Category Archives: Social Studies

Greenwashing

If you happened to catch this week’s episode of NPR’s , you’ll find this all very familiar.

In their leading piece this week, they investigated companies that have focused their advertising efforts on demonstrating their corporate responsibility to the environment. The British Oil Company, British Petroleum also known as BP, is an example of one such company. For the past five years or so, BP has been running regular television advertisements in an effort to re-brand themselves as “BP, Beyond Petroleum.”

While I’m very familiar with the concept of Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware), I always felt as though there needed to be truth in advertising. Otherwise it would be deemed false-advertising, right?

According to the piece, and I found this to be particularly insightful, there are currently no laws on the books that prohibit companies from making partially-false claims about environmental efforts. False advertising is more geared towards competitive statements implying that your product is better than your advertisers, or statements of fact about what your product can or cannot do — not what the company itself is doing behind closed doors.

According to the trusted source of Wikipedia, BP alone was responsible for 104 oil spills between January 1997 and March 1998. Additionally, due to corrosive piplines in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in August 2006 the company spilled over 1 million litres (~264,000 Gallons) of oil on Alaska’s North Slope.

In July of 2006, BP admitted, after the news was leaked to journalists, that it was facing criminal charges for allowing 270,000 gallons of crude oil to seep across the Alaskan tundra, one of the world’s most sensitive habitats. Environmental advocates pointed to the relative lack of press coverage about the spill as evidence that BP had successfully “greenwashed” its image while continuing environmentally unsound practices.

Now, if this doesn’t get your goat, I don’t know what will. Call me a sucker, Prior to this report, I had always believed that BP was trying to do the right thing. Now, I’m not so sure. The next time I see a BP, Beyond Petroleum, Advertisement. I’ll likely have to throw something.

A net loss

Today, my brother-in-law, Bubba, emailed me with this question: “What is humankind’s greatest contribution to earth?”

I paused for a moment or two and gave it some thought. Not surprisingly, I came up blank. It seemed to me that the only positive contributions on our part have been band-aids to fix the things that we’ve already destroyed. I thought for sure Bubba would come back with an answer, since he is an Environmental Science/Geology professional of sorts. But he drew a blank, too. That’s when Ray Manzarek’s organ intro and John Densmore’s high-hat started playing in my mind. The Doors’ ‘When the Music’s Over’ is about many things – anarchy, social unrest, death – but I’ve long held firm that it’s the first song to tackle the theme of environmentalism. I didn’t live through the 1960s, so I could be wrong. Maybe Country Joe & The Fish broached the subject. Maybe Peter, Paul & Mary did. However, I don’t recall ever hearing an environmental plea set to music until a friend turned me on to The Doors when I was 14 (Mike Dunlop, if you’re out there, drop me a line here on The Diatribe). Here’s the reply I wrote Bubba, which (pardon the egotism) I thought took care of my blog posting for tonight…

We cut down trees. We pave over grass. We eradicate the rain forests.
We eat or kill (for sport) every animal we find. We poison the soil.
We poison the water. We poison the sky. Listen to ‘When the Music’s
Over’ by The Doors. Jim Morrison wrote the first ever song about
environmental awareness (well, it includes a section about that topic
anyway).

What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down!

With a Rebel yell

I saw a Confederate flag vanity plate on an enormous pickup truck the other day.  And this was in the greater-Boston area.  And, yes, I double-checked and the truck did have Massachusetts plates.  All in all, just an odd sighting.  Seeing the Confederate flag kind of freaks me out.  I mean, I love The Dukes of Hazzard (the TV show, not the movie) more than anyone, but something tells me that such displays of the ol’ stars ‘n bars are not examples of zealous Dukes fans.

I’m not up on my state capital goings-on, but we are all aware of the controversy surrounding the rich, old white coots in South Carolina who refused to take down the Confederate flag from the state house.  They played the tradition card and the ‘we must honor our fallen soldiers’ card, but we all know what they were celebrating.  I hate to generalize, but it’s thinking like that which pretty much assures me of not stepping foot in South Carolina or Texas (among others) anytime soon.  Just something on my mind, for what it’s worth.

Global Warming

If you haven’t yet read it, there’s a great piece in today’s New York Times about Global Warming. The Bush Administration finally admits that there is some truth to the claim. The latest report on Global Warming has shown unequivocal evidence of the presence of global temperatures rising as a direct result of human behavior.

There’s still some holdouts, of course. Take this idiot form Oaklahoma:

Senator James M. Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who has called the idea of dangerous human-driven warming a hoax, issued a news release headed “Corruption of Science” that rejected the report as “a political document.”

And while the majority of people in this country (and the world) believe that this is the case, some are still stuck in their ways. What is the worst that could possibly happen if we react to these Global Warming reports and start reducing CO2 emissions? It’s not like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place here. It’s a win-win situation if we do it, and a lose-lose if we don’t.

Let’s just hope that it’s not too late. According to the report,

"…There is a more than a 1-in-10 chance of much greater warming, a risk that many experts say is far too high to ignore."

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The ATHF Debacle

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past two days, you probably know about the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Device Debacle going on in Boston. I somewhat wish that I was still working over at Boston.com to witness, first hand, the panic and hysteria that ensued over the devices.

A former co-worker of mine, who still works over at Boston.com wrote a good summary of the events as they unfolded in his blog today. I thought it was an insightful look at the events, especially considering that I agree with his estimations of how the site responded to this issue versus the way it previously handled events such as this.

Frankly, I think it’s completely absurd the way the city responded to these boxes which have been up around town for several weeks now. Not only that, the fact that they are filing criminal charges against the two men that put these up (at the behest of the Advertising Agency, mind you) is ludicrous. What’s even more insane is that Mumbles Menino wants to file a lawsuit of some kind against Turner Broadcasting.

I highly doubt that such an ordeal was made when a few folks from MIT marked how "Smoot’s" it took to cross the Mass Ave Bridge. It is true that we live in a post-9/11 world where we need to be much more cautious. I’m the first one to freak out if I find a bag unattended in a public place — and but you’d think that they would have cleared something like this with the powers that be.

Either way, a mistake was made and policy should be set. I don’t think arresting two guys who weren’t even doing this as a prank, is the right answer.

Overpopulation Nation

Yesterday, the U.S. population hit 300 million. That’s a lot of zeros. It’s sadly odd how cities all over the country are promoting their 7:46 am baby as the 300 millionth baby. What an arbitrary honor to want to affix to a newborn. We also found out that the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the U.S. population will hit 400 million by 2043. That’s just 37 years from now. We just just hit 300 million and we’re going to grow by one-third in 37 short years. That shocks me. That worries me. I’ll most likely still be walking this mortal coil in 37 years, but I’ll be an old man and I’m not too concerned with the status of earth in my lifetime; well, I am, but I’m fairly confident my quality of life will be pretty much the same in 37 years.

I am, however, concerned about leaving this world in livable and sustainable shape for future generations. Will there be enough food? Enough oxygen? Enough farmland? Enough farmers willing to work that farmland to provide all the food? I worry that our natural resources are running out and we might not be able to fix the problem in time. I struggle with the thought of bringing children into this world and telling them, Hey, it’s your problem now. I’m outta here. Good luck! But, then again, 18 months ago I wrote right here that I would never get married. So what do I know?

Discovery

I’m not a Christopher Columbus scholar, but why the hell are we still celebrating Columbus Day??? Let’s celebrate the guy who “discovered” a massive continent (or two) that had already been inhabited for millenia!!! What a guy! The fool didn’t even know where the hell he was. Oh, and he purposely used germ warfare to kill off the native inhabitants by giving them contaminated blankets (isn’t that terrorism?) you say? Well, then we’d be foolish for not shutting down federal, state, and local offices, schools, banks, and businesses to honor such a fine man! Thank goodness this guy discovered the Americas. Gee, I don’t think anyone would have ever found these hundreds of millions of acres without him.

And on a serious note, Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian brothers and sisters to the north. Jones.