On Sunday, the Grand Rapids Press featured a story in its business section on a conference in Grand Rapids this weekend. The conference–which is called Great Lakes Green 2008 and promotes “Green Construction”–will be held at the DeVos Convention Center.
The Grand Rapids Press included an 8-page insert to help promote the conference and its sponsors. The insert is a mix of articles on everything from “green building” to green cleaning products and green lawn care. The articles are written by two Press reporters who are with the advertising division of the Press, which seemed quite appropriate since many of the articles featured favorable portrayals of local companies. One article highlighted Flowerland for its green lawn and garden products, but most of the stories featured buildings such as the Redstone Group and Tamarack Lodge in Traverse City and their new “green condos.”
Most of the ads that accompanied the stories were from the same companies named in the stories, except that the ads were two to three times bigger than the articles themselves. This insert is another example of how the Grand Rapids Press and the corporate media in general have jumped on the bandwagon of green consumerism. If a company slaps a green label on the product is has to be good, right? There is no investigation or questioning of the basic premise of such a conference, nor its sponsors. Among the companies sponsoring the conference are DTE Energy, Meijer, Whirlpool Corp., West Michigan Realtors, and the Grand Rapids Press.
Is the public to believe that these companies actually practice a truly sustainable model? Nowhere in the Press insert or on the conference site is there information about where the building products come from and how they are transported. The ads and the articles for “green homes” are all for condos. What percentage of the population can even afford such places to live? Is the Press suggesting that a sustainable home can only be for the wealthier sectors of society?
Also, are we even sure that “green building” is going to help stop the destruction of our Earth? While arguably an important intermediary step in addressing the realities of global warming, The Press never stops to question if this is really enough. Instead, it buys into the assumption that “green” products–from buildings to cleaning supplies–are enough to stop global warming. However, a wide variety of scientists and advocacy groups argue that bolder action is needed. For example, the Step It Up campaign states that we need to reduce carbon emissions by 80% of current levels by 2050. British journalist George Monbiot, author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning, suggests that we need to reduce current carbon emissions levels 90% by 2030. If either of these estimates are correct, then how will the Press endorsed “green construction” conference address this reality? Unfortunately, such fundamental questions are not part of the Grand Rapids Press reporting on the issue.