By Emily Erickson
I’ve been thinking about my high school English class a lot lately and the care my teacher, Mrs. Auch, took in instructing us on the proper way to write a persuasive essay. In the methodological, formulaic approach to crafting a compelling argument, we learned not only how to write but, also, the amount of work and care that should go into having an opinion.
In writing a persuasive essay, the first element to develop is the argument the writer is trying to make. This argument should be concise enough to fit into a single statement and is called the thesis. For example, I’d begin the essay-writing process with a thesis like, “Gentrification is inevitable in resort mountain towns that take a ‘hands-off’ approach to growth.”
But, before diving into an argument, information and resources supporting the thesis need to be gathered. Peer-reviewed articles, journals from accredited institutions, and data sets collected in a context that’s relevant to the population about which the author is writing should be evaluated and sourced. Powerful statistics and quotes that make the argument more compelling should be extrapolated and, in their research, the writer should strive to develop a deep and nuanced understanding of the topic.
After a thesis is developed and resources are gathered, the essay can begin to take shape. An introductory paragraph detailing the thesis and its context is followed by the supporting body paragraphs.
In my example about resort town gentrification, I’d begin with describing the types of people migrating to rural mountain areas. I’d reference the Journal of the West article entitled, “The persistent frontier & the rural gentrification of the Rocky Mountain West,” by J. Dwight Hines, which states, “In general, contemporary urban-to-rural migration is an amalgam of several different processes. In-migrants to Park County [Montana] over the last two decades include members of: (a) the national wealthy-elite; (b) the cultural elite; (c) the retirement set; and (d) the middle class.”
With this, I’d assert that migration to beautiful rural areas, especially those with resort-quality amenities, is not a new phenomenon — the results of which have been modeled in towns across the North American west for decades.
In my next paragraph, I’d describe the effect that resort-town migration typically has on existing communities, beginning with pressure on the housing market. Citing the peer-reviewed article “Resort-induced Changes in Small Mountain Communities in British Columbia, Canada,” by Sanjay Nepal and Tazin Jamal, I’d share, “Resort accommodations and second homes are seen as putting further pressure on existing home stock and driving real estate prices. This has made it difficult for many long-time residents to maintain their property, whereas, for [non-wealthy] newcomers, property is simply unaffordable.”
I’d argue that rising housing prices and lack of affordable housing are nearly always followed by staffing shortages in working-class industries — consequently creating greater demand than supply for basic amenities like hair appointments, restaurant seats and routine car maintenance. I’d highlight the ubiquitousness of this phenomenon, and its exacerbation by COVID-19, with remote work and pandemic protocols accelerating the urban to resort-rural migration.
I’d share quotes from the recently published article, “More mountain towns taking drastic measures to address housing shortages,” published by Rocky Mountain PBS, like, “This housing crisis all came to a head during the last year. Housing shortages in mountain towns have been building up for years, but the pandemic pushed it over the edge,” and, “it’s gentrification on steroids … You actually lose long-term residents; you lose people who have been here for generations and that’s the more important impact.”
Before I could conclude, however, I’d have to incorporate the last element of a persuasive essay: the counterargument. To be truly persuasive, the writer must make a concerted effort to disprove their own thesis to test its durability. This helps prevent the writer from taking a narrow view of the point they’re trying to make.
In my example, I’d propose that maybe gentrification is inevitable in resort mountain towns, regardless of intervention. Towns like Crested Butte, Colo., which declared a housing emergency in June to help bypass zoning and regulation that stymies fast action planning, and posed a moratorium on short-term rentals (STRs), still assert greater interventions as being necessary.
But mountain-town gentrification intervention efforts, when more aggressive, like government-incentivized development programs, imposed regulations on STRs and community-led initiatives to support working populations, are paired with absolute buy-in that the character of the mountain town is worth preserving — perhaps gentrification can be slowed, and growth can be molded with intention.
Finally, a persuasive essay finishes with a conclusion. It ties up the argument and validates the writer’s perspective by demonstrating the effort put into having, and asserting, an opinion.
So, is gentrification inevitable in resort mountain towns that take a ‘hands-off’ approach to growth? I think that’s a thesis worth writing an essay about.
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