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Earlier this week, Peabody Energy was the target of a genius parody website, Coal Cares™, offering free novelty inhalers to families living within 200 miles of a coal plant along with coupons for $10 off asthma medication in lieu of spending money on pollution-reducing technology at their own coal plants. The spoof site was put together by a group called Coal is Killing Kids through the Yes Lab, a spin-off of the Yes Men.
But then, Peabody decided it wasn’t fair that they were getting all the spotlight, and had their lawyers whip up a quick legal threat. But it wasn’t the expected cease and desist letter to take down the website. Rather, Peabody complained that they were unfairly targeted because while they are the largest coal company, they aren’t the only coal company causing asthma attacks in children.
See updates below the fold!
Peabody Energy seemed to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day yesterday as they started to receive curious phone calls from consumers asking just how many Justin Beiber inhalers they were planning on giving away, and how courageous it was that a coal company was stepping up to acknowledge the role that pollution from their coal plants makes people sick, especially kids with asthma. Alas, the PR team at Peabody was quite confused on both accounts.
Around 9:00 am eastern time, a new “market-friendly public health initiative” hit journalists’ email inboxes announcing the launch of Coal Cares™, a campaign from Peabody Energy that would give away free novelty-themed inhaler actuators and also generously offer a $10-off coupon for the actual asthma medication, but only if you lived within 200 miles of a coal plant (news flash, you probably do).
A flurry of cryptic emails last weekend brought out the usual crowd of Vancouver environmental activists to Enbridge’s doorstep, but something is different. There’s no angry chanting, no snide slogans – not a fighting word within earshot. At the height of lunch hour on suit row, protesters are clogging the street and the atmosphere is, well, light. With free haircuts and mock reporters, the community has come out to help set the record straight. The message? An oil spill is inevitable and Enbridge doesn’t have a plan.
The Yes Men–inspired MyHairCares Initiative invited salons across Canada to donate their hair clippings to help Enbridge prepare for future oil spills with “super-absorbent hair booms.” Greenpeace’s Rex Weyler responded by slamming Enbridge for the paucity of the [fake] initiative. The story was initially picked up by major media outlets across Canada, but as the haze of confusion cleared, the stories were pulled from their websites.
Will the real Enbridge please stand up?
If you missed it, the Yes Men spent the day yesterday rendering (even more) ridiculous a new Chevron ad campaign that purports to show an oil company acting responsibly. There’s a great Fast Company account of how events unfolded here.
I have to say, each time the Yes Men pull one of these counter campaigns, I find myself longing for the content to be true - wishing that an oil company (in this instance) really would own up to its failings and indicate a real willingness to move on. Naive in the extreme, I know, but if the bad guys can live in denial, why can’t I enjoy the occasional delusion?