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The Library of Congress > Teachers > Classroom Materials > Collection Connections > The Evolution of the Conservation Movement

[Detail] The Harvest Moon. Currier & Ives, between 1860 and 1870.

Descriptive Writing | Persuasive Argument | Journal Writing

2) Persuasive Argument

Yosemite Domes

Yosemites Domes Carleton E. Watkins, photographer. [ca. 1865 or 1866]

Throughout the collection, persuasive writing and speeches champion causes such as conservation, public access to wild lands, and preservation. Students can study the collection to find examples of persuasive argument, then stage a mock debate -- taking two sides of an issue covered. For example, students can research the Hetch Hetchy Dam controversy. John Muir, leading preservationist and founder of the Sierra Club, led the fight against the damming of the Hetch Hetchy Valley as a reservoir for the city of San Francisco. Muir wrote many eloquent essays about Hetch Hetchy.

In the pamphlet entitled, Let everyone help to save the famous Hetch-Hetchy Valley..., Muir calls on the public to fight to preserve the valley. Muir combined his own writing and quotations from others to outline the case for preserving the valley, and to show what supporters could do to persuade Congress to defeat the dam. The pamphlet outlines many steps for influencing the debate in Congress, including:


(page 20)

1. Write at once to Hon. Richard A. Ballinger, Secretary of the Inerior [sic], Washington, D. C., requesting him to revoke the Garfield permit to flood the Hetch-Hetchy Valley.

2. Send a copy of the letter to President William H. Taft.

3. See personally if possible, or write to, the Seantors [sic] and Congress-men from your State, and as many others as you can reach, requesting them to vigorously oppose any bill having for its object the confimation of the Garfield permit to flood Hetch-Htchy Vally [sic], and request them to favor legislation to protect our parks from invasion, and particularly to favor improving the Yosemite Park....

Search on debate, Hetch Hetchy, and Muir to find persuasive arguments for and against conservation issues of the day.