Fuel for the fire: Why we shouldn’t believe the greenwashing hype

Spend it Better: Let’s fund biodiversity education without oily black fingerprints all over it

Sometimes greenwashing comes in industrial strength. Picture a tobacco company launching a campaign to promote lung health. An illustrated poster is produced with space for stickers to show the parts of our amazing respiratory systems. Yes, yes everyone knows smoking causes cancer. But now the “health-focused” tobacco company looks like it cares more than those other tobacco companies.

No tobacco company would get away with this, of course, but the floggers of fossil fuels have yet to face similar regulation. This month an Irish forecourt company began a campaign to get its marketing material home in the school bags of Irish primary school children. Classroom walls will be adorned with its logo. There are illustrated posters and books. Pictures will feature an imaginary car-less world, populated with storybook foxes and hedgehogs (none of them roadkill) butterflies and birds (none of them dying because of the seasonal shifts caused by unleashing all those “furry-friend loving” fossil fuels).

Pester power

We are in an uncharted greenwashing torrent here. A deep-pocketed forecourt company harnessing the pester power of children is next level. “Daddy I need more stickers for my biodiversity poster. Can we go to the petrol station to get them?”

Fossil fuel companies and their friendly-neighbourhood forecourt chains are pedalling madly (throttling is probably the better term) to cloak themselves in caring. A campaign like this one involves many clever people who know precisely what they’re doing and are highly paid to do it. They understand the urgent drive to wrap us in a disastrous delusion that it’s somehow green to top up the tank and drive on as usual.

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“We are unstoppable,” the Fridays for Future schools strikers chant regularly. “Another world is possible.” The heartfelt and hopeful chant has been echoing in my head since I started thinking about other unstoppable forces and how to stop them. People power is powerful and it’s up to the grown-ups to be clear-eyed when waters are muddied. I hope primary school principals, teachers and parents will opt out of this and make their feelings known. Let’s spend it better and fund biodiversity education without oily black fingerprints all over it.

Catherine Cleary is co-founder of Pocket Forests