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That's holiday


Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Ashley Weaver

By Ashley Weaver
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
December 7, 1999
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This holiday season, Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" will transform your living room into a mall elevator, while cookie-cutter boys and girls ice skate on the walls. The Gap's latest campaign highlights its self-termed "crazy stripe" sweaters and scarves, as they whirl through barren landscapes to the tunes of Vanilla Ice and the Dust Brothers. As glassy-eyed teenagers trudge, zombie-like to outlet heavens across America, arms outstretched with holographic Visa logos blinking like Christmas lights, little do they know that the treeless barren landscapes of Gap fantasies are part of their dream.

This summer, the owners of the Gap, the Fisher family (who also control Banana Republic and Old Navy), purchased nearly 25 percent (235,000 acres) of Mendocino County, Calif., from Louisiana Pacific Corporation, who had already been immersed in "liquidation logging" for 20 years. Now, photos show the devastation caused by their clearcutting, giant patches of trees scraped away. In their press releases, the family calls the clearcutting "a Fisher family investment."

Meanwhile, visions of clearcutting redwood and cutting old-growth Douglas Fir dance in the mind of Bob Fisher, even though he claimed, in a letter to a Mendocino county forest activist that "since the business began with substantial capital it can operate with a higher environmental standard." This standard for the Fishers' Mendocino Redwood Company involves spraying vegetation with herbicides that are claimed to be safe, but in fact have carcinogenic and estrogenic effects on humans, as well as toxins harmful to the endangered Coho salmon, who are already missing from 90 percent of the streams on L-P property.

In 1996, 1,780 gallons of Garlon (one of the most widely used forest herbicides) was used on lands owned by MRC. Maybe the Fishers were busy figuring out which oldie they should mutilate next with their particular bland brand of heroin-chic, and didn't notice that, while the crap they put on their racks is bad, the crap they put in the ground is worse.

"Don Fisher is San Francisco's local Rockefeller," said Joel Ventresca, former president of the Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods. "He is an octopus that has his tentacles everywhere." The city, Fisher has said, should get rid of its payroll tax (which funds city services such as schools, libraries, and hospitals) and ease up on the taxes that big businesses pay.

The Fisher family has also started up an intense "green-washing" campaign, the likes of which include five full page ads in one local paper, encouraging local residents to "Jump, Jive and Wail" out to the stripped land and join in on the "swinging" of the axes. The intent of this marketing is to push clearcutting as some sort of restoration program. The logging company clearcuts directly upstream from the only known habitation of Coho salmon and some town water supplies.

Is it a coincidence that Mendocino County has the fourth highest cancer rate and is the fourth largest user of pesticides and herbicides in California? Even while the Gap is poisoning people here in America, it is depriving people of the means of living in distant islands. In its newsletter last summer, Co-op America, a Washington, D.C. based consumer group, listed the Gap among companies that subcontract with factories in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, where "factory owners have ignored U.S. laws that provide for safe workplaces, overtime pay and the right to organize." It's not surprising that this company is controlled by a man, Donald Fisher, who stresses "giving back to the business community."

The Gap, Inc. is busy showing skinny models effortlessly bending the space-time continuum as they clone themselves through Ice Capades dance maneuvers, models who gaze dreamily into the distance, apple cheeked and domesticated like rich, urban poodles on horse-tranquilizers. They are a parent's wet dream. To some of us, though, they reek of Matrix-esque control: Life, after all, is only a series of electrical impulses, and the Gap has that market well in hand.

The Gap Inc. wants their multicolored striped scarves (only $34! Stock up for Y2K!) pulled over the unwitting consumers' eyes. Superimposing bland models against white backgrounds, Fisher has convinced the youth of America that the thrill of drill marching in generic colonnades of the undead far overshadow the nasty dynamics of cultural diversity. The demented fantasy of the Fishers begins with plastering Old Navy logos on the sides of school buses and clearcutting our most valuable forests. This is all facilitated through you, the consumer. So where will it end? Ask yourself that question, fellow consumers, when you enter through the perfumed windtunnel of the mall gates this winter, and ask yourself: is it really a holiday?

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