Hogs Are Getting Personal

The use of personal stories, tragedies and concerns are often the backbone of the environmental argument. They are used to connect readers with the pain and suffering of individuals with environmental horrors. However, this form of persuasion has often been identified as sensationalism, and an unfair tool. In The New York Times article about the hog farm, personal concerns and thoughts are presented on both sides of the controversy.

Does this article provide a balanced perspective of the issue? Were some personal concerns and stories more concerning and persuasive than others? Which did you find more influential: the viewpoints of professionals or residents? Why?

In general, how do personal stories compare to facts in terms of influence? Do you think that personal stories are a fair persuasion tool within environmental issues? Why or why not?

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2 Responses to “Hogs Are Getting Personal”

  1. In this article, I tend to judge my opinion of the quotations or stories told by the “characters” based on my perception of their biases. I tend to think for myself about the arguments they’re trying to make, and so in this case, I tend to mistrust Mike Martin when he reassures the reader about the safety of the environment.

    Rob and I are taking another class, Environ 361, which focuses on individual behavior change with regards to environmental stewardship. We have talked about how stories and increased personal relevance make more durable and effective behavior change because people can relate to the stories, project themselves onto situations they would otherwise not try (because they don’t want to be wrong), are more interesting than informational packets, and appeal to people’s natural problem solving interests to predict the ending. That is why–fiction or non-fiction–stories are effective means to talk about environmental issues, whether you want to affect behavior or not…but especially if you do.

  2. I generally find personal accounts in stories to be very effective in swaying my opinion, however the personal statements in this article really didn’t do it for me. The local residents who were quoted seem very uninformed about the issue. One just said she was worried the pig farm would stink and another made a very lackluster statement about how pig farms had always been in the area. The professional voices were really the only ones that seemed informative to me in this article. I feel as though there must have been better quotes from the residents, because the first couple paragraphs of the article made it sound like the community it in quite an uproar, but I really didn’t feel as though I got a good sense of the arguments of the locals. Or it may be that not that many locals are truly fervent about the pig farm issue, and that the article is a little misleading in it’s attempt to show both sides.

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