Each fall the Major League Baseball postseason reintroduces me to alcohol and automobile advertising. Advertising is our most popular art form and, as a result, every American is comfortable critiquing commercials (even those who remain reluctant to discuss paintings, novels, or films). As a stubborn idealist, I'd rather opt out of the conversation altogether, but I'm compelled to comment on Chevrolet's recent alternative fuel vehicles television spots.
Like the other major motor companies, Chevy is ramping up alternative fuel advertising in an effort to earn "green" stripes, but (no surprise here) they fudge the facts. For example, in the commercial for Chevy's e85 ethanol line, a user-friendly spokesman tells a group of children that the biofuel vehicle is "vegetarian." That label is disingenuous. No matter what the captains of industry claim, biofuel is not an environmentally sensitive option. George Monbiot, a vigilant activist and journalist, has been crying foul on this front for years, even when most environmental groups were still touting biofuel as a promising alternative.
But, among environmentalists, consensus is slow in coming and, having been reached, even slower to result in an about-face. Because Americans and Europeans are at last embracing gasoline alternatives, environmental activists are nervous about backtracking, even as news from the lands of palm and sugarcane grows more dire. Consider this recent piece from the Manchester Guardian.
"Until now palm oil - of which 83% is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia - was produced for food. But the European Union's aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020, partly by demanding that 10% of vehicles be fuelled by biofuels, will see a fresh surge in palm oil demand that could doom the rainforests.I stopped eating meat - i.e., became a vegetarian - because of the wasteful, unethical way meat comes to the plate in our time. Given the equally destructive reality of biofuel production, I wince as I watch the Chevy commercials, worried that most well-meaning people associate the vehicles with positive change rather than, among other sins, the slaughter of orangutans by hungry have-nots.
That is likely to kill off the 'flagship species' of wildlife such as the Asian elephant, the Sumatran tiger and the orang-utan of Borneo which are already under enormous pressure from habitat loss. Plantation owners regard the orang-utan as pests because it eats the young palm oil plants and hunt them down ruthlessly."
Sure, the car is vegetarian. Industrialized capitalism, however, is anything but.
Photo credit: ripped from ABC Australia