(grēn’wŏsh’, -wôsh’) Used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.
I was hoping there may have been even a slight essence of corporate responsibility that would rise up within the fast food industry. Evidently – I was wrong. The fast food industry has reached an all time low. To try to convince the public at large that idling in drive-thrus does not contribute to environmental degradation, pollution and smog is truly an insult to every Canadian citizen in this country.
To use our children that these American fast food chains (yes – Tim Hortons although branded as Canadian is also American) employ at minimum wage to spread such greenwash messages is even more disturbing. Why are we allowing multinational corporations to teach our children apathetic views on our environment that will contribute to the escalation of ever accelerating climate change? It is sadly ironic that our children – more than anyone, are the most vulnerable to pollution – breathing 50% more air per pound than adults.
Eight thousand people a day die from air pollution. There are 3 million annual deaths, worldwide. In Canada toxic emissions from transportation continue to rise drastically. Vehicles are the primary sources of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, particulates and benzene, a carcinogen. In the past 15 years alone, there has been a fourfold increase in asthma in children under 15 in Canada. We are in a world wide public health crisis epidemic as a direct result of air pollution amidst a climate change crisis that threatens human survival on this earth – expanding services which promote unnecessary idling for convenience is not only reckless and irresponsible – it is the absolute opposite direction we need to be taking.
In Ontario, the number of “smog days” nearly quadrupled from 15 in 1995 to 53 in 2005. Pollution is a particularly serious issue for London, Ontario, the city with the province’s second highest number of smog days after Toronto. If nothing is done to clean the air, medical experts estimate that by 2026 the number of smog-related premature deaths in Ontario alone will hit 10,000 annually. The combined health care and lost productivity costs are expected to exceed $1 billion. In a quote from 2005, the president of the OMA states unequivocally: “The impact polluted air is having on the health of Ontarians is dramatically worse than we had initially estimated. We are paying the price for poor air quality with our lives and if we don’t take action immediately, the cost will continue to rise significantly.”
Toronto’s medical officer has released a report stating a 30% reduction in vehicle emissions could save 200 lives, one billion dollars a year in health care costs and 68,000 asthma attacks for children a year. One must wonder why there is such apathy towards these numbers when pollution is something we can clearly defeat. Furthermore, it is our responsibility as a city, as adults, as caregivers, to protect children, who are the most vulnerable in our society – completely dependant upon adults and adult decisions, from such detrimental health impacts.
We are lining the pockets of American corporations who willfully exploit our children and our environment. They take their astronomical profits out of Canada after externalizing all of their costs. We pay with our children’s health. We pay with our children’s lives. We pay with our children’s future. We pay with the loss of community. We pay the landfill costs, the healthcare costs, the sick days … on and on it goes.
The target to avoid absolute climate catastrophe is 80% emission reductions by 2050. This will not be easy by any means. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency, that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. To fight like hell to protect a luxury convenience that causes so much detriment in so many realms – surely is a statement of the self-absorbed, self-indulgent and self-entitled culture we’ve sadly become. It’s past time to change this. And we can. We must work together as a society by re-designing the way we think and live. The Great Law of the Iroquois states, “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” This is the mandate that each and every one of us must embrace if we are to give our children and future generations any chance of a secure future on this fragile planet we have come to take completely for granted.
Quote from Tim Hortons website: “Tim Hortons is committed to building and maintaining a framework that supports an environmental leadership position. We work with stakeholders including customers, stores operators, suppliers and governments, to drive toward environmental leadership best practices. We review on an ongoing basis, our corporate policies to ensure that we are integrating environmental considerations into our programs and practices. Our main areas of focus are Community Leadership, Recycling, Waste Reduction and Litter Awareness.”
Like I said – greenwash.
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