Huntin' Big Game
SUV tagging: responsible grassroots movement, or intrusive nuisance?

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Not everybody thinks SUV tagging-the latest "grass roots" movement where SUVs are tagged with a bumper sticker that reads, "I'm changing the Climate. Ask me how."-is either amusing, or especially productive.

The taggers' website is peppered with eco-conscious headlines, like "National Blitz to Highlight Perceived Dark Side: Pollution, Low Gas Mileage, Collision Dangers."

The tagging practice is catching on in Lexington (obviously, a fat and sassy target), but so is the backlash, here and elsewhere.

Lexington police report no surge in the property crimes division, which responds to complaints when vehicles are damaged by vandalism.

In other communities, vehicle owners don't seem especially interested in waiting for law enforcement.

The following is posted to the website (this version is edited for grammar and profanity, and the suspect original appeared like it could've been fabricated by the web editors for the purpose of generating their response about how "friendly" the taggers are to commercial vehicles):

Don't ever vandalize my vehicle with your sticker again. I will physically confront and stop you. I am a Commercial fisherman who supports 3 children with the vehicle you believe is senseless. I tow a boat to my work...Have you ever eaten a tuna sandwich before you spineless little puke. I hope I have the pleasure of meeting one of your little save the world followers. It also should be know to you eco-activists that my boat is only 26 feet long and the tuna are caught by hook and line and no nets and no dolphins you puke. I bet it is Green like trees you killed to to make your bumper stickers. You really need to be a bit more careful. Some people do work with a truck....

Is the campaign about moral outrage, or is it about bashing a very visible (easily targeted) perception of wealth? (If so, this has about as much relevance to vehicle choice as the ever-popular, "Eat the Rich" bumper stickers did.)

Is it legitimately about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels (an admirable goal), or is it an ecological waste of glue and paper by fringe-dwellers with too much time on their hands?

Does this rise to the level of invasion of privacy or at least vandalism/criminal mischief?

Or would sand in the gas tank and slashed tires also be acceptable means of proving a point?

Could civil libertarians and eco-activists better focus their efforts elsewhere?

Because so much is riding on your tires?

"Changing the Climate" promotes the idea of safety on their website, specifically citing the tendency of an SUV to roll over (on some models, the wheel base is too narrow to support the vehicle's vertical height, and the laws of physics don't support cornering at high speeds in a truck with a rigid axle the way they do with a sports car).

On another page, they go on to say that you don't have to bother with tagging the smaller, less conspicuous SUVs (most of which have the poorest safety rating-including roll standards-of any automobiles on the market). The real bias seems to be: the smaller ones are just plain cheap-and therefore, not as morally offensive.

It's pretty obvious they're not worried about the safety of the SUV driver.

If you roll any vehicle that weighs three and a half tons, and you are safely belted in, with 2nd generation airbags, your odds of survival are probably better than those of someone in a compact car, sitting completely upright, when it gets t-boned by anything heavier than a moth.

For those who do own SUVs, is anyone about to "disarm" unilaterally? Not likely.

Who's going to volunteer to swap their Range Rover for a Neon and hit Nicholasville Road at rush hour with a carload of kids crammed into every available space, up to and including the ashtray?

Has legislation been passed that requires all soccer moms to switch to minivans (if so, a quick glance at their safety ratings might be worthwhile).


The readers weighed in, and the responses are mixed.

No one volunteered to turn in their keys; a few got defensive; and a few succumbed to healthy doses of middle-class guilt.

Always remember, according to Spy Magazine: "being ambivalent means never having to say you're anything."

And, as every boomer with bucks will remember, according to The Big Chill, "rationalizations are more important than sexever try going a day without a good rationalization?"

The domino effect

There is a theory that says if a butterfly flaps her wings in Australia, it can cause Tsunamis in Japan. If that is true then it is also true of every breath I take. I am certainly much larger than a butterfly, if that matters. This means I have to be somewhat cognizant of everything I do.

That is one reason I try to truly respect our environment and the beautiful treasures and necessities it can and must provide for us, its children. I find it helpful, motivating, and uplifting to go out into her deeper and more pristine regions in order to remember and cherish them. These meanderings have taken me to waterfalls, gorges, and mountains. These pilgrimages have seen me chase many sunsets and rainbows looking for the beauty that is the REAL pot of gold at the end that never comes.

Because of that perspective, I know the importance of our commitment to conserve what precious jewels Mother Nature has provided us.

I don't think someone indiscriminately slapping a bumper sticker on my SUV, without knowing a damn thing about who I am, or where I have been, will ever do anything to change what I believe.

-Patrick, criminal defense attorney, has driven an SUV ever since he unloaded his mother's hand-me-down Lincoln Town Car. Currentlyhe drives a GMC Jimmy L-Series.

Shades of Gray

I've not been tagged. I see so many macho misuses of SUVs it's hard to come down fully on one side or the other, but I'm always opposed to the vandalization of property, which is what this amounts to. I've become-probably-the most conservative SUV driver in Lexington, but-mea culpa-my conservation comes from a lack of money. I can't afford to gun my engine and race around town like an idiot, and I walk on as many errands as possible. I think I'm a very responsible SUV owner.

-Mary, massage therapist, two-dog household, significant professional equipment, Pathfinder

Can't we all just get along?

I don't really think that my pick-up falls into the same category as the mammoth creatures that now prowl the highways and byways of central Kentucky. I mean hell, some of those things could serve as venues for indie bands (and now that Lynagh's Club is out of commission, it might be an alternative worth considering.) Additionally, I feel quite confident that I get much better gas mileage than one of those huge vehicles whose name is derived either from some notion of a mythic outdoor quest or the co-opting of Native American terminology.

Over-consumption of fossil fuels is not only bad for our environment: the consumer demand for affordable fuel prices creates very problematic sociocultural situations for REAL PEOPLE in nations that sit on the periphery of the global economy. Consider, for example, the fact that 150 Nigerian women feel compelled to storm oil refineries, as they did last July, where according to the BBC they were "demanding employment for their families and investment in the local community." (

While I recognize that many Americans (including myself) possess a certain illogical connection to their vehicle of choice, it might benefit our nation and the entire planet to more carefully examine the way our purchasing power impacts the lives of human beings on the globe. If we want peace in this life, perhaps we should recognize that we can be agents of change by shifting our conceptions of what connotes prestige. Culturally speaking, SUVs in Lexington are a material expression of wealth and conspicuous consumption,. It might be better for all cultures if SUV's represented a disregard for other human beings and the planet (instead of "positive" things like wealth and power) so that they would not be in high demand, as everyone, whether they truly have power, prestige, or wealth seems to want one. If SUVs had the same symbolic power as say, terrorism does, insofar as they both pose threats to the globe, then we might see a reduction in the number of SUV's driven, thereby reducing their numbers...which I think would be a good thing.

I applaud people's efforts to bring social/global problems to our community's attention: however, ethically speaking their tactics leave something to be desired.

Slapping bumper stickers on any SUV/quasi-SUV obviously only promotes further schism between pro-SUV'er and anti-SUV'ers.

It's just not that simple. Social reality does not boil down to neat dichotomies of good vs. evil, right and wrong, or SUV lover/SUV hater. Social reality is complex. It might do us all some good to better engage our critical thinking skills when thinking about a plethora of topics, SUVs being just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

-Erin, Ph.D. candidate, UK, drives 1993 Toyota 4WD pickup

In the spirit of full disclosure, approximately half the Ace staff drives SUVs.