Why do so many Americans have trouble thinking straight about climate change?



The alarming reports keep coming. Over just the past few days, we’ve learned that July 2019 was the hottest month on record for the planet; that Greenland lost a startling 11 billion tons of ice in one day; that overall arctic sea-ice coverage is on track to reach record lows; and that salmon are dying by the thousands across western Alaska because of warming waters.

But even though the world’s leading scientists have repeatedly linked record heat waves, the disappearance of sea ice, and accelerating species die-offs to climate change, a recent Pew Survey of 26 nations found that the American people rank 20th in believing that climate change poses a major threat.

So what gives here? Why do so many Americans have trouble thinking straight about climate change?

That’s exactly the question Sut Jhally takes on in his recent film Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse. And his answer couldn’t be more clear: One of the main reasons for widespread American denial in the face of environmental collapse is that corporations spend billions of dollars every year on advertising to make sure we remain emotionally invested in mass consumption and the ideology of consumer capitalism — the world’s primary drivers of climate change, resource depletion, and species extinction.

Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse is a timely and clarifying educational tool, ideal for classroom use and campus screenings. Be sure it’s on your syllabus this fall! Click here to get the film via streaming or on DVD.


Praise for Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse 

“Why has our society failed to address climate change, which now in the twenty-first century calls into question the very survival of humanity? In Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse, Sut Jhally provides a compelling answer, one that few so far have been willing to contemplate: the nature of our advertising and marketing system, a “magic kingdom” which today has come to dominate human consciousness from cradle to grave. If you haven’t seen this film, you will need to see it, and if you do you will want to recommend it to others.”

— John Bellamy Foster | Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon

“Sut Jhally reminds us that the siren call of advertising has not been mitigated in the digital age, [and that] the consequences for our relationships, our environment, and our society are as potent and dire as ever.”

— Mara Einstein | Professor of Media Studies at Queens College

“Anyone who watches Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse will come away with a clear (and alarming) perspective on how advertising has succeeded in occupying humans’ minds, societies, and physical environments. Sut Jhally and his team have interwoven powerful images and empirical facts to show how consumer capitalism is crowding out healthy human values and killing the planet.”

— Tim Kasser | Professor & Chair of Psychology at Knox College

“Explains with riveting clarity the social power of advertising, [and] calls us to take action to create a more sustainable society. His message is so timely and powerful that we will all benefit if this inspiring film is viewed and discussed beyond the classroom.”

— William Hoynes | Professor of Sociology at Vassar College

“An unflinching look at the dominant form of storytelling of our time — the ‘fantasy factory’ of advertising. The film shows how adverts work on us, manipulating our desires for profit, often at the expense of the natural world.”

— Jeremy Williams | Co-author of The Economics of Arrival

“An extraordinary documentary [that] should be seen by everyone concerned with environmental degradation and the social issues of inequality and poverty that plague the earth.”

— Fred Magdoff | Co-author of What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism