Francine Robinson: Polluters' slight of hand

Published: Monday, January 21, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 5:04 p.m.

For many years, industrial corporations have camouflaged their aims and resources by setting up their own "non-profit" organizations with names such as World Climate Report, National Wetlands Coalition, American Council on Science and health, Global Climate Coalition, etc. These "fronts" have been established to counter the environmental and political work of citizen groups.

There are more than 100 of these grass-roots "imitations" which are utilized to further the corporate business objectives of their supporters. Among those who fund such company "shells" are Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Shell, et al. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of these "non-profits" have vigorously opposed legislation that would increase environmental protection and would also increase the cost of doing business.

At this time, polluting industries are using their powerful resources to help them jump on the "green bandwagon." They aim to influence public reaction to the problem of global warming by blanketing the media with advice to citizens about how they can reduce greenhouse gases in their everyday lives; thereby glossing over the obligation of industry and government to help solve the problem actively with no further dragging of heels. (The United States' overt reluctance to join other countries in the global effort to reduce greenhouse emissions has been a glaring embarrassment on the international scene.)

The corporate media blitz is visible every day, as newspapers, magazines, radio, TV stations, and other outlets trumpet green action for citizens in a frenzy of publicity that resembles an industrial epiphany! Industries are now touting how much they support green methods and how much they care about the environment.

The appeal to private citizens ignores how absolutely essential it is for government to regulate the greenhouse emissions of the large industrial polluters. In other words, like the magician whose trick depends on directing the eye elsewhere, major polluters are attempting to deflect the onus of reducing their hazardous emissions onto the shoulders of individual citizens.

This does not mean that citizens should shelve their personal efforts to help reduce greenhouse emissions. The environmental movement has for years encouraged recycling and re-using, in addition to reducing the use of automobiles and other energy and oil gobblers. Collectively, with large numbers of citizens participating in green action, this will aid the effort.

But such individual acts cannot effectively resolve the problem of industrial greenhouse gases that are swirling around our planet and to which we have contributed more than any other nation thus far.

Up front, these companies are gathering brownie points for their "green-ness" while avoiding their responsibility to clean up their act. The polluting industries must now acknowledge that if they are to be the good neighbors they have for decades claimed to be, regulation by fiat must be accepted, not fought.

Like the tobacco industry, C02-emitting industry folks will dig in their corporate heels until global, legal and public opinion force them to be "green" and good neighbors. We cannot permit profit-driven entities to co-opt and divert the direction of global warming amelioration and solutions.

Francine Robinson is a member of the board of the Florida League of Conservation Voters, and was president 1988-1998.

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