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May 11, 2011


Why Free Inhalers? Because COAL CARES.

Puff-Puff™ inhalers are available free to any family living within 200 miles of a coal plant, and each inhaler comes with a $10 coupon towards the cost of the asthma medication itself.

Dominique Browning, in a Moms Clean Air Force cross-post

Just when I thought things could not get any weirder, as the House votes on the environment got more cynical–a friend sent me a spoof about coal plants and asthma inhalers.

An offer from a website called COAL CARES: Cool inhalers for asthmatic kids!–brought to you (but not really) by the very folks at Peabody Energy–the world’s largest sector private coal company.

Because it has “come to our attention that children with asthma are routinely ostracized…we’re giving away kids’ inhalers!”  FREE! “To any kid living within 200 miles of a coal plant.”

“Problem: Inhalers are stigmatized.

Solution: Make inhalers cool!”

Inhalers are decorated with cute images: “Baby’s First Breath” has a picture of  a yellow duckie. There’s also the “Dora the Explorer” and “My Little Pony” inhaler. For older sufferers: pictures of Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Harry Potter, Diamonds–an asthmatic’s best friend–or skulls.

As the spoof goes on: “the real problem with asthma isn’t a mere inability to breathe: it’s the taunting, berating, mockery and abuse that so often accompanies this infirmity. Asthmatic kids are mocked, roughed up, chosen last for team sports, deprived of medication, and otherwise forced to bear more than their fair share of childhood’s intrinsic difficulties.”

In this spoof, Peabody claims that scrubbers are “an untested technology, ineffective, and too costly. But, of course, this is exactly what coal companies are arguing. Wrongly.

“Locating the filtering mechanism at the point of consumption (i.e. your child’s mouth) is dramatically more cost-effective than locating it at the point of emission (smokestacks) and in turn means less need for intrusive and costly regulation.”

Here’s the weirdest thing of all: the spoof is so brilliantly close to reality—all those arguments against scrubbers are lifted right out of the coal playbook—that it really does look like a glimpse into the brain of the polluter. Or at least, a glimpse at the alternate reality they want us all to live in, a reality where air pollution is just fine. What are we worried about?

The spoof links to the (unrelated) Clean Air Task Force.  That organization offers a fantastic interactive map of the US, showing power plant impacts on health, including heart attacks, hospital admissions and mortality, state by state. Here’s a link to New York, for instance.

Sometimes we need a good laugh. But what happens when polluting coal company tactics are so extremely cynical that we are no longer even sure what’s a spoof–and what’s reality?

Dominique Browning

6 Responses to “Coal Cares: Spoof — or reality?”

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Yep, there’s a fine line between spoofs and reality these days, since the Peabodys and Exxons are so outrageous.

    We need more comedians like the Yes Men to step up. Stewart has been dogging it on global warming, and the late night hosts are too Hollywood- maybe bringing it up once a year as a throwaway line. They don’t realize what a rich field for humor this is.

  2. Ed Hummel says:

    I think our whole culture has become one big spoof of reality which isn’t surprising since it’s driven mainly by all the corporate bigshots who are trying to develop the New Feudalism with all us serfs just buying their stuff and not questioning anything while knowing and staying in “our place”.

  3. Mike says:

    Some students on my campus organized an anti-coal & anti-clean coal research protest. We have a coal power plant on campus and a Coal Research Center. The coverage in the student paper did not mention climate change. Coal mining is a big part of the regional economy.

    Dying to kill coal
    Daily Egyptian
    http://dailyegyptian.com/ 2011/ 05/ 09/ dying-to-kill-coal/

  4. Gnobuddy says:

    @2 – Ed Hummel says “I think our whole culture has become one big spoof of reality”.
    When I moved to the USA about twenty years ago, one of the first things that struck me was that most people here appeared unable to distinguish between reality and what they were told by advertising. It took a while for me to realize that when people are exposed more to advertising than to the real world, starting at a very early age, their brains eventually conclude that the thing they see most – the advertising – is reality, and the thing they rarely interact with – the natural world – is fake. We have managed to re-wire the brains of most people who grow up surrounded by more advertising than immersion in nature and the real world.

    We’ve seen powerful examples of this inability to tell fact from advertising recently amongst the “birther” idiots, who believe what their idiot political leaders tell them in the face of incontrovertibly strong evidence that Obama was born in Hawaii and is as American by birth as anybody.

    We may not have become a culture that is one big spoof of reality, but we certainly seem to have become a culture incapable of distinguishing between fact and fiction. That might be normal for a three year old child with a vivid imagination, but it’s highly worrisome when observed in a hundred million adults.


  5. Mark Shapiro says:

    Some of my classmates formed “GASP” — “Group of Americans Supporting Pollution”.

    Their motto (based on a Bob Hope joke): “Don’t trust air you can’t see.”

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Of course, as an Australian, I became acquainted with ’spoof’ (pronounced as in hoof)in rather a different sense, before I met ’spoof’. Reality as spoof makes a good deal of sense, as interpretations of really existing existence based on the ubiquity of intellectual insufficiency, broadscale ignorance, pathocratic tendencies in capitalism, political ponerology and spiritual dementia seem not, singly or even in confederacy, fully capable of explaining the manic determination of our species to destroy itself. That it is all a grand cosmic joke, from which we will yet escape, like Pauline, at the very last moment, after the pranksters emerge from behind the scenes to say, ‘It was just a joke! Fooled you!’ makes twisted sense. Just who these tricksters might be, of course, is another question. Perhaps its a transcendental wheeze, and when we die we wake to a new world where everything is as it should be, greed frowned on, life treasured, violence abhorred etc. ‘Can death be sleep, when life is but a dream?’, or nightmare. Is this really any more of a spoof than ‘clean coal’ or ‘carbon capture and storage’?

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