Visual Pollution Essay: It's Time To Stop Billboard Advertising

867 words - 3 pages

Like a yoyo on a string, mass advertising is closely bound up with our capitalist system of free enterprise.  The right to peddle your product is an accepted and integral part of American culture.  Advertising infiltrates every aspect of our lives, from buses to cereal boxes.  But when does advertising, figuratively speaking, go too far and turn to the dark side?  In my mind, billboard advertising is the point of no return.  Roadside billboards are visually offensive and aggressive advertising tools that mar natural landscapes and urban beauty.  Our national roadways no longer showcase America the Beautiful, but rather America: The Land of Excess Signage.  There is sufficient legal precedent and enough effective alternatives to roadside marketing to justify eliminating billboard advertising altogether on national, state, and county roadways.  The open landscapes of our great American highways need to be protected from visual clutter.

            There is a saying that beauty is its own reason for being.  Preserving the beauties of the open highway is reason enough for wanting to eradicate roadside advertising.  Billboards are ugly.  Billboards constitute visual clutter that complicates life.  At least on the freeway, people should be able to escape the onslaught of mass advertising. How many people will argue that dancing hamburgers plastered on towering steel skeletons are more appealing than an old homestead nestled in the sage hills or a rainstorm over distant mountains?  It is interesting to note that some of the most popular destinations in the country are places that have no billboards.  States such as Vermont, Maine, and Hawaii have longstanding billboard bans and are especially renowned for the scenic beauty to be found along the back roads and highways.  Also, resort areas such as Park City in Utah, Sun Valley in Idaho and Jackson Hole out in Wyoming are not marred by billboard blight due to their magnificent scenic surroundings (Scenic Spokane).  These types of billboard bans ought to be extended to entire states so that all people, travelers or residents, can enjoy uncluttered scenic surroundings.  

 

       However, when it comes to the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, is it legal to do away with roadside advertising? All is not as it would seem in this situation.  I am not attempting to pull a fast one on the Constitution.  American travelers do have the right not to be bombarded with excess advertising as they travel the highways and byways of our nation.  For example, in 1981, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of restricting commercial signage because "Unlike oral speech...signs take up space and may obstruct views, distract motorists, displace alternative...

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