. The essay should pay attention to the vocabulary learned in the previous readings as well as any new vocabulary introduced by the Native-American writers regarding their relationship to the land and the ecological disruptions to community such as war, poverty, globalization, environmental destruction, and industrialization. Pay attention to the Native perspective as it is allied with or discordant with the European perspective toward dwelling that is provided  by Greg Garrard .                  Project 4.  . Persuasive Essay-ARGUMENT OF INQUIRY-POSITION PAPER.Students will read a Washington Post article titled, “From Broken Homes to Broken System” (November 29, 2014., page 1) about the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in contemporary life.   Then students will write a 500 word position statement (brief persuasive essay or argument of inquiry) based on the problem of dwelling for juveniles on the reservation
    1. Project number 5. Deep Ecology–Research paper, Multimodal presentation, essay, and creative work involving a problem with dwelling and the environment. The writing project could include a permission to use a campus facility for awareness or a letter to a charitable foundation, campus outreach program, synagogue, mosque,  or church to raise money for school supplies, books, or technology to be sent to the reservation. Another proposal might include a letter to an academic or social outreach administrator in the education department at a University to allow graduate students in the masters or Ph.D. program to spend student teaching learning hours on the Pine Ridge Reservation and a letter to request permission from a Pine Ridge Elder or Chief to visit for the purposes of offering service. The argument should include background information that you have gleaned from reading the articles as described in the class and at least three other research articles (non-fiction) about ecological problems or problems with dwelling on other Indian reservations.
            Note:  another environment can be substituted for the reservation as a subject for problem/solution essay on challenges to composition environments.


  1.    Students will propose a specific point of action necessary to bring attention or action to the dilapidated greenhouse, the poverty-stricken school without books, teachers, or writing supplies, and the treatment of teenage offenders on the reservation, and the lack of federal funding.
  2. Students will develop this 500 word essay into a 2000 word position paper or website to bring awareness to the problem of dwelling on the reservation. The argument should include a proposal for action that could involve plans to procure mundane sustainable documents such as those discussed in “Ecological, Pedagogical, Public Rhetoric” by Nathaniel A. Rivers and Ryan P. Weber (CCC 63:2/Dec 2011) In this article, the scholars discuss the “ecological metaphor” of government administration as a challenge to procure documents necessary for lawful political action.  

    Note:  Another environment can be substituted for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation as long as the environment includes a unique challenge OR INSPIRATION to composition studies.

      1. Final project.  Students will have read Aldo Leopold’s “Land Ethic” treatise and discuss his 1949 rejection of “man’s dominion” on earth, and the hegemony of anthropocentric over biocentric needs both in terms of the historical context in which he wrote and in light of the current ecological crisis. Further, they will have researched in groups problems with the four domains as defined by Leopold: land, water, flora, fauna. These are the categories by which he organizes his ethic to propose that human needs are no more valid than the needs of nonhuman beings in the ecosystem.  We will engage in a classroom debate regarding this claim. The only weapons students may use are words, rhetorical strategies in language as expressed in visual or audio rhetoric, and perhaps, marshmallows. (The atmosphere can become tense when students choose to side with the grouse or the mouse over the needs of the human).  Students will divide into teams and debate Leopold’s land ethic as an introduction to this topic.

Multidisciplinary application

    1. Further, students will have researched at least one other domain not discussed in Leopold’s Land Ethic: air pollution, sound pollution, carbon-footprint, waste management and recycling, consumption and disposal of non-renewable, non-biodegradabe products; energy innovations and management such as nuclear, solar, and satellite uses.
    2. Other areas of investigation include sustaining power and pioneering innovations in  artificial intelligence that enhance our understanding of risk management for  biotechnology; prevention, treatment, containment, storage, and  management of ecological effects  of  chemical and biological weapons; traditional versus non-tradition medical treatments, prosthetics, cryogenics, cyborgs, stem cell research; animal and human rights in scientific tests and environmental law and practice.  Energy: thermodynamic, hydroelectric, electric, solar, battery, coal, wind, natural gas, petroleum fossil fuels, biofuels.
    3. Biology:   genetic engineering,  bioethics,  ecological disaster and waste management.                                 Still the focus of this investigation will support the central issue at the heart of this project: the struggle for human existence, and the conflict between human freedom and the need for conservation, sustainability, as well as innovation.     Then students will write a heuristic, or argument of inquiry for one of the topics as it relates to one or more areas of the Aldo Leopold Land Ethic.  We will also read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.  Some possible questions include but are not limited to:
  1. Water—What can be done about the problem of plastic waste in the Cheasapeake Bay or the Ocean? Should we focus more on clean-up or restraints on plastic production and consumer waste to alleviate the problem? What studies are extant that explore reconstituting plastic in recycled products or alchemy to reconvert plastic to oil or reconstituted and recycled products?
  2. Land/water—How can we best write a cost/benefit analysis of nitrogen-enhanced fertilizers on agricultural land. What are the ecological effects on water systems? Are there organic means such as planting nitrogen-fixing legumes alongside other crops as Native-Americans practice with a three-sisters garden?
  3. Flora-What is the future of paper production and book publishing. Compare the carbon footprint of using technology to publish versus the carbon footprint for both recycled paper books and virgin-pulp books made with pulp from sustainable pulp forests.   What recommendations for future publishers can you propose?  What is the ecological cost of  literacy?
  4. Fauna-What is the future for bioengineering or genetic engineering involving  genetically modified seeds  as a disruptive or restorative measure in local and global ecosystems?  How can we best address the issue of protecting endangered species?  How can we best address the issue of animal rights and testing and still promote medical innovation to benefit human beings?  How can we best address health, cultural, moral, ethical, and religious concerns of individuals and groups regarding this topic?
  5. In what ways did Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold predict future problems with pollution and environmental destruction.  It might be worthwhile to write a comparison essay of Rachel Carson’s exposure of the risks of DDT and chemical pesticides with the after effects of dioxins used in Agent Orange during the Vietnam war.

Methods for completing assignment

  1. Students will write a 2000-5000 page research report including the following:  A)  Definition of the ecological problem.  B)Rhetorical analysis of at least 7-10 articles that explore the topic C) Position paper or Persuasive argument for at least two solutions or courses of action.  D) One scientific model presentation that uses a traditional format: hypothesis, materials, methods, interpretation, and conclusion.   E) Multimodal or creative model project using James Purdy’s notion of multiple solutions to design theory   F) Annotated bibliography for 7-10 books or articles invested in the topic  G) Reflection memo that describes the environment as it relates to the composition environment regarding the topic of choice.

One thought on “Sample lessons: Ecorhetoric”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *