During the international Biodiversity conference to review progress towards environmental goals set in 2002, Professor Chris Lee sets the principal theme of the conference with his speech Taking Stock. Lee’s presentation is addresses experts from all over the world who attended the conference. Lee’s tone is sincere yet confronting as he highlights a lack of action to achieve climate change goals, contending that current approaches towards environmental conservation have been ‘haphazard’ and that the need for serious action must be emphasized to the public.
In his introduction, Lee uses a quote from the United Nations in conjunction with a rhetorical question to pinpoint the focus of his speech; the failure of the last convention in galvanising environmental action. In addition, this introduction is coupled with the opening slide. On the slide is the year ‘2010’ in a bold stylised font with the silhouettes of a tree, a flamingo, fish and two humans holding hands which together represent biodiversity. The honest, probing tone of Lee’s introduction with this idealistic image of biodiversity in the background is designed to evoke shame in his audience as Lee highlights their failure to stand up for environmental conservation. These techniques establish the undercurrent of humiliation Lee uses to make his audience regret their inaction.
By being upfront and honest Lee implies he is reasonable and is facing the facts. He admits that the aims of the Biodiversity conference have been “idealistic” and points out statistics which imply huge environmental losses over the past hundred years. This admission forces his audience to acknowledge that Lee is being realistic, which prevents them from being dismissive of his claims. Given that his audience consists of “leaders in the area of biodiversity” Lee acknowledges their expertise stating “We know this”; simultaneously crediting the audience’s knowledge and identifying himself as one of them through the use of personal pronouns ‘we’ and ‘our’. This combination of techniques positions the audience to view the speaker as one of them, making the audience feel that they are all accountable and part of a team – a notion which is further conveyed when Lee states that a “lack of unity” has contributed to the situation. Since Lee has identified himself as part of the audience’s team, he has positioned the reader to accept his contention for the sake of unity and commitment.
Lee continues to challenge the ‘haphazard approach’ towards environmental preservation, implying that the “Wonderful words, glossy brochures, inspiring documentaries” have been superficial and insubstantial, describing commitments such as those made at the 2002 conference as ‘’faint promises’’. Following this criticism, Lee proposes a rhetorical question designed to make his audience reflect and accept the faults in such inaction. Lee then appeals to the audience’s sense of guilt by reminding them of the consequences of the failure to preserve the environment. In doing so, the audience is made to feel that supporting Lee’s contention is the way to helping humanity, particularly those who are most vulnerable – the poor. By highlighting that ‘over 1.1 billion people remain in extreme poverty’