Earth Day Events in R.I. ‘Reek of Blatant Deception’

Many of the officials in the photo ops are, at best, stagnant when it comes to environmental initiatives


Rhode Island news has been abuzz with Earth Day activities, from tree planting and cleanups to cookout celebrations. While a lot of this is pushed by local groups, city officials have also taken hold of the spotlight. They’re often seen in photo-ops, posting on social media, or participating directly.

For Rhode Islanders at least, it feels like a kick in the teeth: many of these same officials, at best, are stagnant when it comes to environmental initiatives, while some take staunch anti-environmental actions the rest of the 364 days out of the year. Yet, when Earth Day rolls around, they all equally come out of the woodwork to show their support, likely for a piece of that sweet green media pie — yuck!

It’s been said that Rhode Island’s environmental track record is notoriously slow-moving, where laws and regulations are hardly enforced, its own DEM is inept, and the top officials hardly care. This extends down to the state’s municipalities, where we’ve seen recent backward peddling examples in Pawtucket, Providence, Lincoln, and nearly every other city and town should you look further. It doesn’t help that these mayors and council members prop this up, all the while, strutting their stuff on Earth Day, claiming that we need to be more environmentally conscious.

None of this feels right; in fact, it reeks of blatant deception. We don’t even need to look that far to notice either. The notion of having to volunteer highlights the fact that there are ongoing, unaddressed problems: Why do we need to clean up that area? Why does this street require the planting of trees and shrubbery? Why are we creating cutouts of animals and insects — shouldn’t we be able to see them regularly? Better yet, why do we continually let these things fall into these conditions, and why don’t we have adequate laws encouraging and enforcing even the most basic green initiatives?

Suffice it to say, there’s nothing wrong about taking time to focus on something, but we must examine why we need to do so in the first place and look at who is involved and what they’re doing. This extends to not just municipal officials either, but to businesses and leaders within our communities. Are they behaving like they genuinely care, or for a PR push or business bump? Additionally, as a side, what can we locals do to push them in a better direction?

Let’s not kid ourselves, either; if we want more permanent fixes, it won’t be easy. Given that we live on the coast, and with landscapes ranging from city to rural, long-term solutions will vary and may very well be complex. However, it doesn’t feel like we’ve taken the first steps. We need better oversight from the state, followed by initiatives, ordinances, and encouragement by the towns and cities therein. Until we attempt to crawl, we can’t even think about walking. With that, let’s stop kidding ourselves and hope that one day in the future, there won’t need to be an Earth Day.

Victor Martelle is a resident of Providence’s East Side.


Join the Discussion

View Comments

Recent Comments

  1. Of course you are right, Mr. Martelle. I was the one taking the photo-op pictures for much of my career in media. Like you, I could smell BS politicians a mile away. There were – and are – many. But I want to counter with a small thank you, if you don’t mind. Here in Cumberland I organize (aided by The Valley Breeze, a newspaper I used to own) each year a “Yellow Bag Day” litter cleanup in early April. For a decade at least, Mayor (and now Governor) Dan McKee and his wife, Sue, helped. They never asked for media. They just did their assigned job. Then, Mayor Bill Murray pitched in, and now, Mayor Jeff Mutter and friends help. None ever seek photo coverage, and they take ownership of a large, dirty area and clean it up themselves. I just want to give them all a hat tip they have never asked for.

  2. Mayor Grebien of Pawtucket is a full out scofflaw still trying illegally to close the only large park in Woodlawn so a campaign contributor of the Mayor can build a parking lot.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your support keeps our reporters on the environmental beat.

Reader support is at the core of our nonprofit news model. Together, we can keep the environment in the headlines.


We use cookies to improve your experience and deliver personalized content. View Cookie Settings