Dawn Soap: Greenwashing our way to cleaner wildlife

Curator's Note

I was pleased to see Colbert and NPR call out Proctor & Gamble for the hypocritical aspects of their
"Dawn saves wildlife" greenwashing campaign. The TV commercial showing a simulation of Dawn being used to clean oil-soaked otters and ducklings prophetically started airing before the Gulf oil spill. Is this how humans become "wildlife champions" these days? ("Everyday Wildlife Champions" is the title of Dawn’s facebook page) Apparently we just preemptively buy products from eco-unfriendly corporations who then donate some money and detergent to help clean up the next environmental mess we humans are sure to make. It almost makes the oil spill seem like it’s good for business and gives us humans a chance to be heroic animal-lovers.

We could be TRUE wildlife champions if we took serious, collective steps to curb our consumption, sprawl, pollution, fossil fuel use, and greenhouse gas emissions (such as shifting to an organic plant-based diet). This progressive change would NOT include purchasing products like Dawn that contain chemicals (and petroleum ironically), come in non-recycled plastic packaging, and are/were tested on nonhuman animals. P&G has notoriously conducted animal testing for decades and continues to do so (reluctantly, according to their sustainability webpage) as they keep introducing new chemicals into their products. So, to see their cheery commercial featuring adorable sudsy animals seems more than disingenuous. Advertising naturally avoids ugly imagery that shows detergent chemicals being forced into the eyes and skin of mice or other animals in P&G labs.

When the commercial’s song optimistically claims the animals’ troubles are going to “wash away,” it greenwashes the reality that many cleansed animals will not survive oil contamination of their bodies and homes, as their lifespans and ability to reproduce and find nontoxic food is permanently diminished. And the ad doesn’t show fish, as they cannot be rescued from the Gulf’s toxic environment (and presumably we tend to care more about fish collectively as part of a food chain and not as individual beings, like turtles or marine birds). I do appreciate that money is being donated to bird and marine mammal rescue organizations as part of this campaign, but we needn’t spin it as a heroic consumer solution when it’s really too little too late.

To help support the creation of park reserves around the world's oceans, see the following charity: http://www.mission-blue.org/


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