National Geographic Photo, by Jim Richardson. Sheep in Scotland.

(The New York Times) After 40 years of encouraging, as Joni Mitchell put it, “spots on our apples,” Earth Day has gone decidedly corporate.  Earth Day’s original, nonprofit intent to foster recycling and raise awareness about our dwindling environment in 1970 has now prompted a business and a new vocabulary.  “Going green” so that we can reduce our “carbon footprint” is the latest trend.  Just look at big companies like F.A.O. Schwartz, which is peddling  Peat the Penguin, an emerald green toy made from earth-friendly soy fibers and who claims to be “an ardent supporter of recycling, reusing, and reducing waste.”  The national coordinator of Earth Day, Denis Hayes, is sickened by the corporations that are taking charge and stimulating eco-consumerism.  “This ridiculous perverted marketing has cheapened the concept of what is really green,” Mr. Hayes said.  It seems, in many ways, that Earth Day’s mission is being stifled by piles of organic commodities, and as any contemporary consumer knows, items boasting sustainability like Peat the Penguin certainly aren’t restricted to F.A.O. Schwartz.

Corporations’ support does have its charms, however.  The New York Times reports that environmental nonprofits team up with big companies in order to spread the message, and it is positive that such powerful groups choose to raise environmental awareness.  Google and Cisco, for instance, are joining hands with Greenpeace to produce a Webinar on video conferences and “cloud” computing, both of which reduce environmental destruction.

Ultimately, however, the regression in true Earth Day ideals is just part of our progressing culture, says independent filmmaker Robert Stone: “Every Earth Day is a reflection of where we are as a culture.  If it has become commoditized, about green consumerism instead of systemic change, then it is a reflection of our society.”  Mr. Stone is making a documentary on the history of American environmentalism to be aired on public television this week.

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