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GRE Argument Essay: West Egg Town Council - With A Free Essay Review

Prompt: 'The following appeared in a memorandum written by the chairperson of the West Egg Town Council. "Two years ago, consultants predicted that West Egg's landfill, which is used for garbage disposal, would be completely filled within five years. During the past two years, however, the town's residents have been recycling twice as much material as they did in previous years. Next month the amount of recycled material—which includes paper, plastic, and metal—should further increase, since charges for pickup of other household garbage will double. Furthermore, over 90 percent of the respondents to a recent survey said that they would do more recycling in the future. Because of our town's strong commitment to recycling, the available space in our landfill should last for considerably longer than predicted."

Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.

The chairperson of the West Egg Town Council has concluded that the avaialble space in the landfill would last longer than predicted, but has not provided strong evidednce from which such a conclusion can be arrived at. First, the assumption that the amount of recycled material would increase further does not have any supporting evidence. Just because the people are charged double for picking up garbage that cannot be recycled doesn't mean that people would use only materials that can be recycled. There are people who can afford to pay even triple the cost for picking up garbage and even other people may try and pay double charge for collecting grabage as they may be sluggish to sort out the recycled materials and other materials and use the recycled materials. The evidence that the people are actually interested in using recycled material is not provieded here. One evidence could be the number of people from town who attended the public meeting where usage of recycled material was discussed. Such evidence would have helped in coming to a conclusion on how many people are really interested in keeping their town clean. This would help strengthen the argument if people are interested in recycling and hence the conclusion that amount of recycled material would increase.

The next statement without evidence is about the percentage of respondants who said that they would do more recycling in future. There is no figures of number people who reponded or number of residents of the town. If the number of people who responded is more than half of the people who reside in the town and if out of those respondents, 90 percent said that they would do more recycling in future, then this would strengthen the argument. If the number of respondents itself is very low, then positive response from 90 percent of them cannot be taken into consideration for concluding that people would do more recycling in future and this would weaken the argument.

Finally, the chairperson has stated that people of the town have strong commitment to recycling and concluded that available state in the landfill would last longer than predicted. Again, there is no evidence that people in the town have commitment to recycling. One possible evidence that could confirm this assumption true may be a survey taken throughout the town to see how many people are committed to recycling the garbage. This could strengthen the argument if the number of people showing commitment in the town is more. Otherwise this evidence would weaken the argument. Hence without these supporting evidences the conclusion at which the chairperson has arrived is not convincing.


Essay Review

Remember that your focus here should be on identifying the specific evidence that would be needed to evaluate the argument; your purpose is not actually to evaluate the argument, but to explain what evidence would be needed to evaluate it. So given this particular prompt, there is little value in claiming that the "chairperson ... has not provided strong evidence" or even in claiming specifically that one of the assumptions of the argument "does not have any supporting evidence." Instead, say what evidence you would like to see and explain how you would use it to evaluate the argument.

It is not true in any case that the claim that more material will be recycled has no supporting evidence. As you note in your next paragraph, there is a survey that suggests that residents will "do more recycling in the future." You might be skeptical of such surveys and so question the value of the evidence, but you cannot question the existence of the evidence. There is also the claim that the increase in the cost of waste disposal will cause people to recycle more. Again, one can be skeptical, as you are, of this particular claim.

Note, however, that the claim is not that people will necessarily use more recyclable material, but only that they will recycle more. Presumably one of the things that we would need to find out in order to evaluate the recommendation, in addition to further evidence of the actual level of interest in recycling that you mention, would be the amount of recyclable material that currently gets disposed with the trash, and the amount of non-recyclable goods for which there are recyclable alternatives.

Note that identifying such evidence does not complete the assigned task. We also need to explain how we would use the evidence to evaluate the argument. In your essay, you explain briefly how you would use the evidence you identify in order to evaluate the assumptions of the argument that you find questionable. You don't specify how the evidence would help you evaluate the argument's conclusion.

The final paragraph is a good example of this problem. You question the claim that the townsfolk have shown commitment to recycling, suggesting that there is no evidence of this commitment (which is not strictly true; there is the fact that recycling has increased, and there is the result of the survey). You suggest another survey. That seems like a relatively weak suggestion to me given that a survey has already been conducted which could reasonably be understood to measure commitment to recycling.

The bigger problem, however, is that you don't explain how such a survey would help evaluate the argument. You explain that it would help justify the chairperson's faith in the commitment of the townsfolk to recycling, but how would it help you evaluate the claim that the landfill will last longer the previously predicted? You need to answer that question.

Presumably the answer depends not only on the level of commitment to recycling but also, obviously, on the extent to which recycling could in principle reduce the production of garbage in the town.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: shree_2012

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