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Fantasy Is No Excuse for Falsehood



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For several weeks, General Electric, as part of its “Eco-magination” campaign, has been running a TV commercial in which a tree uproots itself, shuffles down a hill, crosses the street, and then scurries up the front lawn in order to “hug” a house.

The voice-over commentary of GE’s “house hugger” commercial says: “Introducing a new way to build a home, with advanced GE lighting and technology that not only helps to reduce energy use, but greenhouse gas emissions as well.”

Does false advertising become truthful just because the falsehood occurs in the context of a fantasy?

The main greenhouse gas associated with energy use is carbon dioxide, and as every schoolchild once knew, carbon dioxide is plant food. Trees use the carbon in carbon dioxide to construct their tissues. Literally hundreds of laboratory and field observations show that trees raised in carbon dioxide-enriched environments grow faster and stronger, produce more fruit, utilize water more efficiently, and better resist the harmful effects of air pollution.

So a truer version of GE’s fantasy ad would be more like the scene in the second Lord of the Rings movie, where the Ents mass to attack and destroy the evil tower of Eisengard.

Of course, GE might say it is silly for me to hold them to scientific accuracy, because after all trees don’t really walk, this is just make believe. Nice try. ”Eco-imagining” walking trees is fantasy, but suggesting that lower CO2 levels benefit trees is simply falsehood. And selling your product on the basis of a falsehood is false advertising.



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