On “Earth Day” 2009 (April 18th) members of Green Action and the Grayson Neighborhood Council and several more local citizens confronted the company Covanta at its booth at Modesto’s Earth Day event at Graceda Park (see the video at http://youtube.com/RHHRorg). The community members asked Covanta about the pollution their incinerator puts into the air of West Stanislaus County (read the article in RHHR Issue #4 or at RHHR.org). After holding up signs that read “Covanta Sponsoring Earth Day is like Death Sponsoring your Birthday” and handing out literature with facts about Covanta, the Earth Day organizers asked the citizens to leave. When asked “don’t we have freedom of speech?” and Earth Day representative replied “Not Today!” After that the citizens left the park, but promised to be back the next year if Covanta was still a sponsor. Covanta also promised to return, but they lied.
For the first time in over 15 years, at Modesto’s 2010 Earth Day (April 17th), Covanta DID NOT have a booth among the other local vendors. Unfortunately the city of Modesto still allowed the corporation to be a main sponsor of the event (although you wouldn’t know it if it wasn’t for the small banner behind the stage). Although Covanta broke its promise to return with their booth, the Grayson Neighborhood Council and Green Action activists and local community members gathered about 1,000 signatures from Earth Day-goers, including many from vendors and other sponsors.
Another major sponsor for the event was Boyett Petroleum, an oil corporation which leads to a question: Is Modesto’s Earth Day a big joke? In appearance you couldn’t tell it apart from any other fest at the park. There was minimum representation from solar, wind, and hydroelectric companies or non-profits, the bike services were a joke, and the sponsors and vendors not exactly eco-friendly. Covanta? Boyett? Best Buy? Clear Channel Radio? Frito Lay? (Some, including Covanta pay up to $2,000 for these sponsorships). These are all corporate empires adding to the destruction of our planet. Is this the best the City of Modesto can do? Hopefully they will wise up in the years ahead and take Earth Day seriously and not just use it to collect sponsorship money from local companies no matter how un-green they are.
Maybe they can start with their theme name, this year it was “Random Acts of Green.” Is that how we’re going to save the planet, with random acts of green? Or are we going to have non-compromising, organized resistance and fight against those who are destroying our earth, contaminating our water, and polluting our air? It’s your choice Modesto. We don’t have to blindly follow THEIR version of Earth Day or THEIR definition of “environmentally friendly.” Let the city know how YOU feel!