Unwelcome Saviors: Five Reasons to Oppose Corporate Sponsorship of Earth Day

Article excerpt

If it were just the money, it might be okay. Every organization can use extra cash for staples and brochures, and I have always been sympathetic to the argument that tainted money's only drawback is "t'ain't enough of it." But like all free lunches, this one comes with a price. Here are five reasons why environmental groups should return the check:

1) Our supporters don't like it. No one, least of all environmentalists, wants their messages dressed up as an ad campaign. Every American over five years old is wise to the sales pitch, and it doesn't take much to turn off the consumer these days. I saw a jazz show in Washington last month that was sponsored, as it turns out, by multibillion-dollar cigarette peddler and cancer merchant R.J. Reynolds. When this was announced from the stage, the room dissolved in snorts of derision and we all felt that visceral sense of contempt for the corporate PR flack who dreamed up this cloying, manipulative piece of public charity. This is how we want people to feel when they wake up on April 22?

2) The rapidly growing group of Americans who oppose the environmental movement don't like corporate sponsorship either. Now, this should come as a big surprise: People who think environmentalists are one-issue, Eastern establishment, family values-hating tree huggers are not likely to convert to our side after seeing an Earth Day representative hawking soap from Procter and Gamble. They couldn't care less how many trees their brand of toilet paper saves, and even less if the World Wildlife Fund gets a penny a roll. The idea that we are "mainstreaming" the movement by turning, say, Woodstock II into a Pepsi Generation thing, is nonsense.

3) We are special interest, one-issue tree huggers. That interest being the preservation of the ecological integrity of the planet. And we have a quite specific and quite radical case to make (get ready, this is planet-saving 101). We demand: a massive and enlightened redistribution of the world's wealth and land; a drastic reduction in the developed world's rate of consumption; democratic cooperation to deal with those elements of environmental stewardship that require it; and reducing to local stewardship, local economics and local democracy those that don't. …