I’ve always been a bit appalled by the polite applause with which some enviros greet Wal-Mart’s “green” initiatives. Seems to me that the only way the company could really “go green” would be to stop selling cheap plastic crap shipped in from halfway around the world in vast suburban megastores. In other words, completely change it’s business model — not, say, adopt “green” building techniques for its appalling superstores, or haul mass-produced “organic” food from California, Mexico, and China to stores nationwide, thus burning lots of fossil fuel and potentially squeezing profits for farmers and sparking consolidation and industrialization in a movement that arose to challenge same.

Deep breath.

Sometime Grist contributor Bill McKibben nails it in the latest Mother Jones.

Money quote:

It makes scant difference whether Wal-Mart starts stocking organic food or not, because the real problem is the imperative to ship products all over the world, sell them in vast, downtown-destroying complexes, and push prices so low that neither workers nor responsible suppliers can prosper. (In fact, Wal-Mart’s decision to sell organic food will almost certainly mean the final consolidation of the industry into the hands of a few huge growers that ship their produce across thousands of miles — not to mention that the people ringing up the organic groceries will still make below-poverty wages and taxpayers will still be footing the bill for their health care. There’s something gross about buying a healthy carrot from a sick company.)

McKibben teases out the the problem: Large, publicly traded companies are law-bound to maximize profit for shareholders, and in this culture, that means short-term profit.

Forget Wal-Mart; support businesses with progressive business models — not just progressive twaddle from cynical flacks.