find it disturbing that Chicago would tout its connection with
Social Research Inc. ("Consuming Interests," August/01).
Mindless and excessive consumption by an over-large human population
is rapidly destroying the planet's ecological function. To gloat
over spawning the type of research that led to modern advertising
is to gloat over an enormous contribution to the eco-crisis. I'm
is the type of thinking SRI promoted which now prods droves of
Americans to buy SUVs. They do not need the carrying or towing
capacity, nor the ability to drive over rugged terrain. In fact
the only terrain most cover is the smooth asphalt to the supermarket,
mall, work, and the kids' soccer practices. But advertising gives
them a fantasy world where they drive over boulders and through
creeks, crushing pristine nature under their tires as they go.
In this fantasy world, this imaginary and effortless crushing
somehow makes them lean, tough, and strong. In reality they remain
flabby, lazy, and fearful of everything-nature included-except
what they should fear most, namely what they are doing to their
is only one of many bad products sold to the gullible American
over the last 50 years. Where we once expected people to grow
up and leave off being told what to do by peers and immoral authority
figures, we now shrug our shoulders when a herd of adults do whatever
their televisions tell them to do, hang the future.
every American needs to be told is that it is simply immoral to
buy things he doesn't need, especially things which are unnecessarily
destructive to the environment. But what advertisers most want
to tell him is that he needs many unnecessary and even counterproductive
things, that he must be saved even from enjoyable activity if
this requires effort or thought. He can avoid walking anywhere,
preparing fresh and wholesome food, or using his limbs to do useful
things in the garden in peace and quiet. And since he has saved
himself so much labor, he must now buy a membership at the climate-controlled
gym to do useless motions lest he become weak and sickly. Always
there is an environmentally costly solution to a problem that
a little independent thinking and common sense could prevent in
the first place.
can chalk up to SRI and similar companies the fact that the modern
American is obsessed with "buying, owning, and displaying
consumer goods" to the exclusion of doing anything important
like saving the future; that he is a robotic tool of the advertisers
that shroud him in their messages; that he invariably chooses
what is faster over what is better and wiser, and what is most
convenient and comfortable for himself over what is right.
is funny that the article mentions colored toilet tissue. Once
I explained to an economist friend that colored toilet paper leads
to unnecessary pollution. He replied that "colored toilet
paper is what America is all about." (Some of us wish our
country would aim a little higher.) A nation once content to recycle
old Sears & Roebuck catalogs now requires quilted, scented,
and colored toilet tissue. If the rest of the world did likewise,
our forests would be destroyed so rapidly that earthly life-support
systems would fail.
multiplying our "needs" and sensitivities, advertising
is destroying our world. Until advertising focuses on motivating
people to consume less, and that more carefully, it will always
be the foe of those who would like to leave their children a livable
planet and a sustainable economy. Let's not tout the research
industry that created the monster of modern advertising-and Chicago's
role in creating it.