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Disney's Stunt Is No Help to the Planet

Stocks in this article: DIS

So here's something that's no doubt inevitable as consumers, especially families, become more eco-aware: environmentalism as publicity stunt.

Walt Disney (DIS) is releasing a movie called "Earth" on Earth Day, which is today, and promising to plant a tree for every nature or Disney buff who sees the movie in its first week of release. I hope it's not the start of a trend, because I don't think such one-off events are really the most thought-out ways to practice to be eco-smart.

The gimmick has gotten a lot of attention from environmental and entertainment blogs. This is good because Disney doesn't include any detailed information about the program on the movie's Web site. It does provide a link for buying tickets.

According to a press release I found via Google (GOOG) (Disney inexplicably limits access to the press Web site for its movie division and wouldn't grant me access), most of the trees will be planted in Brazil's Atlantic Forest. The company calls it a "hot spot" for biodiversity, and one that's in critical danger because 93% of it has been destroyed. The Nature Conservancy corroborates this information and points out that even in its diminished state, the forest is home to 5% of the world's vertebrae, including 200 bird species found nowhere else.

That sounds good, but even so, it's easy to be cynical about a stunt like this, and people are. A U.K. columnist has written off Disney's overall attempt to curb its environmental impact as mere green washing. Meanwhile, Treehugger wonders, like I do, who will make sure that Disney follows through on its planting plans after the credits have rolled on "Earth's" opening week.

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