Dear Earth: Happy 400th Birthday! Love, Groupon.

Ah, Earth Day: an opportunity for the country’s worst polluters to rise, phoenix-like, from puddles of industrial effluent and recreate themselves as environmentalists. An opportunity for America’s retailers to shamelessly hijack the words “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” and repurpose them to quicken the pulse of fetishistic shoppers. An opportunity for a free canvas shopping bag with every purchase!

I was hardly surprised when Groupon sent me an email proffering Earth Day discounts on such choice items as Dream Mate Natural Pillow sets, beauty products, and reusable sandwich bags. More surprising, however, was the subject line:

Edward Norton celebrates Earth’s 400th birthday with eco-friendly deals

And in the body of the email:

Well, I’m not a geologist, but claiming that the Earth has been around for 400 years is just absurd, and completely unsupported by the historical record. After all, everybody knows that the Earth is 6,000 years old. It says so in a book. Also in biology classrooms in Tennessee, now. Oy.

In all seriousness, how did Groupon come to misstate the age of the Earth by, oh, 4.6 billion years, give or take a few million? Nowhere in their truly inexplicable message did they provide any rationale for claiming that the planet is roughly as old as, say, Virginia. Maybe they just forgot a few zeroes?  I was finally forced to turn to that infallible font of knowledge, Twitter:

I like to imagine that the guys at NASA are just yanking Groupon’s chain, and now they’re all exchanging high-fives over the fact that they convinced a major national company to say something ridiculous, the way you would if you got a substitute teacher to read the name “Seymour Butts” aloud to the class. Get those rocket scientists some more funding, stat.

At any rate, let’s focus on the real victim here: Edward Norton. Edward Norton, as far as I can tell, is a legitimately passionate environmentalist, and his brother Jim recently made an incredible documentary about salmon migrations and dam removal in the Northwest. And I went to this screening of the movie and there, in the back row, was Edward himself, totally engaged in the sad plight of the blockaded salmon, and also clearly thrilled and not at all jealous of his brother’s success, and additionally wearing this goofy fedora that would have looked completely farcical on the head of any mortal, but of course Edward Norton pulled it off spectacularly because he’s Edward Freaking Norton. I tried to talk to him after the movie, but he was busy pretending to use his Blackberry.

To conclude: in the likely event that you, Edward Norton, are reading this paragraph, I encourage you to keep up the good work; but just between you and me, you should probably divorce yourself from Groupon and its dubious understanding of geological history before they besmirch your good name as the star of the improved version of The Incredible Hulk.


Benjamin Goldfarb

Ben Goldfarb is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Guardian, OnEarth Magazine, Earth Island Journal, and elsewhere. He is a former Editor-in-Chief of SAGE Magazine. Check out his writing at and hit him up at @bengoldfarb13.

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One Comment

  1. Monty Brogan says:

    I think you missed this one Ben. It was merely a joke from Groupon, as they are want to do on holidays and the like. Same with the NASA twitter.

    Today Groupon celebrated Father’s Day by suggesting men are the ones with a nine month gestation period…

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