Skiing Into Oblivion

November 22, 2017 General Studies

————————————————- Skiing into oblivion The issue of whether or not our lifestyles are environmentally and economically sustainable has been the source of an ongoing debate and prompted an opinionative piece with an accompanying photograph by Paul Evans, “Skiing into Oblivion” (March, 2008). Contending in a predominately concerned and passionate tone, Evans argues that our consumption of the planet’s resources is irresponsible and that we are becoming increasingly motivated by the need to attain unrealistic lifestyles driven by consumerism.

However, he also encourages his audience to take action through the use of emotive language, saying that “it is still possible to change direction and take a conservationist route. ” Upon commencement, Evans explores the notion of “skiing” as a metaphor for the unsustainable “route” we are taking in his title, “Skiing into oblivion. ” Along with the negative connotations associated with the term “oblivion”, Evans aims to alert readers that we are on a road the road to doom and destruction but are still not taking responsibility and making changes.

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The term also establishes within the readers’ minds a sense of urgency and appeals to their sense of fear. Followed by the juxtaposition of a “wry” anecdote of baby boomers ‘SKIing’ with the reality of people today ‘”indulging and enjoying” luxurious lifestyles, readers are made to realise how they are increasingly becoming affected by consumerism and the consequences that result. Additionally, Evans poses a threat to his readers: if “SKIing” continues, “there will be no inheritance, just a debt that [they], or the next generation, may not be able to repay. In doing so, readers are urged to firstly, stop wasting the planet’s resources and moreover, take the initiative to correct their actions. Enhancing Evans’ claims is a large photograph, which is depicted in such a way to agree with his contention that the earth’s resources are being consumed at an unreasonable and unsustainable rate. The most striking feature of the photograph is the pile of computers occupying the entire lower-left segment of the photo.

The large number of computers being thrown out illustrates that the disposal of computers is a commonplace act and a result of what Evans generalises as the need to “have the latest toys and technologies. ” Located above the pile of computer screens is an advertisement for “Hummer,” a company which specialises in the manufacture of large, four-wheel cars, which Evans classifies as a “gas-guzzling 4WD” in his piece. By placing the computers and the advertisement together, it is suggested that our society today is indeed based on “rampant consumerism. Lastly, our attention is drawn towards the background, where there is one single tree, whose appearance is fragile and sickly. Firstly, the positioning of this tree behind the computers and advertisement implies that we as a society place more emphasis on material goods than on the environment, which as the photograph suggests, is nothing more than a “background” issue. Secondly, readers are urged to notice the single tree as a representation of the fact that a huge part of our environment has been destroyed and that there will soon be nothing left to preserve if action is not taken immediately.

By combining these three elements, it is apparent that the photo is trying to convey to the viewers that we are too wasteful and too entrenched within our materialistic world to notice the impact which it is having on the environment. By presenting such a confronting photograph to viewers, the photographer attempts to evoke guilt and concern within the audience and thus, positions them to be more mindful about their actions and their respective impacts on the environment. In order to support his argument, Evans then proceeds to provide two prime examples which exemplify his contention.

Selecting two issues which concern the majority of Australians – water restrictions and fuel prices, and through the use of emotive language such as “crisis” and “pain,” he emphasises the fact that, for too long, we have been arrogant in our awareness of just how much of a “dire” state our natural resources have been in. He then juxtaposes these national concerns with that of our own, which in contrast, are presented in a heavily understated manner through words such as “inconvenience. ” Furthermore, Evans argues that the underlying the issue is “rampant consumerism. By doing so, an image of people going on wild, uncontrolled, widespread spending sprees is brought into the readers’ mind. This not only highlights the readers’ water and fuel consumption patterns and its effect on the planet’s resources, but also attacks the reader and inevitably provokes them to feel guilty and selfish which in turn will push them to reassess their own consumer patterns, and hopefully take “proactive” action to counter their behaviour after seeing that it is indeed problematic and contributing to the strain on our natural resources.

Connected to this is Evan’s use of attack on city dwellers, claiming that “many [of them] choose to drive gas-guzzling cars,” as opposed to the “more environmentally responsible options. ” Again, he is implying that these people are therefore irresponsible and harming the planet – an insinuation which may cause readers to feel guilty about their own contribution to the degradation of the environment and thus, consider switching to an alternative “that would still meet their needs. ” To further encourage his readers to take affirmative action, Evans proceeds to appeal to the audience’s sense of patriotism.

By utilising the collective “we,” he instils a sense of national pride and togetherness within the audience, manipulating their desire to see Australia prosper and then further transforming that desire into a form of motivation for rectifying the problem which is present. There is an overall appeal to fear that Evans incites throughout the entire article, however, it is particularly highlighted when suggesting that “[you] don’t need to be Nostradamus to see where this is all heading. ” The mention of Nostradamus immediately provokes a sense of fear as it is known that he has predicted many of the world’s biggest disasters.

This suggests that it is obvious where our current situation is heading, frightening readers of what the future holds and that if the squandering of the planet is continued, the “tomorrow” that we would like for our children might never come. Thus, readers are placed in such a position as to agree with Evans that we must “change direction. ” Returning to his skiing metaphor, Evan concludes that despite the fact that there is a problem with our current lifestyles, there is still time to fix it. He is optimistic and reasoned when suggesting that it is possible for our country to take on a “conservationist” approach.

Overall, Evans paints a picture of a planet in need of repair and a long term solution. Through his appeal to fear and use of emotive language, he makes readers aware of the harsh realities of our environment and the toll of consumerism, effectively causing the reader to feel as if they need to step in to put a stop to it themselves. These persuasive techniques all work collaboratively to position the audience into agreeing that the earth is in danger and we are all headed for unquestionable doom if a change is not made and strongly encourages readers to take responsibility for their actions and to fix the issue.


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