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2005-04-13
Washington, D.C. Wal-Mart Makes Absurd "Wildlife" Offer

Today across America there are roughly 356 empty Wal-Mart buildings, totalling 26 million square feet. Add in the parking lots, and you've got roughly 52 million square feet of wasted space. That's the equivalent of more than 1,000 football fields buried under a blanket of asphalt and concrete. This is Wal-Mart's legacy to the neighborhoods and small towns of America. Now this same corporation that has needlessly squandered all this land, and changed the character of several thousand communities, is going to "make up" for its profligate ways by donating land for "wildlife" purposes. After destroying all this human habitat, the world's King of Dead Space is going to spend $35 million compensating for wildlife habitat, according to the Associated Press. Wal-Mart indicated that it would buy an amount of land equal to all the land its stores, parking lots and distribution centers use over the next 10 years. The company claims it will conserve at least 138,000 acres in the United States as "priority" wildlife habitat. This is like a drunk driver offering to pay for your totalled car and hospital bills after a horrible accident. It's a very late gesture. Wal-Mart's "green" money will go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit group created by Congress. I don't know which party was more shameful: Wal-Mart for making the offer, or the chairman of the Wildlife Foundation for saying, "We introduced the concept of the offset program to Wal-Mart last year. They were quick to say yes, and Wal-Mart's leadership is raising the bar in conservation." Can you imagine Wal-Mart "raising the bar on conservation?" What recompense is that to all the hundreds of thousands of families today who look out their front or back windows to see the night light of a 24 hour Wal-Mart supercenter? How will these families be repaid for what they have lost? After the announcement, the U.S. government's Interior Department jumped in to say they hoped the Wal-Mart deal becomes a model for other companies. To make sure that everyone knew about this "model deal", Wal-Mart bought full page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post and 20 other newspapers. This is a form of "loud giving" designed, as the AP said, to help Wal-Mart "burnish its green credentials." The Wildlife Foundation is going to use the Wal-Mart funding to help conserve land in Louisiana, Arkansas, Arizona, Oregon and Maine. Maybe they'll call these special places "Sam Walton Monuments", and sell postcards of the sites in every Wal-Mart discount and superstore.

What you can do: This "wildlife" publicity campaign is just another "cause-related marketing" effort. Wal-Mart is in the middle of an expensive "extreme makeover," to try to turnaround the company's negative image in the public. After being sued by the federal government for polluting streams and rivers, after being criticized by countless citizen's groups for ruining wetlands and floodplains, Wal-Mart has discovered the natural world! All the "wildlife" restoration in the world will not cover up the wasteful, sprawling development pattern that Wal-Mart continues to this day -- building single-level, enormous concrete boxes surrounded by vast parking fields of asphalt. To truly make up for its development model, Wal-Mart should financially compensate the towns and neighbors whose property it has harmed, and then cease building supercenters in their sprawling fashion, turning instead to much smaller footprints, on several stories. Wal-Mart could build a 150,000 s.f. store on three levels and free up 150,000 s.f. of land for green, open space. That would be a more meaningful donation of land to the injured parties. If Wal-Mart would spend more time listening to the communities who feel attacked, they would see immediate ways they could become a better neighbor. Let them give money for wildlife preservation -- but let them clean up their development excesses in small town America at the same time. For more information on Wal-Mart's environmental record, call 1-877 DUNK WAL and get the book "The Case Against Wal-Mart."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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