Applying a Little Pressure on SUVs and Their Owners

It's an outrage what Robert Lind and Charles Dines are perpetrating against you SUV owners.

I mean, here you are, going peaceably about your business of blocking other drivers' vision, threatening Corolla occupants with decapitation-by-bumper, burning oceans of gasoline, loosing nebulae of pollutants into the air and taking up two parking spaces at a time--exercising your God-given rights as Americans of higher-than-average income--and along come these clowns bent on embarrassing you.

San Francisco is home base for their conspiracy, but Lind and Dines recently were sighted in Santa Monica. It was a pleasant Friday afternoon, and they were strolling 3rd Street north of Wilshire Boulevard, looking like a couple of law-abiding tourists who'd overshot the Promenade.

"Hey, there's one," murmured Lind.

They made directly for the white Ford Expedition parked like a gigantic refrigerator-freezer between two modest compacts. On reaching it, Lind looked this way and that to see whether anyone (such as a cop) was watching. He removed a white bumper sticker from the hip pocket of his jeans, peeled off its backing, and in one deft motion smoothed it onto the Excursion's back bumper.

"I'M CHANGING THE CLIMATE!" the sticker proclaimed. "ASK ME HOW!"

A few minutes later, Lind and Dines came upon an especially tempting target, a black Lincoln Navigator ("the Darth Vader of SUVs," said Lind) parked on Wilshire at 2nd, with its driver behind the wheel.

"It's all attitude," said Lind. "You gotta walk around like you own the place." With that, he strode up to the Navigator and affixed a bumper sticker to the lower right corner of its rear window. The driver, a woman leafing through a magazine, didn't notice.

"The people who drive those things are oblivious to everything," said Dines.

To counter such obliviousness, the bumper stickers refer to Lind and Dines' Web site, changingtheclimate.com. There you will encounter a catalog of SUVs' transgressions against the environment, society and good taste. You will also find instructions on how to remove the bumper sticker with a little rubbing alcohol.

Lind and Dines have been waging this campaign for a year. In that time, Lind estimates he has personally tagged 1,200 SUVs. "This is just applying pressure," he says. "Making as much noise as possible so people will start thinking."

Because there are so many SUVs--almost 21 million in the United States, more than 1.2 million of them in Southern California--Lind and Dines restrict themselves to the largest of the large: Excursions, Navigators, Expeditions and others of similar bloat.

The 41-year-old Lind is a self-employed marketer of natural animal repellents (one of his products is called "Not Tonight, Deer"), and Dines, 39, is a failed actor with an MBA who is now a carpenter. With the polar ice cap melting while former oil executives in the White House covetously eye the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we are currently experiencing, Dines says, "the last spurt of overconsumptiveness in America, with SUVs being . . . " Lind chimes in, " . . . the most perfect expression of consumer madness."

The gas gluttony of SUVs, which are classified as light trucks and thus escape the more stringent federal fuel and pollution standards for passenger cars, is said to be responsible for a significant portion of the recent upsurge in per-gallon gasoline prices. More SUVs with low gas mileage means greater demand, and that means higher prices--for all of us. SUVs are also behind the relentless, decade-long decline in the average fuel economy of all vehicles on America's roads.

Lind and Dines have been surprised by the amount and ferocity of anti-SUV sentiment expressed on their Web site, one of many devoted to trashing SUVs. The pair say their "movement" has spread to every precinct of the United States and Canada. Visitors to their Web site are encouraged to download their bumper sticker and go into action themselves. The Web site features a "Tagger of the Week," to honor the especially diligent.

The days of the biggest SUVs are probably numbered, and not just because it may soon cost $100 to fill one up. The trend in SUVs, says Jeff Schuster, a forecaster for the automotive consulting firm J.D. Power & Associates, is toward smaller, more luxurious car-like vehicles that are effete replicas of their mastodonic forebears.

Lind, Dines and comrades, however, won't run out of targets any time soon. Personally, I wouldn't let these guys hold me up to public ridicule. If I owned an SUV, I'd park it in the garage and never drive it again. That'd bend their crankshafts, but good.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
60°