SAT PRACTICE ESSAY 1 (50 mins) Jimmy Carter

In response to the encroachment of oil drilling on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, former US President Jimmy Carter makes a passionate argument for safeguarding the landscape. He builds his argument through the use of personal anecdote; appeal to civic and political duty, as well as through evocative language to build hope for the future.

Carter begins his foreword with a personal anecdote from his and his wife’s visit to the Arctic Refuge. He uses hyperbole to describe the landscape, referring to it as “America’s last truly great wilderness” which establishes his position as an advocate for the conservation of the landscape due to its merits and precarious position as one of the few remaining local natural reserves. He brings the reader into his own experience – a visit “more than a decade ago”  that was “unforgettable and humbling” – to establish the awe-inspiring feel that the landscape possesses. His use of rich natural imagery such as “brilliant mosaic of wildflowers” and “the tundra… flooded with life” evokes a sense of wonder and beauty in the reader and engages all their senses, allowing them to imagine the landscape fully without having been there. This personal touch allows us to feel the sense of “tragedy” Carter expresses might occur if the Refuge is “consumed by a web of roads and pipelines”.

Appealing to a sense of civic and political duty, Carter reaches across the political divide, reasoning that the Arctic Refuge has been afforded protections by “both Republlican and Democratic presidents.” This creates a sense of urgency in his tone, and suggests to the reader that the issue at hand is more significant than political alliance. Carter, a former Democratic president, appealing to a shared sense of duty urges the reader to consider the human cost of this industrialisation, referring to the evidence of  “tremendous opposition” by “indigienous people whose culture depends [on the land]”. By reminding the reader of those who will suffer as a result of these economically-driven policies, he reiterates his claim that protecting the land is vital. He not only refers to what those in the White House have had the power to do, but also the efforts that ordinary people are making. In doing so, he empowers the reader to support the cause no matter their social status or political affiliation. 

Lastly, Carter makes effective use of evocative language throughout the text to build a sense of hope for the future. Early on in the passage, he refers to the land as having a “timeless quality” to suggest that it is a natural and innate part of the American nation and that it can, and indeed should, be preserved into the future. He later refers to the migration of caribou and their “newborn calves”, giving the readers a sense that new life comes into being with each passing day on the Arctic Refuge, and that to lose the land would be to lose not only physical space, but ecosystems and species as well. His closing statement that the preservation of the land “would be the greatest gift… to future generations” makes an indirect comparison to the “newborn calves”, a new generation, earlier in the passage. In doing so, Carter circles back to the initial notion of timelessness and encourages us to commit hope to experiencing this land far into the future. Ultimately, this summarises this sense of the land’s infinite potential that he aims to pass on to the reader, and reminds us of why this cause is not just important in the present, but is imperative for our futures.

Writing to encourage the preservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Jimmy Carter convincingly argues that we must act now through personal anecdote; appeal to civic and political duty, as well as through evocative language to build hope for the future.

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