Thoughts on well-being, sustainability and those things that constitute a good life beyond consumption.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Jeeps, Springsteen and Climate Change - Unity or Erasure?

Throughout the day, I have seen a number of high school friends and relatives post on social media about the Jeep/Springsteen commercial that aired during the Superbowl. There has been some interesting analysis about the effectiveness of the ad (or lack thereof) and some surprise that Bruce – in his old age – is selling out to commercialism [see for example, references 1, 2]. But the comments from many of my Facebook connections express frustration over the omission of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from the map that was shown in the ad. 

This is not the first time that the UP has been left off maps. Or drawn as a part of Wisconsin. Or Canada. Of particular note, the ad was the product of a Michigan agency, from under the bridge of course, but still [3]. 

I get it. To have your home place omitted, casually erased, stings. (In my opinion, the UP is such a wonderful place that I am happy to have fewer people know of its existence!)

This most recent omission reminded me of a U.N. climate conference (COP) several years ago. There was a large globe hanging in the venue that could be used to show impacts of climate change and to let attendees know that we are all in this mess together. Unity, just like the Jeep commercial. 

The problem was that this globe did not include many key island nations, all of which had delegates at the COP. To make matters worse, these small island nations are among the most vulnerable places in the world due to sea level rise and the increasing power of cyclones. Their homeland is being erased – not only on that global depiction – but literally by rising waters and storm surge.

During this pandemic, I haven't been able to travel to the U.P., the place I still call home, even though I moved away a long time ago. I miss it. But I can’t imagine what it is like to be facing the physical loss of the place you call home, that you pledge your national allegiance to, where your ancestors are buried, that your livelihood depends on, where your culture and personal narrative are rooted. Someday, hopefully in the not too distant future, I will be able to travel again and visit home and friends and relatives. Climate refugees, however, will never be able to go back.

Climate change is one of the many topics that divides us in this nation. Despite reams of scientific evidence, this global problem has become hyper-politicized. Perhaps it might be useful for us all to take a map and cut out the place we call home, the landscape that matters most to us. And then remember, that this very erasure of place is actually happening to people who live on islands, on coastlines, in the Arctic, and in areas that have undergone severe desertification and can no longer support life.


1. Healey, Tim. Jeep's Super Bowl Ad Won't Unite Us (2/8/21)


2. Richards, Chris. If Bruce Springsteen's Jeep commercial doesn't bum you out, congrats on the purchase of your new Jeep. (2/8/21)

 3. LaCombe, Andrew. Super Bowl commercial leaves Upper Peninsula off map.


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