The Disney-fication of Our National Parks
Congress is letting major corporations buy naming rights in America’s national park system.
It’s summer vacation time and gasoline is quasi-cheap. So why not pile the family into the mini-van and pay a visit to the historic Budweiser Statue of Liberty, or motor out west in your Camry to Toyota’s Yellowstone National Park?
That’s right, our thoroughly corporatized Congress mandated a new policy last year to let major corporations buy the naming rights of our visitor centers, hiking trails, educational programs, and other features in America’s national park system.
For those of us who revere the natural beauty and serenity of America’s 411 national parks, monuments, and conservation areas, it’s going to be a real summer bummer to find corporate brand names and logos polluting these public sanctuaries at every turn of the trail.
This auctioning-off of the people’s property for exclusive commercialization by private profiteers is already underway. Trying to put a smiley face on this desecration, a Park Service official babbled that the policy is “about aligning [corporate brands] with the values of authenticity.”
Huh? What’s authentic about slapping a Nike logo on a majestic sequoia in Yosemite?
Those backing this abomination are trying to fool us with Orwellian newspeak, referring to the ad money as “a new brand of philanthropy.” Hogwash! Corporations aren’t doling out philanthropy — they’re buying space in our parklands to plaster with their self-serving advertising.
This is just the beginning. Corporate lobbyists will demand ever-greater commercial intrusions — including their ultimate goal of privatizing these public jewels and turning them into a nationwide chain of Disneylands.
To help battle this land grab, connect with the feisty, principled group of park rangers and others in Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility: www.peer.org.
OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org.