Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Bad News, Good News, and a Joke
distributed 2/23/01 - ©2001

Let me share with you one piece of bad news, a related joke, and one piece of good news.

You probably saw the news stories this week about plans for a new "sport utility vehicle," the Unimog. The statistics are astounding:

  • 20 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 9 and a half feet tall
  • 12,500 pound curb weight
  • about 10 miles per gallon of diesel fuel
  • base price of $84,000
After my initial shock and disgust that Freightliner (the truck company) and DaimlerChrysler would make such a thing, I did some checking. It turns out that simpler versions of this vehicle have been common in Europe, where it is widely used in construction, farming, and the military. It is an appropriate machine for some of those settings.

But I'm still disgusted by the way the Unimog is being brought to the US, as the corporations are hoping to tap into high-profit consumer markets. The sales brochure includes lines like: "You don't need roads when you can make your own" and "Wanting to conquer the great outdoors is simply not a good reason to give up leather and air-conditioning."

The marketing manager at Freightliner said, "Even in Scottsdale, Arizona, moms will want to take it to the grocery store. It's a head-turning vehicle."

When such a monster is marketed for off-road destruction and its status value, I find it to be more stomach-turning than head-turning.

In addition to letting the manufacturer's know how we feel about their new project, this is an occasion to engage our friends and neighbors, and the folk in our churches, about some of the deeper problems. Why do profits so often overwhelm social responsibility? What is in the mind and spirit of those who want to use such machines to "conquer the great outdoors?" Why does our society reward such obscene consumption with status and admiration?

Just raising such questions can help people clarify their values, and see the world with fresh perceptions.

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The Unimog comes dangerously close to a true joke, as seen at the website for the "Kenworth Pilgrimage." The site uses some wonderful graphics to lampoon the trend toward ever-larger cars. There is also has some worthwhile commentary about what's really helpful with the to buy" and not to buy buttons. For a laugh and some insights, take a look at a spoof on the Kenworth Pilgimage (Link revised on 1/13/2012)

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There is good news, too. Last Saturday, the Sierra Club's Board of Directors adopted a set of Environmental Justice Principles to guide the Club's leaders and activists in their work. The headings are copied below. (Please write me,, if you want to see the full text, about 2 pages.)

  1. We support the right to a clean and healthful environment for all people
    1. The Right to Democracy
    2. The Right to Participate
    3. The Right to Equal Protection
    4. The Right to Know
    5. The Right to Sustainable Environmental Benefits
    6. The Right to Equity
    7. The Right to Generational Equity
    8. The Rights of Native People
  2. We support an end to pollution
  3. We support the precautionary principle
This looks like a good case of bringing together deep environmental commitment with a strong awareness of the need for social justice. Well done, Sierra Club!


Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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