videoDow Live Earth Run for Water, New York, April 18, 2010
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videoDow Live Earth Run for the Water Protest in Prospect Park, Brooklyn
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personThe Yes Men
linkThe Yesmen: Dow throws a party
Brooklyn, NY -- Bucolic Prospect park in Brooklyn, NY played host to a bizarre spectacle on Sunday, as a dramatically under-attended Dow-sponsored "Run for Water" was infiltrated and turned upside down by hundreds of furious activists, including a hundred dressed as Dow spokespeople.
New Yorkers who came to the park expecting a light run followed by a free concert found themselves unwitting extras in a macabre and chaotic scene as runners keeled over dead, Dow-branded grim reapers chased participants, and a hundred fake Dow representatives harangued other protesters and and handed out literature that explained Dow's greenwashing program in frank detail.
The actions called attention to Dow's toxic legacy in places like India (the Bhopal Catastrophe), Vietnam (Agent Orange) and Midland Michigan (Dioxin Contamination), and to the absurdity of a company with serious water issues all over the world sponsoring the Live Earth Run For Water.
After race cancellations in London, Milan, Berlin, and Sweden, on-site Dow brand managers were in damage-control mode. But their job was made harder by the hundred fake "Dow" spokespeople who loudly but clumsily proclaimed Dow's position ("Our race! Our earth!" and "Run for water! Run for your life!"), spoke with many runners, screamed at the other protesters, passed out beautifully-produced literature, and all in all looked a whole lot better than the real Dow reps, who seemed eager to make themselves scarce.
"I don't know what's going on here," said Tracey Von Sloop, a Queens woman who attended the race. "All I know is these people are both crazy, and Dow is f*ing sick. I'm outta here."
The event was the latest blow to Dow's greenwashing efforts, the most visible element of which is the "Human Element" multi-media advertising campaign, one of the most expensive, and successful, marketing efforts in recent history. It even won an "Effie Award" for the most effective corporate advertising campaign in North America.
"Effective," perhaps -- but also completely misleading. To name just a few examples of Dow's water-related issues: Dow refuses to clean up the groundwater in Bhopal, India, site of the largest industrial disaster in human history, committed by Dow's fully-owned subsidiary, Union Carbide. As a result, children continue to be born there with debilitating birth defects. Dow has also dumped hundreds of millions of pounds of toxic chemical byproducts into wetlands of Louisiana, and has even poisoned its own backyard, leaving record levels of dioxins downriver from its global headquarters in Midland, Michigan.
"We thought it must be a joke when we first heard that Dow Chemical Company was sponsoring a run for clean water," said Yes Woman Whitney Black. "Sadly, it was not. One of the world's worst polluters trying to greenwash its image instead of taking responsibility for drinking water and ecosystems it has poisoned around the world? What an awfully unfunny way to start off Earth Week. We decided the event needed a little comic relief."
Irony was piled on irony throughout the race, which Dow absurdly claimed was going to be "the largest solutions-based initiative aimed at solving the global water crisis in history. At one point, organizers were caught on tape dramatically throwing out excess water left over because of an embarrassingly low turnout.
Groups organizing the action included the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, New York Whale and Dolphin Action League, the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, the Wetlands Activism Collective, Global Justice for Animals and the Environment, Kids For A Better Future, The Yes Men, and hundreds of assorted volunteers, activists and mischief makers.