Dreaming of Electric Sheep
Progress is everything. The world spins, time passes and humanity moves on, marching ever forward towards our supposedly brighter future. The past is generally bad and the new is almost always good, unless it isn’t. No matter. Darn few want to be left behind so any questions or concerns brought up in the ranks about what’s being abandoned wholesale are either ignored or ridiculed by those bright-lights determined to make things better. It’s just as well. Why cloud excitement and optimism with the painful haze of reality? Such is the latest ad offering from Nissan.
The ad is brilliant in its own nakedly propagandistic way. It opens with a man – everyman - asleep in bed. We hear a motor running, along with the beeping of a wake up alarm. As the camera pans over towards the cacophony we do indeed see a clock radio – but it is run by a coughing and sputtering internal combustion engine. Our homo erectus’ day continues as we see him pull start the coffee maker, lawn-mower-style to get it humming. His wife does the same to the microwave oven. Dickensian? Dystopian? Worse? It continues. We see a hair dryer spewing exhaust, an iPod with a clattering engine and a cell phone puffing smoke into the air above the user’s head. Now we see an office where all the computers have to be coaxed to life like a fleet of burned out Honda Civics from the mid-seventies and the penny drops as to where we are: It’s Hell!!! Clearly this pictured society is a version of Hell. And it gets worse. A line-up forms at the copier while a fat repairman changes the oil. A weary desk jockey refills his laptop from a tiny gas station housed in what used to be a water cooler. Stop! Please make it stop! And finally, to drive home the insane pain just one foot further we visit a dentist’s office where the surgeon wields a gas-powered drill like something from a slasher film. Cut to a man filling up his gas-fuelled car. He is thinking, dreaming perhaps as a voice-over crystallizes his thoughts: “What if everything ran on gas? Then again, what if everything didn’t?” As the thought is left to dangle, pump-boy turns and spies an all-electric Nissan Leaf owner unplugging his car and driving away. Wow, profound much? How could anyone not want an electric car when it’s so very clear how wonderful and clean simple electricity really is?
Honestly, if an emission falls in the forest and no one sees it does that mean it actually didn’t happen? Nothing is ever as simple as some would have you believe and an all-electric future is no bloody different. I’ve teed off on a Nissan Leaf ad before but this one really takes the cake. Rarely do I return for another pound of flesh but this bit of clap-trap demanded it. When are we going to lose the enviro-talking point nonsense of electricity=good and gasoline=bad?
In the USA – right now - more than 50% of all the electricity used is generated by coal. Arguments trumpeting clean-coal aside, that little nugget of information is nowhere to be found in Nissan’s promise of an electrified future. And they don’t mention it because the exhaust, the emissions, the actual results of what it takes to make electricity happen are usually located far away from the average user. At least far away versus the in-your-face smog the lawn mower at your feet produces. Why is ignorance like this bliss? If we really did have electric cars everywhere the demand for more coal plants (and nuclear) would be huge. And spare me the solar/wind/whatever routine. If those technologies showed even a kernel of the promise they advertise they’d be in broad use already. Kind of like the internal combustion engine.
Remember the internal combustion engine? It’s actually a pretty amazing device. It has certainly fallen out of favour in today's green-blinkered world even as it improves itself annually. But its importance is impossible to overstate. Without it, society would have stalled ages ago, leaving us mired in a world of horse carts and hand-plows. Of course, we also would have had sewing machines and looms and drills that were pedal-powered. Great for the environment and good for fitness, our dear leaders might say. Life expectancy? Well, not so much.
No, ads like this insult my intelligence by appealing to the sort of Utopian ideal that exists mainly within the frontal lobes of single-note copywriters. Listen, I’ve got news for you. Unless you kill each and every human being on earth there will continue to be engine exhaust and human waste and a nasty carbon footprint that will endure. There is no way around that inconvenient truth. Our role is to manage that mess as best we can and find ways to make life better for all within it. But walking around like some mindless zagnut believing that we’ll all be saved once everything is electric is the epitome of stupid. And if buying into that nonsense is a requirement for participating in the progressive march forward then I demand to be freed at once so I might instead think for myself. Thought #1? I want a scooter with an internal combustion engine. I’m getting outta here.