The New Face of the EPA

ebell

As many of you are probably aware, our new president elect is not a big believer in anthropogenic climate change. In fact, based on the comments and policies he has made it seems as if he actively denies climate change as a hoax, and this is very worrying coming from a man who will help dictate this country’s climate policy for at least the next four years. Trump plans to make many changes to the EPA, if he doesn’t atempt to eliminate it all together. Some of you may be familiar with the man that Trump proposes to appoint to the head of the EPA, Myron Ebell.

It is very important to note that not only does Ebell have no background in science, but he is an outspoken climate change denier. He has previously worked for CEI, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which received large amounts of funding from no other than ExxonMobil. Ebell and many of his contemporaries at CEI had either direct or indirect connections to the Koch brothers who are heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry. To think that Ebell will ignore these past influences and manage an uninfluenced and unbiased EPA is optimistic at best. This could set back the progress of the EPA over the last 8 years almost instantly if Ebell and the republican congress are able to implement some of the policy changes that reflect their disbelief in climate change.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/11/11/meet-the-man-trump-is-relying-on-to-unravel-obamas-environmental-legacy/?utm_term=.f190110e0b91

However, we as environmentalists cannot give up hope. We must continue to educate and spread awareness of anthropogenic climate change and sustainability and work within our own communities to make a difference, at least on a small scale. Another thing that we can is to contact our congressmen and women and let them know how important the issue of climate change is. If we as citizens can make it clear to our representatives that protection against climate change is a key issue when considering who we vote for and support, they will listen. They depend on us as voters as much as we depend on them as representatives and we must make our voice heard. Below I’ve included links to find the congress members from your area in Ohio and I hope that you all take the time to reach out to one of your representatives.

http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/

Advertisements

Greenwashing

Now more than ever companies want to be seen as “green” or environmentally friendly, and this is because the general public is concerned about our climate and environment more than ever. While this is a good thing, many companies are trying to exploit this fact for their own benefit and greenwashing is now a common technique in advertising and marketing. This greenwashing is used to make a company seem concerned about the environment or like their product actively improves the environment and many times this is just plain false information. Although it has been around since the 80s, greenwashing has become so prevalent now that you would be hard pressed to find a product on the shelves at your local supermarket that doesn’t promote its environmental friendliness or downplays the environmental impact.

I believe that this kind of advertising and marketing should be regulated more closely by the federal government because it is blatantly deceiving the customer and using that deception to profit. You may notice a large “RECYCLABLE” label on a drink or maybe a product made of “whatever% recycled material!” or containing “a whole lotta natural ingredients!” but these things often times mean nothing at all. It is far to easy to say and write whatever sounds good instead of being honest with the customer. Also, by greenwashing products that are not environmentally friendly, a company can avoid producing goods that actually ARE environmentally friendly. Why change the product when changing the packaging works just as well for sales?

I believe that the Federal Trade Commission has a responsibility, now more than ever, to regulate environmental advertising. The  Green Guide, which the FTC uses as guidelines for regulating environmental marketing hasn’t been updated since 1998. This is unacceptable, especially since so many new discoveries have been made as far as climate change and human impact on the environment since 1998. An interesting look at what updated FTC guidance might look can be found in this article

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2898878/

It’s time to put a stop to greenwashing and it’s time we stopped letting these money hungry corporations manipulate and deceive the American people for their own profit, especially when the victims in these cases are everyone and everything that lives on this planet.

Shopping and being “normal”

One topic we touched on in class this week was President George W. Bush telling the nation to go out and shop after 9/11. It seems there could have been a few reasons for saying this. One point I believe he was trying to make is that we can’t let the terrorists win by living scared or by not continuing our normal lives. Another reason for saying this was possibly to keep the U.S. economy thriving in a time of crisis. Not only is shopping considered a “normal” thing to do, but it seems that those in power are constantly pushing Americans to “buy, buy, buy”. It seems that just about everything nowadays is connected to consumer products, even major social or environmental issues. For example, obviously a way to lessen your impact on the environment could be to buy an electric car or stop driving altogether, but this of course would not satisfy many peoples’ desire for a cool, expensive, fast car, so car companies will instead advertise their new, expensive luxury car with better gas mileage than the competitors. Sure, the better gas mileage will help lessen the impact but it seems more like the car companies tricking the consumer into “improving” themselves without really changing themselves. It’s very similar to what we talked about with healthy alternatives in food or cosmetic products. It has become so normal to purchase things and have nice possessions that the companies producing the products don’t need to worry about whether or not an unhealthy product will sell, but rather what things they can say to make people buy it anyway. I understand that it is important to keep money flowing throughout our economy and that consumerism creates a lot of jobs and opportunities but I think that it has become much too important in our lives, to a point where we begin to judge others off of simply the things they own. One example we talked about in class was what you think of someone with a bad lawn, and many of the first thoughts were lazy or poor which have no actual ties to lawn quality. Until we can stop viewing what people own or how they use certain products as direct reflections of their personalities, consumerism will continue to negatively impact our society.

Pandering to People’s Health Concerns

One thing that was discussed in class and in our book was how products are marketed to consumers. It was difficult to come up with a list of items that aren’t advertised as being beneficial to your health, or that have “healthier” alternatives. Even things like alcohol or soda, which most can agree are not healthy for you, advertise “low calorie” or “diet” options regardless of whether these alternatives are actually healthy for you. It seems that the reason for doing this is because that is exactly what many consumers want. Many people in the present day understand that much of what we consume is not healthy for you, but very few remedy this by changing their lifestyles or eating habits. Instead, it is much easier to just purchase the “healthier” version of the products they’ve always used and loved. It gives many people a sense of self-improvement without actually putting in any effort to really improve. This desire for better health but unwillingness to alter our habits hasn’t gone unnoticed by big corporations that realize they can keep their loyal customers by pandering to their concerns. Why switch from soda to water when diet soda is a “healthy” alternative? Why quit drinking beer when you can simply switch to a “light” beer? These products were created and continue to sell because many people are set in their ways, and will take the easiest solution whenever possible. Although it seems like the producers are to blame and are acting dishonestly, I believe the consumers are also to blame. I believe that the solution is for people to become more educated about the actual health effects of the things they consume, and to realize that just because something is a “healthier” alternative, doesn’t mean that it’s healthy.

The Cost of Eating Right

Michael King

One topic we touched on in class that really stuck out to me was the connection between low income and unhealthy eating habits and obesity. Anyone that has ever been to Whole Foods knows that those nice, organic, health oriented foods are going to cost you a pretty penny, while a trip to McDonald’s might fill you up for only $5.00. This is a major issue and a real obstacle for families living in poverty that want to give their family a healthy diet. This issue is no mystery to the fast food restaurants as we saw when looking at the number of fast food restaurants in poor neighborhoods compared to wealthier ones. Not only are cheap and healthy alternatives not available, but these people are being bombarded with advertisements as well as being targeted by location. According to the British Medical Journal, eating healthier foods can cost upwards of $500 more a year. This figure was based on research in 10 different countries over 11 years, and some areas experience even greater differences in pricing. (BMJ)

Affordable healthy alternatives are absolutely necessary for battling obesity in the U.S. Many families choose unhealthy fast food over a balanced meal from the supermarket because of the need to fill their families stomachs as cheaply as possible, without much concern for health effects. I believe that these types of restaurants need to be more transparent with the nutrition facts about their food, as well as offer more healthy alternatives. I also believe that targeted advertisements need to be stopped or at least limited. Similarly, stores and restaurants that sell healthier foods must become more affordable, although this is easier said than done. As long as eating healthy is more expensive than eating unhealthy, we will have major issues with obesity in impoverished areas. One solution that is independent of the actual diet is creating more after school clubs or athletic programs that encourage exercise in a safe environment, especially in neighborhoods that are often too dangerous for children to go out and play.

Health in Advertisements

By Michael King

After seeing the two Chipotle commercials in class last week I had mixed feelings about their message. On one hand, I felt like they were very powerful messages delivered in a way that would both get the audience interested and make them think about the way food is produced in this country. Many of us know that much of the food that we consume on a daily basis comes from factory farms but it is not something that we necessarily think about every time we eat. The Chipotle commercials not only emphasized the negative effect of factory farming on the animals, but the farmers and workers as well. I thought that this was a really good way of making people consider all of the effects of this way of life, even the ones that were not immediately obvious.

On the other hand, I found the Chipotle commercials to be rather disingenuous. The fact that they did not include their company name anywhere until after the audience already felt the remorse and guilt of eating factory farmed foods. It felt to me as if they didn’t want the audience to know it was a Chipotle commercial until they had already arrived at a conclusion about this way of farming. I think that if the commercials had started out with a large Chipotle logo it would not have been as effective because many people know that Chipotle only uses free range meats “when available”. Instead, the commercials sought to tug on the heartstrings of Americans, and it’s hard to tell if Chipotle’s goal is a moral, or capitalistic one.

Chipotle is of course not the only restaurant to brag about their “healthy” alternatives. Other fast food restaurants advertise their salads or “low calorie” options but rarely is any real information given. These advertisements prey on the average person’s need to feel healthy or moral when I believe that the companies actually have no investment in an individual’s health. While I don’t see these major corporations backing off from this tactic any time soon, I think there are solutions. Better public health education would allow people to make educated, healthy decisions about what they consume without having to rely on information from the companies that profit from selling unhealthy foods. This is why communicating about health and the environment is so important and why I think this class will be extremely useful in our everyday lives.