The Greenwashing of Earth Day – A Not-so-Happy Post

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Greenwashing of Earth Day – A Not-so-Happy Post

By Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News

The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan, Author

It has been a long time since I contributed to Happy Eco News with a blog post. Several months in fact. We have had a wonderful mix of artists, scientists, and regular people contribute to this growing body of positivity. This week, I wanted to contribute a meaningful and thoughtful article about or relating to Earth Day.

But I can’t do it.

This week, it’s actually a somewhat angry rant, and I apologize. Please click here if you are triggered by strong language.

I have conflicting and mixed emotions about the idea of making a special Earth Day post. Happy Eco News is solely focussed on environmental good news, but Earth Day has now been co-opted by everything from major banks to oil companies. It is ironic that in 2021, I wonder if I want the Happy Eco News brand to be associated with the one day of the year when peace and the health of the planet are to be celebrated.

earthday1970 universityofmichigan The Greenwashing of Earth Day - A Not-so-Happy Post
Earth Day 1970, University of Michigan – Image courtesy West Coast Environmental Law.

One day? Why is it just one day? Maybe it’s because when planning the first one back in 1969, during the height of social awakening and the Vietnam war, the people needed a rallying cry. They needed to know that there would be one goddamn day per year that would celebrate peace and the health of the earth. They must have felt that permanent peace and real health of the planet was simply too much to consider as an “every” day thing. Then, on April 22, 1970, when the first Earth Day happened, 20 million people joined in the streets. According to Wikipedia, the first Earth Day remains the largest single-day protest in human history.

But now the companies have jumped on. It seems the epitome of greenwashing; on the one hand, these companies support investment in industries and businesses that destroy the very things we require for all life on earth, yet on the other hand, make unaccountable proclamations of how XXX bank supports Earth Day and the values it embodies.

In the week leading up to Earth Day, I received dozens of emails from companies and organizations proudly stating their shared commitment to the health of the planet. I wish it were true.

But most of it is lies. It is consumer marketing run amok. It’s time to hold accountable the companies and individuals who continue to erode the systems that will support our children and grandchildren. The ones who say one thing and do another. We need to stop buying their crap, supporting their businesses, and allowing ourselves to be manipulated.

After all, it’s all connected. All of it. Poverty, ecocide, oppression of the nameless and weak of the world. The children living in poverty, the single mother desperately seeking to give her child a better life. The injustice done by one is done to all. George Floyd pleading for his life, with a murderous cop kneeling on his neck. Every person who has suffered the indignity of being profiled by police, a co-worker, an employer, or staff at a retail store. The same people who profit from a system of oppression and weaponized police also profit from the continued and accelerating destruction of the planet.

Yet they’ll celebrate earth day too.

So fuck them, and their power. Fuck their hypocrisy. It is somewhat sickening to think that the people who have almost all of the wealth, are so greedy that they would destroy everything just for a little more. They already have a second or third home in gated communities. Multiple expensive automobiles, boats, and powerful toys, vacations every year in sunny, securely gated destinations. There are trust funds for their kids, maybe even investment accounts that will ensure their grandchildren’s grandchildren have more.

cimatejustice The Greenwashing of Earth Day - A Not-so-Happy Post
They should be studying. Schoolchildren in Germany protest the ongoing destruction of the environment. Image courtesy Marcus Teply/The World

As usual, Noam Chomsky put it into words better than I ever could:

I don’t know what word in the language—I can’t find one—that applies to people of that kind, who are willing to sacrifice the literal—the existence of organized human life, not in the distant future, so they can put a few more dollars in highly overstuffed pockets. The word “evil” doesn’t begin to approach it”

More than everyone else is the goal, but at what cost? Their grandchildren and great-grandchildren will live in an era of unspeakable chaos and fear, all as a result of the greed of a couple of generations who could never get enough. And while their offspring revel in their wealth, everyone else will suffer. But it’s ok, that’s the others. We have more. A group with almost limitless power who only want one thing – they just want more.

On earth day I did nothing different than every other day. I turned off the lights when I left the room, I sorted and separated all the household waste, I tried not to drive anywhere, but when I did, I drove our EV. I planted a vegetable garden, and I weeded the beds instead of using a chemical herbicide. I ate more veggies than meat. I did what I could because Earth Day really needs to be every day. Anyone who says any different is delusional. Eventually, they will come around, or get left behind.

But please don’t get me wrong, I believe the sentiment of Earth Day is good. I also believe that just like any long-lasting and successful entity, it needs to evolve. Companies who really want to do better, and there are many, need to support charities like One Percent for the Planet, the Rainforest Alliance, Earth Justice, and others all the time; not just once per year.

Big companies with big marketing budgets need to step up and support the little people. The mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts are working tirelessly to make the world a better place. The farmer who chooses to not use pesticides, the government official that makes a stand to protect a wild place from development. The activists in developing nations risking their lives to preserve their country from destruction by offshore companies. These heroes should be championed and supported, and when they are done, when all the work has been completed, maybe then we can go back to one Earth Day per year, and call it a day of observance, a day of remembrance of how close we came to losing it all.

IMG 8798 scaled The Greenwashing of Earth Day - A Not-so-Happy Post
Earth Day, every day. Image courtesy Grant Brown.

All over the world, every minute of every day, there are millions of people working to make the planet better. Nature is not lost, but she has been hurt. Those who help nature heal her wounded soul are all around. It is them, and those who support them that will be the stewards of the next era.

So, I ask every one of you who reads this, who got this far in my Earth Day rant, to please take action. Please do what you can. Do it today, tomorrow, and every day after that.


Grant Brown

Founder, Happy Eco News

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  1. You put into words how earth day feels!
    It IS every day.
    It is so much more than picking up garbage around you for one day 😞
    It IS standing up to the systems which destroy healthy life in our planet.
    Thanks for stepping it up with your realistic honest piece! Cheers, Grant.

    1. Thanks Debora,
      I was somewhat hesitant to publish this one, and it’s been softened a lot since the first draft, but I think it gets the point across.
      Hope you are well.

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