ARG-022

The following appeared in a letter to the editor of a journal on environmental issues.

"Over the past year, the Crust Copper Company (CCC) has purchased over 10,000 square miles of land in the tropical nation of West Fredonia. Mining copper on this land will inevitably result in pollution and, since West Fredonia is the home of several endangered animal species, in environmental disaster. But such disasters can be prevented if consumers simply refuse to purchase products that are made with CCC's copper unless the company abandons its mining plans."


Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.


According to the letter, the author argues that consumers can get Crust Copper Company (CCC) to abandon its West Fredonia (WF) mine simply by refusing to buy CCC’s products. In support of this view, the author claims that CCC’s opening of a copper mine at WF would lead to pollution, and due to the large number of endangered species at WF, CCC’s opening of a mine would be an environmental disaster for WF. Although the author’s proposal is beneficial to some extent, the author’s view is highly dependent on several assumptions that, if proven wrong, would severely weaken the author’s conclusion.


First, the author assumes that by mining in WF, CCC will necessarily bring pollution. However, this assumption is untenable. For example, we don’t know what CCC’s mineral extraction techniques are. Neither do we know how pollution is treated in the CCC. It is possible that CCC’s mining technology is so advanced that it can reduce pollution levels to international standards. Also, CCC may have very advanced pollutant handling practices that may transfer its pollutant into the harmless matter. In addition, there may be a very powerful environment department, whose regulations ensure that CCC mining will not bring severe pollution. If any of the aforementioned scenarios turns out to be true, the author’s assumption will be weakened, and thus the author’s conclusion will not be valid.


Second, the author points out that because there are many endangered species in WF, CCC mining will for sure bring about an environmental disaster. Here, the author assumes that CCC’s mines are very close to the habitat of endangered species. However, this assumption is untenable. WF itself may be a vast area, and endangered species’ habitat is very small. In this case, CCC could choose a place far away from endangered species’ habitats while ensuring its business. Therefore, the author’s assumption does not hold, and the conclusion does not hold as well.


Third, even if the above assumptions were correct, the author’s conclusion would still be overturned by another doubtful assumption, that local consumer boycotts of CCC products are feasible and effective. The author may be overly optimistic in assuming that this option is viable and productive. First of all, we cannot assume that local consumers will be able to identify the copper products produced by CCC. It is possible that the CCC is a supplier of copper, the raw material, to its downstream supply chain, and that the final products made in other factories do not indicate the source of the raw material. In addition, we cannot assume that CCC copper will be sold to local consumers, because CCC is a primarily export trading company. If any of these scenarios hold true, then the feasibility and validity of the author’s proposal would be diminished, and the conclusion would be challenged.


In conclusion, the author’s conclusion relies heavily on the various assumptions discussed above, which would undermine the conclusion's validity if proven wrong.


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