Earth Day as corporate holiday
Rob Augman
May/June 2001

If you attended an Earth Day event this year, either on UF Campus at Earth Week or at the Downtown Community Plaza, and you're an environmentalist or radical ecologist, you probably went home pretty furious. There were two great contradictions: 1.) At the UF Earth Week event on the Reitz Union colonnade, a tabling event, Dominos Pizza was participating (!), and 2.) Both the Earth Week event and Earth Day celebration drowned the ecological crisis issues in green-consumerist nonsense. Those of us active in the movements against ecological destruction (Civic Media Center, Ichetucknee Mobilization, Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice, etc.) were drowned out by those who want to sell us camping and fishing trips, beaded necklaces, t-shirts, and spirituality as a small piece of utopia instead of the very real and necessary engagement with taking part in social movements to change the world.

What's the big deal if Dominos Pizza was celebrating Earth Day, isn't that a good thing that they want to participate?

Putting it in perspective for Gainesville and Alachua county citizens, Dominos Pizza offering free pizza is comparable to Suwanee American or Anderson Columbia handing out free buckets of cement!

The corporate and capitalist co-optation of Earth Day has only served to confuse those who sincerely want an end to the ecological crisis. Corporate sponsorship and participation in such events does not mean that they want an end to the ecological crisis. They simply want the public to believe that they're hands are not dripping in blood and ecological activists to believe they're not the enemy. Many corporations distort the issue by donating funds to civic organizations. Miller Brewing Corporation donated $150,000 to the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, but spent TWICE that much on advertising its gift.*

For corporations to exist they must continue to make products to sell to consumers to increase their profits. But commodity-making has significant effects on the environment, as well as on humans. As corporations turn humans into human resources, they also turn the environment into natural resources something to be extracted from disregarding any negative effects. Ingredients are needed to make the incredible amount of commodities corporations flood the market with. These ingredients are people (to do the work) and things (to become the products). Corporations use anything and everything they can to make profits, at anyone and everything's expense. Nothing stands in their way.

If corporations really wanted to participate in ending the ecological crisis they would quit producing so much junk we don't need. They would stop trying to sell it to us too! They would shut down their billion-dollar propagandistic advertising campaigns that bully our emotions into thinking we need such junk. They would move from a highly centralized, hierarchical, and bureaucratic institution owned and managed by a very few wealthy elites to a decentralized, directly-democratic, confederation of cooperative community-based factories, offices, farms, etc. Production and distribution would be guided by community need and desire, not profit-making. Operations would also be guided by an ecological sensibility, not a throwaway commodity culture of one-time-use products. Community gardens and green areas would not be turned into high rise apartment complexes and corporate or government headquarters. And they would not be turned into parking lots either. Agricultural areas and wildlife areas would not be turned into cement plants. Not simply would the economic arena have to be reorganized placing the community directly in charge of policy-making but also the political arena would have to be reorganized so that citizens are directly in charge of policy-making there as well.

If Earth Day is to be a time to celebrate our love for nature by wearing beaded necklaces or animal t-shirts or drum-banging and singing about the Earth Mother, then what does it have to do with creating an ecological and rational world? George W. Bush, like his father did in 1990, can easily participate in this type of Earth Day making speeches about planting trees, joining in a recycling drive or just pick[ing] up litter on your street. It is our choice. Do we go on cleaning up after corporate capitalist society and playing watchdog to those in power? Or do we take action to transform our present society into one that we participate in directly? If we want to see a world that reflects an ecological sustainability, one that makes us direct participants in politics and economics, we must understand corporate capitalism's role in preventing that progress. We must understand that a transformation must be fundamental and that simple reforms do not make the changes that are necessary if we want a society based on freedom, participation, cooperation, mutual aid, and sustainability. There are different possibilities worth fighting for.

*Marketing Madness: A Survival Guide for a Consumer Society By Michael F. Jacobson and Laurie Ann Mazur

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