ExxonMobil celebrates Earth Day. It's true: the oil company that has poured millions into trying to prove that global warming isn't real joins hands in a circle around our planet on April 22.
Here's how the company paints itself green: ExxonMobil operates 10 cogeneration sites, generating 2,400 megawatts, that also produce steam and heat for industry. The company has invested $600 million, it says, and its cogeneration is the equivalent of taking a million cars off American roads. I don't doubt the accuracy of this, but the other side of the scale is weighty indeed.
According to ExxonSecrets, in 2008 ExxonMobil spent $2.1 million on 41 climate skeptic groups, including the Heartland Institute, the Heritage Foundation, The George C. Marshall Institute and the American Enterprise Institute. It apparently no longer funds the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
With 20 million other Americans, I attended the very first Earth Day celebration, in New York in 1970. I remember how fresh it all seemed. We called it "ecology" then. That same year, the very liberal Congress, with an acquiescent Richard Nixon in the White House, passed the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. A new era was a-borning.
The fact that Earth Day gets co-opted by greenwashers is not a reason to get cynical about it. It was launched 39 years ago with relatively pure intent, and it still gets my vote as an event worth celebrating. It's our right, no it's our duty, to take it back from the corporate marketers.
Start small. The official Earth Day has now passed, but many places are celebrating it this Saturday, when people have time to get out and party for the planet. I'm sure there's a meaningful Earth Day event somewhere near where you live this weekend. I seldom come back from one of these fairs, farmers' markets or town-wide groove-a-thons with a frown on my face. Connections are made, business cards exchanged and plans hatched. It's cool. And there's usually organic free samples, too.
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