"Taking the SUV to a Place It's Never Been Before": SUV Ads and the Consumption of Nature

Melissa Aronczyk, From Henry, David Thoreau, John Muir, Aldo Leopold
seminal thinkers in the American environmental tradition cite wilderness as one of the distinguishing marks of American culture. The image of an unspoiled natural setting as a regenerative haven and a palliative to the stress of urban life is stamped on the country's literary and historical texts. But if wilderness is the refuge of the true American spirit, the other emblem of American identity is how we get thereby car. The question, "What do you drive?" as an interrogation of identity
more » ... of identity demonstrates the profound sense of self that is lodged in our personal means of transportation. We are willing to let our cars stand for who we are. Indeed, the history of the automobile in America is fundamental to our conception of self and of our environment; and despite the obvious contradiction inherent in using a car to "get back" to nature, our current conception of nature, and the social movements to protect it, are shaped in large part by the social history of the automobile. Without cars, wilderness as we know it could not exist.