• $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • other
  • use Paypal

CALLING ALL COUNTERPUNCHERS! CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners to the “new” Cuba. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads or click bait. Unlike many other indy media sites, we don’t shake you down for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it. So over the next few weeks we are requesting your financial support. Keep CounterPunch free, fierce and independent by donating today by credit card through our secure online server, via PayPal or by calling 1(800) 840-3683.


The Corporate Debasement of Earth Day



Earth Day the First–launched in April 1970 with 1500 events mostly on college campuses by enormous student energy–led the television network news and made the covers of the national news magazines.

Earth Day the Thirty Seventh–in April 2007–was broader based than the First Day but in many ways more debased by corporate greenwashing, and political posturing marinated in corporate campaign cash.

A comparison of the two periods, both characterized by a surge in ecological recognitions of perils and possibilities, is instructive.

In 1970, the environmental arousal focused on pesticides, air and water pollution, with attention to workplace toxics contributing to occupational diseases. Widely publicized were the inversions in the Los Angeles area, chocking with vehicles, and the Cuyahoga River near Cleveland where seeping petroleum slicks were sometimes set on fire–on the river!

The action goals were legislative authority directing the federal executive agencies to regulate and reduce permissible pollution. Compared with today, legislation passed through Congress at a torrid pace. Objecting corporate lobbyists were swept aside.

Among the bills enacted into law were the water pollution and air pollution statutes, the drinking water safety act, the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

So prevalent and visible were millions of Americans calling for action that Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald Ford signed them into law with strong statements of support for their promised purposes. He rode the wave rolling across the country to Washington, D.C.

Some results were measurable. The ouster of lead in gasoline and paint reduced the level of lead in peoples’ bodies. Levels of vinyl chloride in the bodies of industrial workers disappeared. Asbestos was close to being banned for most commercial purposes. The first mandatory fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles were issued in 1975 to be met by 1985 at the average fleet mark of 27.5 miles per gallon.

Then came the corporate counterattack replete with money, muscle and daily propaganda. Regulation was blamed for everything save spots on the sun. Deregulation became the mantra that rewarded more and more elected politicians who performed the requisite courtesies and bows. By 1980 the Democrats had joined the race for business campaign cash with the Republicans. The Reagan era began, led by an ex-actor who said that most air pollution came from trees.

Corporate apologists started writing reams of materials about public-private partnerships and marketplace trading of pollution credits. They compromised government’s arms length responsibilities with joint ventures where taxpayer monies were used by Washington, D.C. to subsidize collusive auto industry research, for example, under the Clinton Administration. These projects went nowhere, wasting billions of dollars and shielding in the process auto company exposure to regulation and to the antitrust laws.

The massive environmental stall had begun. Less technology-forcing regulation, less enforcement and less overdue lawmaking to provide ethical-legal frameworks for new risks coming from genetic engineering, nano-technology and the relentless use of many invasive new chemicals in the human environment.

Today, there are reports of many more global Earth Day events, including the global warming networking of Al Gore. Awareness of both the sustaining role of oceans, rivers, air quality, forests, prairies and the enormous costs of their damage or displacement is understood by many more people then in 1970. Consider the remarkable roll-back of the tobacco industry’s deliberate addiction of their customers at an early age.

Companies are rushing to give themselves a clearer environmental image with chain stores taking on more organic food and spreading their environmental labeling of products. More so-called green buildings are under construction. Companies like General Electric are talking a good game, but they are working to bring back nuclear power with all its costs, risks and taxpayer subsidies.

So for all the greenwashing, the auto industries are still on Congress blocking improved fuel efficiencies for motor vehicles which presently are the lowest since 1980. Electric generating plants–often burning coal–have not significantly changed their gross design inefficiencies of bygone years.

The coal barons are still blowing off the mountaintops and widening the land areas they are strip-mining. Asthma rates among children are climbing. Land erosion continues unabated.

One can gauge the lack of progress three ways.

Is the country moving expeditiously to make existing “best practices” the overall practice throughout the economy?

Are we applying the insight of Professor Barry Commoner that prevention is better than tepid often evaded controls of specific, harmful pollutants, as we did when we took the lead out of paint and gasoline?

Do we have a massive conversion agenda, led by leading politicians for solar energy in all its efficient forms, including wind power, and for the dramatic improvements in energy efficiency now readily available for application?

For the most part, the answer to these questions is NO!

RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions



Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots