Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Beware False Idles: Ads for Cars Now Show Them in Tune with Nature Instead of Conquering It, but Either Way, the Car Is a Dubious Environmental Hero

Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Beware False Idles: Ads for Cars Now Show Them in Tune with Nature Instead of Conquering It, but Either Way, the Car Is a Dubious Environmental Hero

Article excerpt

WHEN I WAS a teenager, I subscribed to Car and Driver magazine for several years. I still have my collection in a box in the attic. Back then it was European and Japanese sports cars (and a disdain for muscle cars) that fueled my dreams. In reality, I learned to drive in my parents' enormous blue Ford LTD V8 station wagon from the 1970s. I shudder to think about the things I did with that car.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

As an environmentally concerned adult, I have had to reconcile my emotional attachment to cool cars with my professional knowledge of the automobile's devastating planetary impacts. Not having much money as a grad student helped. The many hours I spent with duct tape, Bondo and rust primer, and in garages caring for my beaters (a Civic and an Escort), cured me of most of my passion for the road. These days, we have a distinctly uncool and ungreen Sienna. I wish we didn't have to own a car at all. I mostly bike or walk to work, but the car is damn convenient, especially with kids and their friends to transport.

I still dream about cool cars a bit, and these days I can feel slightly less conflicted. Hybrids are commonplace, mainstream all-electric vehicles are hitting the showrooms, and eco-minded technical innovation is exploding. The Tesla Roadster is every bit as exciting as a Porsche 911 Carrera. But since I'm not buying, I mostly just enjoy the very entertaining advertising for this new wave of green wheels. If I allowed myself to be taken in by it, however, I would have to turn in my green union card.

Before I get to the eco-car hype, let's step back a decade or two to a time when our culture was marginally less environmentally concerned. Remember the humble SUV and the ubiquitous imagery of Jeeps, Explorers and Hummers traversing landscapes of every kind, from mountaintops to deserts? …

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