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Earth Day is coming – let’s look to corporations for help?

April 19, 2010

Today the Grand Rapids Press features a, “Guide to helping save the planet,” in preparation for the 40th Anniversary this week. The “guide” not only emphasizes personal behavior, which has been the growing trend, it also advocates personal behavior that will not threatened the current business as usual destruction of the planet’s eco-systems.

The Press article begins by asking readers if they kept lights on this morning, were recycling or drinking water out of plastic bottles. The article then goes on to say that Earth Day is coming, “it’s time to take saving the planet a little more seriously.” Ok, so what does the Press mean by getting “serious?”

Getting serious about the planet for the Press is participating in a park clean up in Kent County or attend some educational events that look at invasive species. The next suggestion is for readers to buy an Uncle Goose toy, because this toy manufacturer makes toys out of wood and doesn’t use lead paint. The Press even provides a link to local retailers who sell this line of products.

The Press also encourages readers to shop for the planet and buy educational toys or go to a screening of the Disney film Oceans. Everyone known’s what a commitment the Disney corporation has to the environment, with all the plastic products they sell, which are made in China. Disney also demonstrates their commitment to sustainability with their expensive, hyper-consumer theme parks. Oh, and lets not forget the commitment that the Disney-owned network ABC has to environmental protection.

The Press Earth Day Guide also has a section called Eat Green, which sounds like we might be getting serious about saving the planet. Maybe you are thinking that there is information from local farmers who participate in Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) or maybe there would be a tutorial on how to grow your own food. Instead, this section has a few “tips” on eating green from the international home products retailer IKEA. Yes, you read that correctly. The Grand Rapids Press Guide for saving the planet offers green eating tips from a multinational corporation that has nothing to do with sustainable agriculture and everything to do with convincing us to buy stuff we don’t need.

If you respond to such weak reformist tips with some sense of disgust, then you have not bought into the Green Capitalist mantra that buying the right products will save us. However, at some point we have to ask ourselves why does the GR Press promote these kinds of eco-friendly actions?

It is important to recognize that the Press is owned by Advance Publications, a large corporation whose primary purpose is to make money. A significant percentage of the money they make is from advertisers, most of which are part of an economic system, which by its very nature exploits the planet. This would explain why the Press’s Earth Day Guide does not include campaigns to stop new coal powered plants from being built in Michigan, information about efforts to stop the diversion of water from the Great Lakes for private profits or any other efforts to seriously reduce carbon emissions that will be necessary to avoid a global catastrophe due to global warming. These sorts of tips might not make us feel as good as buying “green” toys for our kids.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kate Wheeler permalink
    April 20, 2010 3:28 am

    I truly could not believe this Grand Rapids Press article…I read it with dropped jaw. The first step to saving the planet is: consume more! Yes, that will help. Just buy Uncle Goose and Fat Brain toys, DVDs of hit movies, special pet foods from Petco, and (my favorite), the in-depth environmental analysis book, “The Cutest Nature Book Ever.” Not the mention the shameless Ikea tie-in.

    These thinly disguised advertisements for products posing as articles are a joke. But the biggest problem with them, as you point out, is the way these stories trivialize real core problems and issues. Thanks for busting them on this, Jeff.

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