"From the earliest memory up to the present age, humans have always struggled to find a way to live in harmony with nature. First we lived in fear of nature, using fire to fend off the dark. Then for a long time we lived in a kind of balance with nature, not taking much from it, but fulfilling our needs. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, we learned to bend nature to our will. Now, we control nature so much that we threaten to make our world completely man-made. So we have to ask ourselves, do other animals have as much right to live on this earth as we do?"
Does this sound familiar? We call it the "from the dawn of time to the present" introduction, and it crops up regularly in student essays. Sometimes a sweeping historical introduction to one's topic works to really get the reader's attention; often it puts the reader to sleep. There are lots of other options. So, today, read the following introductions, then turn off your computer screen (this is called writing blind), and draft at least three alternative introductions to either your mediation or your persuasive essay.
"The nights at Shey are rigid, under rigid stars; the fall of a wolf pad on the frozen path might be heard up and down the canyon. But a hard wind comes before the dawn to rattle the tent canvas, and this morning it is clear again, and colder. At daybreak, the White River, just below, is sheathed in ice, with scarcely a murmur from the stream beneath."
--Peter Matthiessen, "November 6"
"When god-like Odysseus returned from the wars in Troy, he hanged all on one rope a dozen slave-girls of his household whom he suspected of misbehavior during his absence.
This hanging involved no question of propriety. The girls were property. The disposal of property was then, as now, a matter of expediency, not of right and wrong."
--Aldo Leopold, "The Land Ethic"
"What is consciousness? Webster's Dictionary defines it as the state of awareness of one's own existence, sensations, thoughts, and surroundings. To be conscious is to have the essence of soul and spirit; it is a defining characteristic of human nature."
--Benjamin Jun, "Consciousness"
"Do non-human animals have rights? Should we humans feel morally bound to exercise consideration for the lives and well-being of individual members of other animal species? If so, how much consideration, and by what logic? Is it permissible to torture and kill? Is it permissible to kill cleanly, without prolonged pain? To abuse or exploit without killing? For a moment, don't think about whales or wolves or the California condor; don't think about the cat or the golden retriever with whom you share your house. Think about rats and then also think about lab frogs. Think about scallops. Think about mosquitoes."
--David Quammen, "Animal Rights and Beyond"
"Quick! Name America's largest landowner. No, not the King Ranch. No, not the Bank of America. No, Exxon isn't even in the running. The answer is the federal government. Of America's 2,271 million acres, 720 million belong to Uncle Sam. Add another 966 million underwater acres of the country's continental shelf, and you've got an impressive bit of real estate there."
--Cynthia Riggs, "Access to Public Lands: A National Necessity"
"When I first came West in 1948, a student at the University of New Mexico, I was only twenty years old and just out of the Army. I thought, like most simple-minded Easterners, that a cowboy was a kind of mythic hero. I idolized those scrawny little red-nosed hired hands in their tight jeans, funny boots, and comical hats."
--Edward Abbey, "Even the Bad Guys Wear White Hats"
"We soon get through with Nature. She excites an expectation which she cannot satisfy."
--Thoreau, Journal, 1854
The writer's resistance to Nature:
It has no sense of humor: in its beauty, as in its ugliness, or its neutrality, there is no laughter.
It lacks a moral purpose.
It lacks a satiric dimension, registers no irony.
Its pleasure lack resonance, being accidental; . . .
--Joyce Carol Oates, "Against Nature"