Environmentalist Tampering with Our Children

Logomasini Op-Ed Distributed by Knight Ridder
July 6, 2001

Environmental activists won’t stop until they silence ABC newsman John Stossel. Last year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and others attacked his report that debunked myths about organic food. This year, they are attacking him for trying to expose how the educational establishment feeds children environmental misinformation.

Stossel recently interviewed children for an ABC special called “Tampering with Nature,” which aired June 29. The program shows that contrary to what some might tell you, mankind’s manipulation of nature is necessary and good. He points out that if we didn’t use chemicals and other technologies to protect our food supply, we’d have to plant more land and hence there would be less space for forests and wildlife. Likewise, technology has enabled us to reduce pollution, and government figures show that both air and water are getting cleaner.

The children’s interviews were going to demonstrate how the educational establishment teaches children the opposite. Under the guise of “environmental education,” children learn air and water pollution are getting worse and we should fear a catastrophe if we don’t change our “wasteful” habits. Such ”education” appears focused on scaring children into becoming tomorrow’s environmental activists.

But today’s environmental activists, who provide numerous materials for schools, don’t want their scheme showcased on national television. ABC pulled the interviews because the EWG convinced parents they would be embarrassing.

The fact that EWG doesn’t want you to see what kids are learning underscores Stossel’s point. Environmental education has pumped our children up with a truly embarrassing level of misinformation.

The Stossel controversy comes at the heals of a debate over federal funding of such environmental “education.” Working with bill sponsors Senators James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Senator Ted Kennedy is pushing a bill (S. 876) to reauthorize the federal Environmental Education Act. Kennedy inserted the bill into the President’s education package (S. 1), which is now headed for House and Senate conference.

The act funds the EPA Office of Environmental Education, partnerships with outside groups to advance education goals, and grant programs. Much of the materials produced by these groups and EPA follow the activist models of scare and activate. For example, one EPA web-posted guide tells teachers to inform children that “because the Earth’s atmosphere is a finite size, it will not sustain the continued growth of current patterns of consumption.” Continuing “our current practices … might result in a crisis sometime in the future.”

Under this law, money also flows directly to some of the most activist of groups, such as the Sierra Club, The Audubon Society, and others. One recipient, the Tides Center, funds numerous “projects” serving as an umbrella for various advocacy efforts across the nation. The group involved in the Stossel controversy, the EWG, was once a Tides project but has recently become independent.

Instead of being focused on promoting understanding of the natural science, the Tides Center’s mission is to promote “progressive social change.” An EPA-funded Tides project called E2 focuses exclusively on environmental education. On its web page, E2 includes a sample lesson plan that seems intent on shaming children about using energy. It teaches children how they can “make better choices,” while emphasizing that industrialized nations use “30 times” more energy than people living in places like India – as if poverty was a virtue instead of a tragedy.

Despite E2 depictions, Stossel rightly points out that use of modern energy, such as electricity, is a good thing. In fact, those who use less energy in places like India often are forced to resort to burning animal dung in their homes for heating and cooking, which creates deadly levels of indoor air pollution. Not surprisingly, respiratory illness is a leading cause of death in the developing world.

The EWG claims that the children who were to appear on the Stossel show were misled and manipulated. They were indeed misled, but Stossel is not the villain. All he wanted to do was uncover the true manipulators: Those who want to scare our children green – environmental activists who operate in cahoots with our own government.

Copyright © 2001 by Knight Ridder