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Corporate Sponsored blog gives Grand Rapids Eco-award

April 22, 2011

Yesterday, MLive reported that Grand Rapids received an award from Mother Nature News as the “Destination of the Week” city.

MLive writer Troy Reimink gives a summary of the Mother Nature Network (MNN) award story, but writes the summary in such a way as to just gloat in this new award for Grand Rapids. He says that the MNN article refers to Grand Rapids as an impressive city and then concludes the article by writing, “File under: We already know, but it’s nice to be recognized.”

Instead of gloating, maybe the MLive writers should practice some journalism and try to provide a fair assessment of the destination of the week award.

As is the norm these days the first thing the MNN article cites is the number of LEED certified buildings in Grand Rapids as evidence of its commitment to ecological sustainability. While this writer would agree that new buildings should be more energy efficient it does not take into account what happens in these buildings. If the policies and practices of the businesses that inhabit LEED certified buildings engage in ecologically destructive practices then operating in a LEED building seems a bit irrelevant.

The MNN article is broken into four parts: go green, eat green, sleep green and see green. Each section highlights what they have determined to be sustainable practices.

In the go green section we are told about the mass transit system The Rapid, which is hoping to have citizens improve on May 3 with a millage vote. The Rapid has improved significantly over the past 20 years, but Grand Rapids is still a car dominated city, with traffic jams, lots of surface parking lots and all the pollution that comes with a car dominated culture.

Bicycling is also mentioned as a means of green transportation, but the article does state that Grand Rapids is only bike friendly during the “warmer months.” There has been an increase in bicycling as a means of transportation in recent years in Grand Rapids, but the city has very few urban bike lanes and car culture still dominates commuting dynamics, which makes it somewhat dangerous for those who ride bikes as a regular means of transportation in the city.

The eat green section highlights 3 restaurants first – San Chez, the Green Well and Brickroad Pizza, as indications of sustainable eating. While these restaurants serve some locally grown food the menu prices make it somewhat prohibitive for working class people to make those places a meal destination. The article does mention the Fulton Street Farmers Market, which is a far more sustainable food source, since buying and preparing your own food is much cheaper than eating out and you have the opportunity to directly ask the vendors where their food is grown and under what conditions.

In the category of sleeping green we are told that hotels like City Flats in Holland and the JW Marriot are green because of LEED certification and “green features.” Again, one could argue that the cost to stay at hotels like the JW Marriot is probative for most working class people, but more importantly Hotels in the US tend to cater to the business class who are traveling from city to city and conducting work that supports and nurtures a much larger capitalist system, which is inherently unsustainable.

Then there is the question about who Mother Nature Network is and who supports them. If you scroll to the bottom of the MNN webpage you can see who the organization’s sponsors are: AT&T, Miller/Coors, General Electric, Dell Computers, Seimens, Georgia Pacific, AFLAC and Coca Cola. This would be a great list, if we wanted to identify major corporate polluters, but models of ecological sustainability?

According to the Political Economy Research Institute, General Electric is the 13th worst company for creating air pollution. AT&T is a huge corporation that is seeking to further monopolize their control over our communication’s systems. Georgia Pacific has a long history of deforestation for its paper products and was purchased by the arch-conservative Koch brothers in 2005. Coca Cola has been engaged in stealing communal water around the global for decades for its beverage line and is also deeply involved in the assassination of union leaders in Coke bottling plants in Colombia. (See The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World’s Favorite Soft Drink, by Michael Blanding)

Ultimately, the function that the Mother Nature Network serves is to support and promote green capitalism. They do not support or promote true sustainability, but have taken advantage of the growing sector of companies that are trying to position themselves as eco-friendly. This distinction would be more evident to the public if MLive writers bothered to practices journalism instead of acting as cheerleaders.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 22, 2011 9:40 pm

    Sponsored by GE , the same company that dumped over 1.3 million pounds of PCB’s into the Hudson River.

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