George Lakoff (1993: 203) has described metaphor as “a major and indispensable part of our ordinary conventional way of conceptualizing the world”. But, as Charteris-Black (2005: 13) explains, this conceptualizing is not simply a neutral cognitive act. Politicians, for example, understand the potential of metaphor as a persuasive rhetorical figure. In the topical public debate on the environment, where environmental discourse has achieved a certain currency thanks to the actions of pressure groups such as Greenpeace, metaphors have a key role to play in influencing attitudes. This study explores the construction of environmental discourse in a recent white paper from the British government, with a special emphasis on the persuasive power of the metaphors used. It suggests that to use the notion of “value” as a key metaphor is a questionable rhetorical strategy on many levels, though it may have some persuasive power in the corporate sphere.
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