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The Rhetoric of Forest Health and the Circulation of Ethos in Environmental Discourse
AuthorLudden, Jason Reilly
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The Rhetoric of Forest Health the Circulation of Ethos in Environmental Discourse examines the conflict that is created, mediated, and sometimes resolved between technical and public sphere arguments. In addition, how technical claims and technical ethos move into the public sphere, and how the circulation of technical claims and ethos affects public discourse, is explained. Initially using Thomas Goodnight’s sphere theory as a lens for analysis, the discourse in each case study is examined to determine whether or not the kinds of claims being presented, the forum in which they are being presented, and the ethos of the rhetor all invoke the same sphere. If there is any disagreement between claims, forum, and ethos, an asymmetry is present that must be resolved. In order to examine how and why these asymmetries occur, Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory is used. Instead of viewing the discourse present as static as Goodnight’s does, Latour’s ANT examines discourse as interconnected to human and non-human actors, both present and absent in a forum, through time. Also, while Goodnight’s theory identifies a division between public and technical arguments, Latour argues that any such divisions are artificial and should be examined in order to expose their political nature. Latour’s methodology is used to read against apparent divisions between the technical and public spheres in three different case studies, each involving forest management and policy in the United States. The first case study examines the rhetoric and discourse of “forest health” surrounding President George W. Bush’s August 22nd, 2002 speech where he unveiled his “Healthy Forests Initiative.” The second case study looks at the discourse around the publication, and subsequent controversy, of Donato et al.’s Science article “Post-Wildfire Logging Hinders Regeneration and Increases Fire Risk.” The last case study examines how “riparian reserves” are defined in the 2016 revision to the Northwest Forest Management Plan. In each of these cases, the ANT analysis shows how asymmetries are constructed in order to facilitate the movement of claims and ethos from one rhetorical situation to another.