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Dow Chemical and the Greenwashing of the Olympics

August 2, 2010

Recently it was announced that the Michigan-based company Dow Chemical will be the official “chemistry company” of the Olympic Games. West MiBiz made this announcement in one of their weekly updates that the chemical company would be a corporate sponsor of the Olympic Games through 2020.

According to the Detroit News, “Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, praised Dow’s innovation and commitment to sustainability in an announcement in New York Friday.” This is clearly another example of corporate green-washing, where a company with an atrocious track record is hoping to buy public opinion by sponsoring the Olympics.

If we had serious journalism in this country reporters would first probably fall out of their seats at such an announcement by Dow Chemical and then they would provide the public with an honest assessment of Dow’s “innovation.”

Dow Chemical is the largest chemical company in the US and the second largest in the world. Their pesticides and other chemicals they have produced have left a toxic legacy that will impact generations to come. One of those pesticides is called chlorpyrifos and was first used as a nerve gas during WWII. Dow turned it into pesticides that were used in the home and eventually by agribusiness. The side effects of this chemical are cancer, birth defects and other reproductive problems.

Dow also has a history of war profiteering. During the US invasion and bombing of Vietnam Dow developed (along with Monsanto) Agent Orange. Agent Orange is a herbicide used by the US military to destroy plant life that provided cover for the Viet Cong. However, Agent Orange has left a toxic legacy of millions contaminated, deformed or dead throughout Southeast Asia.

In addition, Dow developed the use of Napalm and made millions by selling it to the US government for its use in their counter-insurgency war in Vietnam. One Vietnam Veteran recounts in graphic detail how Dow developed Napalm to make it a lethal weapon used on civilians.

“We sure are pleased with those backroom boys at Dow. The original product wasn’t so hot – if the gooks (Vietnamese) were quick they could scrape it off. So the boys started adding polystyrene – now it sticks like shit to a blanket. But then if the gooks jumped under water it stopped burning, so they started adding Willie Peter (white phosphorus) so’s to make it burn better. It’ll burn under water now. And just one drop is enough; it’ll keep on burning right down to the bone so they die anyway from phosphorus poisoning.”

So, when an Olympic official praises Dow for its commitment to sustainability we need to recognize that we are being manipulated.

Some suggestions for Dow’s Olympic sponsorship might be a 100 meter try to out-run napalm being dropped from planes event. This would really inspire a fast race as people would be running for their lives. There could also be an Agent Orange relay race, where people born with deformities from exposure to the chemical could compete. This would involve people with missing limbs or deformed lungs due to Dow’s creation of Agent Orange and contestants could crawl or roll across the finish line.

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