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The Use of Extreme Satire in Wilson's The Future of Life

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In Wilson’s The Future of Life, Wilson utilizes extreme satire to characterize how little each opposing group understands each other, and also underscores the the fact that each group’s rhetoric against each other’s point of views is deeply imbedded in misconceptions. By doing so, Wilson emphasizes how unproductive so called “debates” on environmentalism are.

Wilson develops both passages in a similar fashion. He begins both with a label: “environmentalist or conservationists” for the first passage, and “critics of the environmental movement”. Then, he gives the labels that each side calls each other. The labels that each group imposes on each other tend to carry derogatory connotations. For example, “critics” of the environmental movement call environmentalists “wackos”, and environmentalists refer to the critics as “brown lashers”. By underscoring the sense of exclusivity and protective feelings of both sides, Wilson captivates his audience’s attention within the first sentence, and thus begins his argument about the unproductiveness of “debates” on environmentalism.

Wilson continues both passages with a description of the misconceptions that each group uses to base their opinion on the opposing group. Wilson points out that critics of the environmentalist movement believe that environmentalists have a hidden agenda and are constantly scheming new ways to gain more power under the guise of “environmentalism”. Wilson then traces the logic of a critic of environmentalism down to their main argument. Posing as a people-first advocate, Wilson writes that the environmentalists will find “an endangered red spider on your property, and before you know what happened the Endangered Species Act will be used to shut you down”. Since this is the case, Wilson writes “a strong, free-market economy, not creeping socialism is what’s best for America..and..the environment too.”

By posing as a people-first advocate, Wilson clearly highlights first the misconception that people-first critics have about environmentalists, and also the “slippery slope” fallacy that the employ to rationalize their beliefs. As Wilson poses as a people-first critic, it becomes apparent that the critics don’t investigate the true facts behind the environmentalists purpose. Instead, they make assumptions that may or may not be true, and utilize the worst case scenario in order to rationalize their beliefs. Wilson also highlights the slippery slope logical fallacy that people-first critics believe in. Not only do the critics wrongfully assume that environmentalists only want power, they also assume that since environmentalists are power hungry, they will take their land, which will lead a deficit in the economy due a lack of resources. Wilson clearly exemplifies the fact that people-first critics believe that all of this will occur, with no way to stop it, in order to rationalize their beliefs.

However, environmentalists are guilty of the same misconceptions and fallacies. As Wilson writes under the guise of an environmentalist, it becomes equally apparent that both sides, the critics and the criticized, utilize the same logical fallacies to qualify their beliefs. Neither side makes any attempt to understand the other’s core values or wants, instead, both make wrongful assumptions and then base their actions and words against the opposition on logical fallacies and assumptions. By pointing out that both sides are deeply grounded in assumptions and fallacies, Wilson then presents his main point: that all debate over “environmentalism” is unproductive.

If neither side understands or makes an attempt to understand the opposition’s viewpoint on the issue on environmentalism, all “debate” over the matter will inevitably devolve into name calling and will all yield the same result: endless bitterness, with each side claiming that the other side “doesn’t understand”, and that if the other side were to get their way chaos would ensue. Wilson clearly points out that simply because of a refusal to shift the focus of exploration and investigation, both sides are at fault for rendering all debate over environmentalism useless and obsolete. Since neither side is willing to understand the opposition’s viewpoint, debate becomes impossible.

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