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You’ve certainly seen this advertisement or social media video before: an SUV or light truck racing down a winding gravel road in the wilderness or parked right by the lake or on the beach. These kinds of vehicles are supposed to be “great” in conquering or dominating nature.

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An SUV with a cheerful young couple inside is moving towards a mountainside while carrying a canoe on the roof and a bicycle on the back. Just a V6 engine with next-generation all-wheel drive is required to complete this happy image.

SUVs and Light Trucks Dominate Car Sales

Someone might add another gas-guzzler to Canada’s inventory of automobiles after watching TV advertising portraying SUVs navigating mud, snow, or ascending a difficult mountain. This is not an exception. Light-duty trucks (SUVs, pickups, crossovers, and minivans) have increased by 144% on the nation’s roadways since 2010.

The International Energy Agency claims that “during the previous ten years, the share of SUVs has doubled due to a rapid move towards bigger and heavier cars. As a result, there are currently more than 200 million SUVs worldwide, up from roughly 35 million in 2010, and they have made nearly 60% of the growth in the global car fleet since 2010. SUVs now account for almost 40% of yearly auto sales, up from under 20% ten years ago.

At a historic rate of more than 3-to-1, new trucks are outpacing new cars in sales. Owners of sedans, hatchbacks, coupes, and convertibles may eventually need periscopes to see over all the new trucks on the road if things continue at this rate. According to Motor Intelligence, light trucks currently accounted for 96% of Ford Motor Co. sales until November 2021. It is an increase from 90% a year earlier.

Nearly four out of every five cars sold in Canada in 2020 will be light-duty trucks. Even if these vehicles emit a lot of pollution, it’s possible that we choose them because marketing uses every trick in the book to persuade us to. The Canadian car industry invested $1.6 billion in digital PR in 2019, which was the second-largest investment of its sort in the nation. And to promote light-duty trucks, 79% of this budget was used.

Why Do People Purchase Big SUVs? 

This issue was covered in a Wired article that was initially published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and is a project of the Climate Desk.

What draws people to SUVs? Manufacturers make more money from customers who purchase them compared to smaller automobiles. SUVs are less manoeuvrable and cost more to operate than passenger cars because of their weight and boxy design, which also makes them less fuel-efficient. Some people feel safer in a car that is elevated above the ground, but according to Consumer Reports, SUVs are more likely to flip over than automobiles because of the raised centre of gravity. Some folks desire an SUV because they feel safer in inclement weather with an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive option. In actuality, many drivers would be better off with front-wheel drive and appropriate tyres rather than this pricey and fuel-economy-decreasing equipment.

SUV Safety Myths 

  • A brand-new SUV is unprepared for difficult trail terrain. A Toyota 4Runner needs around $3,000 worth of body armour to be prepared for an off-road assault.
  • SUVs are more likely to roll over on rocky terrain.
  • Most SUVs are just slightly better than conventional cars at handling it.
  •  Larger does not always imply safer when it comes to sport utility vehicles. SUVs are becoming more and more popular as “family cars,” in part because many parents feel that the extra size of these vehicles offers their children more security. A recent study, however, refutes such a notion.
  •   Researchers at Wilmington, Delaware’s A. I. Dupont Hospital for Children found that, contrary to popular belief, SUVs do not offer better protection for child occupants than passenger automobiles.
  • Almost 72,000 kids under the age of 15 had their traffic accident records examined by the group, which was led by Lauren Daly. According to the study published in the journal Pediatrics, “the potential safety benefit of SUVs coming from their heavier weight seems to be countered by other considerations, particularly the increased tendency of SUVs to flip over in a catastrophe.

Environmental Damage

According to a NASA study, cars are the world’s biggest net polluter when it comes to climate change. The report stated, “Cars, buses, and trucks contribute pollutants and greenhouse gases that cause warming, while producing little aerosols that prevent it. Contrarily, the industrial and power sectors emit many of the same gases, contributing more to global warming, but they also release sulphates and other aerosols that chill the planet by reflecting light and changing clouds.

In other words, the electricity sector may have released the most greenhouse emissions overall. But, it also emitted such a large amount of sulphates and cooling aerosols that, according to NASA, the overall effect was less than the vehicle industry.

In order to reduce general air pollution, developed nations have since reduced their use of those cooling aerosols, which is likely to have increased the net climate pollution of the power generation sector. Nonetheless, the US transportation sector—which includes cars, trucks, planes, trains, ships, and freight—produces about 30% of all US global warming emissions, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, accounting for “roughly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions” combined.

According to a study by the Rhodium Grouptransportation is currently the main cause of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, and it has been for the past two years.

“These are the gigantic cars that have ruled the world,” writes Oliver Millman in The Guardian. The sports utility vehicle, or SUV, has ploughed its way to automobile supremacy with a heady mix of convenience and marketing clout, conquering even the twisty, tiny streets of Europe and spreading from the heartlands of the US to a new generation of eager purchasers in China. Because of how quickly the SUV has become the world’s most popular vehicle, the effects of this new status, including how urban life has changed, air quality, pedestrian safety, and where to park the vehicles, are still becoming clear. Yet it’s becoming more and more obvious that the climate catastrophe is where SUVs are having their most significant impact, as their rising popularity is creating a huge new source of emissions that are heating the world.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) claims that SUVs, which are typically the only vehicles to tower larger than them on the road, were the second largest contributor to the global rise in carbon dioxide emissions over the past ten years, surpassing all forms of shipping, aviation, heavy industry, and even trucks.

It is beyond surprise how its increase is affecting world emissions. Over the past ten years, the global SUV fleet’s emissions have increased by over 0.55 Gt CO2 to about 0.7 Gt CO2. SUVs were ranked ahead of heavy industry (including iron & steel, cement, and aluminum), trucks, and aviation as the second-largest contributor to the growth in global CO2 emissions since 2010.

In actuality, the 3.3 million barrels per day increase in oil demand from passenger cars between 2010 and 2018 was entirely driven by SUVs, whereas oil consumption from other types of cars (apart from SUVs) actually decreased significantly. SUVs will increase the world’s oil demand by about 2 million barrels per day by 2040, negating the savings from nearly 150 million electric cars, if consumer demand for them grows at the same rate as it has over the past ten years. The IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, acknowledged that the global increase in SUVs is complicating attempts to limit emissions.

The New Urban Mobility Alliance researcher Sebastian Castellanos who computed the emissions said, “To avoid the worst of the climate calamity, the transport sector needs to be entirely decarbonized. We are eroding even further from our aim of decarbonizing the sector, according to the rise in SUV sales.

According to Daniel Melling, who wrote an essay for Legal Planet, “automobiles are still the primary means of access to Mineral King and the remainder of the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park park, contributing along with heavy traffic in the San Joaquin Valley to awful local air pollution. has regularly more annual days with harmful air than Los Angeles, and the park keeps a separate Twitter account to alert visitors about its poor air quality.

Cutting vehicle pollution deserves a boost on state and federal climate policy agendas, which the sector ofttimes neglects, given that the U.S. auto industry is committed to bigger cars powered by fossil fuels (a recent Reuters investigation of Ford and GM’s production plans found electric vehicles were anticipated to make up only 5% of their vehicle sales five years from now) and the SUV trend ranking as the second largest contributor to growth in greenhouse gas emissions in the last decade.

A light-duty truck emits, on average, 31% more greenhouse gases (GHG) than a regular car, according to the same Équiterre analysis. It’s not surprising that the transportation sector is the second-largest emitter of GHG in the nation, after only the oil industry, given the prevalence of this kind of vehicle.

Garbage and Waste

 Garbage and waste are growing issues in nature, especially in campgrounds and national parks. The issue is made worse when access to these is made easier by trails and dirt roads that Vehicles can go on since an SUV can carry a lot more trash than a hiker on foot.

The air quality in over 85% of the 423 national parks is deemed dangerous for both human and animal health.

Many tourists to U.S. national parks each year are looking for clean air, an untainted environment, and an audible break from the regular metropolitan clamour. But despite their stunning appearance, these cherished areas of protected land are struggling with a mounting trash issue that could endanger the populations of already endangered plants and animals.

The National Park Service manages more than 100 million pounds of waste annually from park operations and visitors, according to Andrea Walton, a spokesperson for the organization. The Statue of Liberty could be filled 1,800 times with that amount. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, of that trash, 40.7% is organic (i.e., food), followed by 21.6% paper and cardboard, 17% plastics, 6.6% glass, and 14% other reusable or recyclable goods such food packaging, gas tanks, and camping equipment.

Using Nature to Market SUVs 

But marketers are aware that nature sells. In 68.2% of Canadian commercials for light-duty vehicles, nature may be seen, according to a survey by Équiterre. Vehicles travel along a dry riverbed, along the trails of a far-off forest, or to the top of a mountain. They aren’t trying to sell us a car; rather, it’s a way of life, a ticket to adventure, and a pass to an unrestricted universe.

Shane Gunster, a professor at Simon Fraser University, explores publicists’ “manipulative use of natural imagery to promote an ecologically disastrous form of technology” in his article “‘You Belong Outside’: Advertising, Nature, and the SUV,” which was published in the journal Ethics and the Environment.

Gunster asserts that marketers use the idea of the wild to sell the (utopian) notion that their goods can rescue us from the misery of urban living.

According to Gunster, the greatest paradox is that they are trying to get us to engage in consumption in order to address a problem that capitalism itself created. Cars pose a severe threat to the same nature that was exploited to market them to us, which is the issue now more than ever.

“Car makers utilize our love of the great outdoors to promote some of the most gas-guzzling and polluting automobiles around,” writes Kyle Norris in The Environment Report. Have you ever noticed how frequently nature appears in auto commercials? The vehicle being offered is constantly scaling a boulder or ploughing through the muck.

Here’s an example: a Jeep Renegade commercial A seal that is stuck on the ice is discovered by a man with a Native American appearance as he drives through some rough terrain. (Commercial:) It endows you with the capacity to master nature. You worried that he would harm the seal as he drew near and held a harpoon above his head. (Commercial:) “…as well as the capacity to safeguard it.” (chirping and hooting). Instead, he drills a hole in the ice, and a second seal emerges from the hole to rejoin the first. The sound of crickets chirping and an owl hooting signals the end of the advertisement.

The purpose of the advertisement is to sell the car, not to foster a relationship with nature.

Norris entails The auto industry continues to rely on famous images of America’s great outdoors to sell cars, a tactic used with particularly impressive effectiveness for high-polluting SUVs.

Factors that Make SUVs Dangerous on Nature Trails 

  • The risk to hikers increases as the number of SUVs and hikers on the paths increases.
  • The majority of trails are not governed by traffic regulations or signs.
  •  SUV drivers prefer to drive more quickly because they feel safer in their larger vehicles.
  • On curvy, narrow routes, SUV drivers frequently fail to notice oncoming traffic.
  •  SUV drivers have trouble seeing pedestrians on the side of the road or trail.
  • Trail surfaces and shoulders are frequently damaged by SUV wheels.
  • SUVs have a greater centre of gravity than conventional vehicles, making them more susceptible to rollover accidents when they make rapid swerves or turns.

The Impact of Gender Types

The industry discovered that even though half of all US trips are routine trips of under three miles to run errands rather than adrenaline-pumping adventures in the Rocky Mountains, American drivers enjoy the lofty seating position of SUVs as well as the capacity and the comforting feel of security their bulk provides. Many People associate SUVs with attractive traits of toughness and independence.

Vehicles are frequently purchased for purposes that have little to do with functioning. An SUV is often seen as a status symbol.

In the US, 62% of all new car purchases are made by women. But if you saw a typical vehicle advertisement, you wouldn’t be able to know that.

Automakers have viewed men as their major market for almost as long as there have been cars, even as the feminist movement’s victories have given more and more women control over their own finances. Yet these advertisements don’t just target guys with their language. It uses the most harmful manifestations of toxic masculinity’s pervasiveness in our culture to influence males and anybody else who subscribes to it. These views extend beyond the car-buying industry and into the driving culture as a whole.

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Not all car advertisements included macho rhetoric and pictures of tough men driving over mountainsides. The first vehicle advertisements emphasized the advantages of switching from horses to horsepower in terms of practicality:

A GM commercial depicts masculinity throughout the entire storyline. Only four guys have managed to survive the end of the world. They are all muscular males that drive Chevy trucks. Several of them have scruffy beards and mud and ashes all over their clothes. It’s amazing how they manage to survive thanks to the Chevy trucks. The reason this heroic deed is regarded as macho is that only the strongest will survive. The automaker is demonstrating to the public that having a Chevy makes anything possible. Chevrolet’s tagline is “Chevy runs deep,” as well. This catchphrase, which is macho since it enables the trucks to be driven everywhere, clearly states that their vehicles can and will survive everything. Hence, using these cars to drive off the road in the woods, which some guys find amusing, is possible.

In contrast to its 2005 version, this 2015 commercial promoting the new and improved (and 20% heavier) Chevy Colorado doesn’t quite as overtly promote insulting “no homo” stereotypes.

A focus group of selectively edited everyday Americans are shown images of the same actor standing in front of two cars: the incredibly awesome and tough Chevy Colorado and a puny sedan for weak emasculated babies in the commercial, which aired during the 50th Superbowl and was in circulation for at least two years.

Then, they are questioned in an indirect manner about the two drivers, who are actually the same person. Whom do they find more seductive? (All chose the truck driver, even, ominously, the focus group was made completely of youngsters). Which vehicle would survive a zombie apocalypse better? (Obviously, the truck, is made to obliterate human remains, both alive and dead.)

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But according to nine out of ten consumers, SUV advertising is “too manly,” according to research by AutoTrader.

SUV City 

This new reality is the logical conclusion to a century of lobbying and prodding by the automobile industry to transform American city streets from raucous communal spaces shared by pedestrians, market stands, and early vehicles into mega-highways that disproportionately cut through communities of colour; where jaywalking is a crime; and where so much space is needed for the 95% of the time our cars sit idle that Los Angeles, for example, devotes an area larger than the land mass to it.

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Europe, with its more deeply ingrained culture of walking, bicycling, and public transportation, is currently mounting a backlash against SUVs, with demonstrations held in Germany over the cars’ climate impact and calls in the UK, home of the insult “Chelsea tractor,” for a tobacco-style ban on advertising SUVs because they spew out enormous volumes of air pollutants that lodge harmful particles in the lungs and can even cause brain damage.

Final Thoughts

There’s an unpleasant irony that is current. On the one hand, there is the greatest awareness of the need to address climate change and preserve our natural environment, particularly with respect to ongoing damage of the oil and gas industries, and at the same time, more and more people are buying gas-guzzling, polluting large SUVs oblivious to the harm caused by this decision. It is a hypocrisy that needs to be addressed—and quickly.