I'm including here three letters I wrote in 1998 addressing a usually overloked enviromental problem, a problem that still exists and still needs to be addressed.
July 1, 1998
Mr. Tom Shealey, Editor
33 E. Minor St.
Emmaus, PA 18098
Inside the back cover of the June issue of Backpacker is a two page advertisement for Jeep. The background image for the advertisement is a picture of a rugged alpine mountain range with small rectangular pictures of three Jeeps and a mountain goat superimposed over the mountain. The image also contains markers indicating where the viewer should imagine the Jeeps and the goat being located on the mountain.
An advertisement such as this one which strongly suggests that it's acceptable to use Jeeps or other four wheel drive vehicles in steep, alpine mountain areas is environmentally irresponsible. The use of motorized vehicles in alpine areas is enormounsly destructive to the environment. Alpine areas, because of the steep incline, are subject to serious erosion. The vegetation there is fragile, has a very short growing season and a slow growth rate. Damage done by the tires of any motorized vehicle can be extensive and long lasting.
Backpacker Magazine should have an environmental ethic which prohibit promoting this kind of destructive advertising. Environmental protection is in the long term interest of Backpacker and its readers. Advertisements for Jeep or other sports utility vehicles should be limited to depicting them being used on established roads, not on steep pristine alpine slopes. Thank you.
July 8, 1998
Mr. Perkins Miller, Editor
5520 Park Avenue
Turnbull, Ct 06611-0395
On Page 9 of the Spring/Summer issue of Snow Country is a one page advertisement for the Lincoln Navigator. The image is of a Navigator on a rocky alpine slope with clouds just beyond the vehicle, and beyond the clouds is a distant mountain range. The implied, if not stated, message for the reader is if they want to get away into the mountain wilderness, the vehicle to use is the Navigator. The picture is attractive and the vehicle appears capable.
Unfortunately an advertisement like this one, which strongly suggest that it's acceptable to use Navigators or other four-wheel drive vehicles in steep alpine mountain areas, is environmentally irresponsible. The use of motor vehicles in alpine areas is enormously destrictive to the environment. Alpine areas, because of the steep incline, are subject to serious erosion. The vegetation there is fragile, has a very short growing season, and a slow growth rate. Damage done by the tires of any motorized vehicle can be extensive and long-lasting.
A four-wheel drive manufacturer who advertises his product by showing it being used on environmentally sensitive alpine areas is acting as irresponsible as a syringe manufacturer would be if he advertised his product with a photograph of a drug addict shooting up. Another comparison would be with a beer manufacturer promoting his product with a photograph of a fatal accident caused by a drunk driver. Advertising a product with an image of the product being used in some irresponsible manner does not speak favorably of the manufacturer, the product, or the publication displaying the advertisement.
Snow Country should have an environmental ethic which prohibits promoting this kind of destructive advertising. Environmental protection is in the long-term interest of Snow Country and its readers. Advertisements for Navigators or other sports utility vehicles should be limited to depicting them being used on established roads, not on steep pristine alpine slopes. Thank you.
August 27, 1998
Mr. Shoichiro Toyoda, Chairman
Toyota Motor Corp.
Toyota, Japan 471
Recently I've been noticing the advetisements for the Lexus V8 LX 470 spots utility vehicle in US publications, and I have some concerns about the way that vehicle is depicted in those advertisements.
For example, the one on pages ten and eleven of the April, 1998 issue of Town and Country is a darkly colored image of the LX 470 under a tree which also has a couple of menacing-looking alligators on a thick branch of the tree directly above the LX 470. The caption includes the following sentence, "Let nature worry about you for a change."
Another advertisement is on pages eight and nine of the May/June 1998 issue of Mountain Summer, a special issue of Ski Magazine. This image also depicts the LX 470 as being in competition with nature. It displays another dark image of the LX 470 on a diagonal path through a forest, and all the trees on either side of the vehicle are bent away from the SUV at a sharp angle. The caption includes the sentence, "Now with added intimidation." Another sentence in smaller print says, "You can go through or over pretty much anything."
I realize that these images are probably computer generated and no animals or plants were damaged in producing them. I'm also aware that your company has a reputation for manufactuing quality vehicles, and even though I've never driven or even ridden in a LX 470, I'm sure it's a fine SUV.
However I'm concerned about the depiction of a modern sports utility vehicle as being in competiton with nature. I'm sure some people will get a laugh from the image of the LX 470 with alligators since, although I'm not a reptile expert, I don't believe alligators can climb trees.
However we all know that the use of motor vehicles with internal combustion engines already have a destructive impact on nature. Fossil fuels are burned to power them, which releases sustances that contribute to the greenhouse effect and to air pollution. The construction and maintenance of roads for motorized vehicles to use also damages the natural environment.
Advertising the LX 470 as being a threat to, or in competition with, nature seems to be a questionable way of promoting sales. It could give the LX 470 a bad image. It could also be interpreted from the advertisements that the LX 470 threat to nature is more than just an advertising tactic, that perhaps it is just a very subtle way of telling the public that the LX 470 pollutes more than most vehicles, or gets poorer gas mileage.
It seems to me that it would be wise for vehicle manufacturers to reduce the destructive effect that their product has on the environment as much as possible. It would also be wise to advertise those vehicles with images, and with captions to the images, that does not encourage them being used in ways that cause further harm to the environment. Users of sports utility vehicles should definitely not be encouraged to "go through or over pretty much anything." An advertising approach like that is environmentally irresponsible, and may contribute to "road rage" which threatens other motorists as well as the environment.
Images which depict the LX 470 being used in ways that harmonize with the environment would present a positive impression of the LX 470 and enhance the public image of your company. I do appreciate the fact that I haven't seen advertisements of the LX 470 being used in fragile mountainous alpine areas, which is how some manufacturers have advertised their SUV's.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and consider my comments.
Recently I spent some times scanning issues of magazines checking advertisements for SUVs and found that there has been some improvement in the way SUVs are advertised. However at least one publication still has a problem with advertising SUVs in a responsible manner. That publication is SKI. The March/April 2008 issue of SKI on page 26 and 27 had a two-page advertisement of a Range Rover perched on the edge of a cliff in the Grossglockner, Austrian Alps "most imposing range." The caption asks, "Have you ever seen the curvature of the earth?" "The Range Rover has." This, of course, encourages the use of the Range Rover in alpine areas which is environmentally irresponsible unless used on established roads, which was definitely not happening in this image. Also the October, 2006 issue of SKI, which I was surprised to find two copies of on a newstand on March 13, 2008, had inside the front cover a two page advertisement of the Chevy Tahoe 271 being used on a flat snow-covered alpine setting between high peaks. Some change still is needed. I'll be contacting SKI at http://www.skinet.com/.