Diagnose brain pollution



Why is this important? The harmful effects of brain pollution from advertising on mental health, human behavior and relationships are well established.

The pursuit of the materialistic goals it promotes undermines the well-being of individuals.

When brain pollution enters the human body, it makes us feel like we are missing something, triggers feelings of inadequacy, and exploits our insecurities.

Marketing strategies aimed at women in particular exploit bodily insecurities by promoting “beauty ideals” that can only be achieved by purchasing a particular product.

In studies, brain pollution is also seen as contaminating the human sense of care and compassion for others – exactly the kind of important behaviors displayed during the global coronavirus pandemic that has helped so many through, and which are also essential to tackle the climate emergency. .


But, exposure to advertisements causes us to focus more on the so-called “extrinsic values”, those that guide our sense of competitiveness and greed through compliance, image, financial success, achievement. and power – and less on the “intrinsic values” that govern our feelings of empathy and caring for others, expressed through affiliation, self-acceptance, sense of community, caring.

Advertising aims to increase the consumption of products and services and the sector is growing. But the overconsumption of superfluous and non-essential goods leads to planetary collapse.

The polluting, high carbon and consumerist lifestyles promoted by advertising are an obstacle to achieving secure climate and ecological goals. Ads promoting big cars and privileged and frivolous thefts are particularly dangerous.

Over the past decade, for example, brain pollution from automakers selling large, highly polluting “sport utility vehicles” (SUVs) has increased dramatically.

In 2018, automaker Ford reportedly spent 85% of its advertising budget promoting SUVs and pickup trucks in the United States, up from 50% two years earlier.


In 2019, the International Environment Agency (IEA) noted that SUVs were the second leading cause of increased CO2 emissions (after power generation, but ahead of aviation and heavy industry).

This type of advertising not only fuels our climatic and natural crises, but promotes the burning of fossil fuels which is suffocating our cities and whose air pollution in total was responsible for around 8.7 million deaths in 2018.

The latest research shows it’s more than the obvious examples too. In the case of beef and tobacco advertising, there are clear links between the advertising and the climate and environmental emergency.

While the latest IPCC report warned of a ‘code red’ for humanity, the climate emergency ministry’s campaign tries to raise public awareness of the dangers of brain pollution and the urgent need for more controls on the most damaging forms of advertising.

the tobacco

Who is responsible? Many advertising agencies have major polluters as clients.

London is a major hub, with companies such as Wavemaker working for Chevron, Texaco and Heathrow, UM has clients such as Exxon Mobil, Statoil and the Emirates airline, and Mindshare clients such as BP, Gazprom and Black Rock, all according to adbrands .report. There are many more.

When it comes to regulating advertising, national regulators are responsible for monitoring commercial advertisements and ensuring that advertisements comply with their codes of conduct and guidelines.

But instead of providing guarantees against the potential negative impacts of advertising on human well-being and nature, research shows that these bodies too often enable rather than control the industry.

Would you trust the health professionals responsible for reducing the impacts of smoking on the public if its governing body included members of the tobacco industry? However, this is how the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – the UK advertising regulator – works.


Industry representatives do have the power to write their own rules.

Likewise, regulators in the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau in the United States and the Reklamombudsmannen (advertising ombudsperson) in Sweden are directly funded by the industry and governed by a process of self-regulation.

Research in the Journal of European Consumer and Market Law highlights the ineffectiveness and inconsistencies of advertising regulators in the UK and the Netherlands, the Dutch Code Commission Reclame, when it comes to regulating advertising fossil fuel companies.

The process of removing harmful ads is also cumbersome and relies entirely on the willingness of individuals to complain.

Advertising regulators will then only consider such complaints if they are found to violate their own, often narrow codes of conduct.


And even in these cases, there is no guarantee that they will act on it yet.

But these codes are far from being adapted to the evolution of political and social contexts or to new urgent challenges such as the climate emergency.

For example, they fail to take into account the dangers posed by the increase in green marketing claims by major polluters in the automotive, aviation and energy sectors.

In response to the scale of this threat, in the UK recently it took another body, the Competition and Markets Authority, to launch a public consultation on the misleading green claims, as the ASA did not announced that belatedly that it would update its codes.

So far, no regulations have been written to restrict greenwashing in particular.


When it comes to town planning regulations that control advertising at the local level, current policies and guidance are outdated and ignore the natural concerns of councils and residents around a wide range of issues, from climate to land use. air pollution, including environmental light pollution. , the “attention economy”, mental health and the predominance of non-consensual advertising in public spaces.

Things have also changed a lot since the existing rules were established, with the growing number of applications for digital brain pollution screens and the evolution of advertising technologies that use facial detection and tracking capabilities.

Thousands of local authorities around the world have now declared a climate emergency and some are legally required to meet their zero carbon commitments.

Controls on the most damaging forms of advertising – for high carbon goods and services – should now be included in these policies.

Bad publicity

What can we do about it? Campaigns are now calling for legislation against high carbon advertising, with a particular focus on fossil fuel companies, internal combustion engine cars and aviation.

The Badvertising campaign also calls on local authorities to follow the lead of local councils like Norwich, Liverpool and North Somerset in the UK and Amsterdam in the Netherlands in taking action to end high carbon advertising.

Governments and local authorities can use their powers to reduce brain pollution and stop the ads fueling the climate emergency, and several other cities around the world like Grenoble, São Paulo and Geneva have also taken action to combat the effects of the climate. brain pollution caused by advertising.

Individuals can get involved, and government officials and elected officials can find out more by going to badverts.org/action where you can watch the ministry’s public information film or search for #BrainPollution #Badvertising.

This author

Andrew Simms is co-director of the New Weather Institute, coordinator of the Rapid Transition Alliance, author of several books on the new and green economy, and co-author of the original Green New Deal. He’s on twitter at @AndrewSimms_uk.

Emilie Tricarico is a researcher and writer on social and ecological transitions and co-founder of SEEKonomics. She tweets to @EmilieTricarico.

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