Pollution is Closer Than You Think

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An Essay Analysis on “Pollution Is Closer Than You Think”

A not-for-profit organization, Friends of the Earth campaigns for sustainability and environmental justice. The organization uses an advertisement with the caption “Pollution Is Closer than You Think,” in which a car’s rear is embedded on the lid of a cup with its exhaust pipe replaced by a drinking straw. The idea is that upon drinking from this cup, the consumer is inhaling toxic emissions from the car.

The readers’ attention is drawn to the cup’s lid, which looks like the rear of a car at first glance. However, on closer inspection, the drinking straw coming from the lid looks like it is the car’s exhaust pipe. The aim is to demonstrate that pollution is virtually everywhere and in more places than people might imagine. The aim of this article is to analyze this advertisement and its effectiveness.   

The Visual Impact of the Photograph

Use of Color

This photograph is in color, which adds a sense of mood and place. The use of color – rather than black and white - is intentional to create an awareness of space and to add a more realistic feel to the image. For example, the car in the image and its exhaust look more realistic than they would look in black and white. 

Use of Light

The image uses light from an organic source i.e. from the sun and it is surrounded by shadows of a soft variety. An important feature is the direction the light comes from. It appears to come from overhead although at a slant.

Sharp Focus

The lid of the cup and particularly the car displayed on it are portrayed in sharp focus. This focus means these two objects as well as the drinking straw are immediately brought to the viewer’s attention.

The Angle of the Image

It is clear the artist has shot this photograph from above and from a carefully-chosen angle. The angle is such as to place the lid of the cup and the supposed “straw” into sharp focus. The idea is to show that “Pollution Is Closer Than You Think” and is close to everything we touch and closer than we imagine.

Smooth Texture

The textures used in the image are immediately noticeable for their smoothness. The texture of the lid of the cup, the hand gripping it and the contour of the car are all smooth.

The Framing in the Image

The focus of the photographer is very much on the lid, the hand grasping it and the car, making these the center of attention. The hand may be intentional to demonstrate how people expose themselves to pollution they may not even be aware of. The purpose of the drinking straw is to illustrate how harmful substances are emitted from a vehicle’s exhaust.

Sadness and Pathos

Using the words, “Pollution Is Closer than You Think” is intended to make consumers consider the quality of the air around them, the water they drink and, more pointedly, to remind us we are never far away from pollution.

Comparing an everyday drinking straw to a car’s exhaust pipe conveys the message that whatever drink the person may be consuming through the straw may well be coming from the car’s exhaust. Advertising generally relies on 15 fundamental appeals and this image uses quite a few of these appeals e.g. that guidance is needed, achievement is needed and that there is a need to attend to pollution in order to feel safer.

Is the Advertisement Ethical and Fair?

The message in this advertisement is clear and simple i.e. that pollution is all around us. We do inhale harmful fuel emissions from vehicles, just as depicted in the ad.  Sure, it is not true that individuals drink toxic fuel emissions directly from a car, but the ad correctly represents how our precious planet is getting ever more polluted and we do inhale emissions directly from the environment around us. In terms of that message, this advertisement would seem to be fair and ethically sound.


If Friends of the Earth and those who sponsored this advertisement are pleased with it, they have every right to be. However, it might not be so well received by food vendors, especially those who make and distribute such cups. Yet, it is a timely reminder to everyone who cares about our planet that pollution is indeed everywhere and it should stir the conscience of those whose attitude has hitherto been indifferent. Many people love the Earth and are saddened that global warming is having such an adverse effect, particular on the less affluent. Ads like this are necessary if we are to avoid catastrophic problems later because of pollution.