October 1, 2014
The Ganges Revived
Earlier this year I had the opportunity of traveling outside the country to Haiti, a third world country. Upon arriving I was warned not to drink or use any of the running water due its high contamination and waterborne illnesses. Unfortunately, one mindless decision of brushing my teeth with sink water resulted with me being in bed for days. Similarly, many water sources in India, such as the Ganges River, contain the same contaminants. Bathing in the water of the Ganges is a common religious tradition that is seen to be a valuable part of daily life for India. The river represents a goddess that purifies the soul. Although the Ganges is the most sacred river to all Hindus and supports millions of Indians who live along its banks, the poor condition of the river threatens the tradition from ever living on. In the article, “The Ganges’ Next Life,” American author and journalist of the New Yorker, Alexander Stille, draws attention to a controversial issue that is commonly found in third world countries like India. Americans need to find ways to help countries further develop, while preserving their unique cultures and traditions. Stille asserts an idea that helps clean the Ganges in a way that takes the culture and traditional use of the river into account, while successfully utilizing a variety of rhetorical strategies to make his argument effective. He uses the knowledge and experience of experts, contrasting vivid imagery, tapping into American values, and research. These rhetorical strategies are used to execute the appeals of pathos, ethos and logos.
The text introduces Mishra, an expert of the Indian lifestyle that walks, breathes and lives the Indian life. Mishra is a spiritual heir to the Hindu religion and has gained the position as a mahant, which is the highest spiritual level of leaders that has been passed down for many generations. He is a Professor of hydraulic engineering at Banaras Hindu University, which allows him to realize the gravity of the water pollution issue. Mishra explains the unrest he has in his heart, “There is a struggle and turmoil inside of my heart… I want to take the holy dip. I need the holy dip. But, at the same time, I know what is B.O.D.” – biochemical oxygen demand – “and I know what is fecal coliform,” (598). Mishra is torn because he strongly desires to participate in his culture’s old tradition, but he also knows the dangers that lie beneath the waters due to his scientific background. Stille uses the knowledge of Mishra to enforce this strategy of logos to win the reader with the expertise and experience that Mishra has being apart of the Indian culture. By using a source that is knowledgeable and accustomed to India, the reader may be able to gain an understanding from the perspective of someone who lives the Indian lifestyle and has proper training of the issues of the polluted water.
The text moves to William Oswald to help the reader more personally identify with the issues with the Ganges. Oswald is an American much like his audience, yet is still alarmed with the pollution of the Ganges happening in India. He is an emeritus professor of engineering at Cal Berkley and has spent years of experimenting with algae to better improve the water quality here in the United States. His devotion to his research of algae pond systems has significantly helped eliminate American water pollution. He asserts that the same solution to water pollution in the west can be applied to the waters of India, “And it seems fitting that the scientific key to the modern problems of Varanasi, one of India’s most ancient cities, could be one of the most ancient and also one of the simplest life-forms: algae” (602). Oswald’s solution to water contaminants in American waterways has been algae and he argues that this solution will also work in India. Stille uses the expertise of Oswald to illustrate to the reader that