January 2008 Archives

Concept Emissions Control

In Elizabeth Kolbert's book, "Field Notes from a Catastrophe" she reported on global warming as it affected communities throughout the world. Her clear descriptions of global warming cut through denialist's claims, which at the time were still effectively muddying public understanding of climate change. She first published the book as a three part series in the New Yorker in 2005. She was not upbeat in her conclusions: "It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we're now in the process of doing"

In a more recent New Yorker, December 24/31 issue, Kolbert reported on Al Gore's Nobel Prize acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize. In his address, Gore acknowledged that we're doing good work but face an uphill battle in tackling climate change:

"today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun."

Gore did not end on that note, but elaborated his call to arms. Kolbert however, used Gore's statement of the current problem, from which he launched the rest of his speech, as her article's final paragraph.

Therefore, with Kolbert's take on the somber piece of Gore's message in mind, I was even more affected by the full page Nissan Maxima ad that followed her article two pages later (19mpg city/24mpg highway). Then a couple of pages after that was the four page Chrysler insert presenting some "celebs" who were taking their 3 kids on a road trip to see the Griffith Light Show. Chrysler says its Town & Country minivan "knows how to let the good times roll". (16mpg city/23mpg highway). The article on Gore was preceded by the two page Lexis LS ad (16 mpg city/24 mpg highway).

The prominent message, therefore, which yields hundreds of thousands of dollars for the New Yorker, is about shiny new cars. Pages of car ads that fail to mention a whit about MPG ratings or emissions. So readers may indeed read Kolbert's fine print about Gore's speech and about how critical it is for the US to act on global warming. This is the challenge that many agree is the world's most pressing. But automobile manufacturer's don't even feign public attention to the challenge in their expensive glossy pages. And why would the New Yorker turn down the cash, I suppose?


Acronym Required has written previously on the environment and and consumer advertising, for instance: Cars: Buying Cognitive Dissonance".

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