ENVT 200 03

Instrumental Value of Deforestation

I chose a political cartoon for my media analysis because I think there are various angles that can be seen in the artwork, and this particular cartoon was extremely relevant to our class material. The basic text expresses that one of the positive effects of environmental destruction is benefiting humans because of the decrease in allergies. The subtext explores how humans value the environment instrumentally, and don’t always take into consideration what greater implications there may be from destroying the environment. Deforestation is detrimental for the environment in numerous ways: the negative impacts on many species, humans included, by increasing greenhouse gases and decreasing oxygen output, taking away a natural resource, hurting habitats for many animals, and so on.  

The image was created by a cartoonist that goes by the name “Singer”, I believe their goal was to identify the egocentric point of view many of us tend to have when it comes to environmental destruction. In an egocentric world, man is superior and the rest of the world inferior to his needs and wants. This message also represents the instrumental value of things and how they are only seen as valuable if they can benefit humans. For example, the cartoon is essentially stating that the largest and most important effects that nature and habitats have are based on how they contribute to human life. Plowing down trees and contributing to greenhouse gases can be seen as a good thing to humans because at least our allergies won’t be as prevalent. Unfortunately, the cartoon is also representing the reality of what happens to much of nature for the benefit of the society. Whether it be to grow food, to make furniture, or to make paper, trees and other natural resources are often over exploited and used for societal gain. What is omitted from this message is the possible positive effects seen in the economy through marketing the goods made in the process. Also, trees are a renewable resource, and although the cartoon doesn’t give much information on why the trees were cut down, how long ago, or how often, we can’t assume that the trees are being cut down at a rate faster than they can be regrown.  

Individuals may view this image differently depending on their knowledge of some environmental terminology, and past experiences. For example, my initial reactions were to think back on class lectures and the lessons on “intrinsic vs instrumental value” deforestation or other depletion of natural resources, and “egocentric vs ecocentric” view points. I understood the implications of cutting down trees, and how there are actually a lot more negatives to this than were positives, even if it meant less sniffling for humans. However for someone who has no idea about the terms I used previously, it could be a more lighthearted cartoon, about allergies and how trees and plants always make us sneeze, so cutting them down can solve that. Although I feel most people understand the dangerous effects of hurting the environment, it’s very plausible that many don’t know the extent of the damage done.

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