Thursday, June 15, 2006

Conserving our resources the modern way

Stuart Buck analyzes magazine ads.

You can tell a lot about a magazine's audience by the ads that appears in the back. For example, if the ads are all for $1.5 million homes in the Hamptons, you're probably reading the New York Times magazine, where the advertisers expect to reach a significant number of people who have a lot of money and are interested in that sort of conspicuous consumption.

So it was with interest that I looked at the ads in the back of the Sierra Club's magazine, which I just started receiving after joining a month ago. There are six pages in the back that are full of little ads. Some are for a variety of different products -- organic coffee, hammocks, portable water purifiers, etc....

But by far, most of the ads were for tours to exotic locations -- e.g., Antarctica, Peru, New Zealand, the Galapagos, the Alps, Malaysia, Tibet, and many more. I counted no fewer than 31 such ads in the six pages at the back of the magazine. In addition, the Sierra Club itself included a ten-page section listing probably 100+ Club-sponsored trips all around the world -- from backpacking in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to hiking in Nepal to a safari in Tanzania. Both the advertisers and the Sierra Club obviously expect to reach a lot of readers who have a good bit of disposable income, the time to travel around the world for weeks at a time, and the willingness to participate in huge amounts of carbon emissions. (I'm assuming that no one is going to paddle a canoe to New Zealand to go hiking there, nor will they swim to the Galapagos with a bicycle strapped to their backs.)

I am doing my bit for the environment by not taking a planned trip to Sicily. I feel quite smug about it. Although I have always wanted to visit Sicily. I am very fond of Greek ruins, any ruins, as a matter of fact. But I am abstaining at great emotional cost to myself. Nothing trumps my wish to save the environment, except perhaps the need to pay my dentist(s).

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