A Non-Green-Sports GSB News-Notes: Anti-Green Commercials That Annoy Me


I hope you will indulge me this one time as I go beyond the intersection of Green + Sports to write about a couple of ads running these days that really get under my skin. These commercials, which have nothing to do with sports, promote anti-green messages or behaviors, one in an insulting, in your face manner and, the other, in a very subliminal fashion. Not to worry, dear GreenSportsBlog reader: We will return to our regular, Green-Sports columns shortly.
Climate change is a real and serious threat to life as we know it, is human caused and humans need to take this on in a concerted way that would make the US’ World War II efforts look tame by comparison.
Sadly, while more people than ever before in the US and around the world are convinced that at least the italicized portion of the above is true or mostly true, not enough of us are putting enough pressure on enough political leaders to do enough fast enough.
Yes, the global agreement arrived at in Paris at December’s COP21 climate change conference is a significant political achievement and a decent starting point, in my opinion, but we need to go further, and much faster. And that ain’t easy. Why? Those trying to advance the pace of the climate change fight in this country face at least three intractable foes, long-term-ism, science and Politics Americana:

  1. Long-Term-ism: While climate change is certainly being felt in the here and now in some locales, it is largely seen as something that will turn catastrophic 20, 40, 70 years down the road, when many of the people alive now won’t be.
  2. Science: If you’re reading this blog, I’m sure you’ve heard or read the following: 97% of scientists working in the climate change field confirm that climate change is real and human caused. So how come there’s not more of an outcry by We The People? In addition to #1 above, this next stat provides some of that answer:  According to a recent poll, only 13% of Americans consider themselves interested in science. So if the 97% of scientists are shouting in a forest that only 13% of Americans visit…you get the idea.
  3. Politics Americana: Three quick points about the politics of climate change in the US:
    • Something this big–how and how fast the country and world moves to a carbon-free (or close to it) energy mix–should and must be in the political realm.
    • But the mere existence of climate change and human’s leading role in causing it is proven and should be well beyond political debate at this point. But it isn’t. As Jonathan Toews, captain of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, said It’s sad that it’s still a debate in this country.”
    • Jonathan Chait, in his insightful September 2015 New York Magazine article, “The Sunniest Climate Change Story You’ve Ever Read,” makes the point that the US Republican party is the only major conservative* political party in any developed country that, for the most part, still foments climate change denial, skepticism, and doubt, in the face of the settled science. Yes, there are some welcome cracks in this League of Denial^–thank you GOP US House Representatives Chris Gibson (Upstate NY), Carlos Curbelo (South Florida) and 12 or so others for your courage. I hope more GOPers will join their ranks soon but that won’t happen unless constituents of GOP office holders do serious, consistent pushing.

Aiding and abetting these foes, as if they need it, are certain industry groups and corporations. To be sure, more and more companies and institutions “get it” on climate and have joined the climate change fight in a variety of impressive ways, from BASF to Google to the US Department of Defense, and many more. But there are those that, while they know better, are still sowing denial, doubt or do-nothing-ism via TV ads that would make me pull out my hair if I had any left!
Not surprisingly, one of the offenders is, tah-dah, the fossil fuel industry! Have you seen the “I’m an Energy Voter!” campaign from the American Petroleum Institute (API)? Here is one of several 30 second spots:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lidAyPg7zQw&w=560&h=315]
To get the full scope of this campaign’s awful-ness, click here for the take of Dr. James Hansen, climatologist and adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.
Every time I see these ads, I have a fantasy. In it, I magically convene all of the cheery, “I’m an Energy Voter” actors for a Climate Reality Project presentation–an updated version of the slide show Al Gore gave in “An Inconvenient Truth.”% Then, Tom Steyer, the billionaire-hedge-fund guy-turned-climate-change-fighter and founder of non-profit Next Gen Climate, which advocates for climate change fighting candidates, appears. He offers to double the cash paid by API to each of the actors. Armed with the knowledge of the challenges climate change poses, as well as beaucoup bucks, these same cheery actors make a new set of ads–“I’m a CLEAN Energy Voter.”
I know what you’re thinking: “You need a better fantasy life!”
OK, on to the next ad. While “I’m an Energy Voter” hits you over the head with its anti-climate message, the message in this 60 second spot is so subtle it can easily be missed. But, because the ad features an iconic global celebrity, it is also very powerful. I am speaking of the ubiquitous Emirates Airline ad, starring Jennifer Aniston:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwYr4LAIUjk&w=560&h=315]
Could you find the offensive passage? If not, watch it again and pay particular attention starting at the 49 second mark. That’s where super-duper mega-star Ms. Aniston, asks the bartender in (Beyond) First Class, to ask the pilot to fly the plane “for an hour” or so more than needed so she can have more luxurious treatment, increased carbon emissions be damned. Did the woman who, in 2012, told Climate Home News, “I take a three-minute shower. I even brush my teeth while in the shower,” think it through that flying that extra hour will more than offset her spartan water use? By a lot? I think not. Which is sad.
And which makes our climate change fight harder and, as a matter of fact, much more than an hour longer. Which is OK. But, c’mon Jennifer, you’re better than this.

* How can a party that fights conserv-ation can be considered conserv-ative?
^ See, I got a sports reference in there–the title of the Frontline documentary on how the NFL fought the link between concussions and long-term brain injury among pro football players.
% I was trained by Vice President Gore in 2012 to give the Climate Reality presentation and have done so 30+ times.
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  1. You’re preaching to the choir when you call those advertisers on the carpet. Their messages are just so devious! What can we do about it? Talk to people about living in smaller carbon footprints. Any other ideas?

  2. That’s a good start…Here are some other ideas:
    1. Write to API, protesting the ad. It won’t do anything tangible–the ad will continue to run–but it lets them know that people are on to their garbage!
    2. Write to any of the networks that air the ads, voicing your displeasure.
    3. Write to NextGen Climate, saying that they should fund an ad that goes directly at the I’m an Energy Voter ad.
    1. Write to Emirates–say that you won’t fly them if they run anti-green ads like this. Ask them what they’re doing to develop low-carbon jet fuel.
    2. Write to Jen Aniston and her agents, CAA.
    I will do all of the above and report on any replies.

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