Stossel's Segment Yanked

Posted: Jun 29, 2001 12:00 AM
John Stossel, the only openly right-of-center reporter on any of the three major networks has a long history of making lefty and environmental groups kick-the-cat angry. He recently set them off again when, for his latest ABC News Special, Stossel asked a bunch of school kids on camera what they think about various environmental issues. The special aired June 29 - but without the conversation with the children. An organization called the Environmental Working Group, helped persuade the kids' parents to rescind their permission to use the footage. Apparently, it was fine to talk to the kids when it was assumed a conventional liberal reporter interviewed them. It was only after they learned that Stossel was the host that the parents, with ample encouragement from the EWG, wigged out. But why would anyone care what a bunch of kids have to say about the environment in the first place? Well, because the terrible secret that Stossel was trying to get at - and what his footage would have highlighted - is that for more than a decade, children have been the recipients of a relentless environmental propaganda campaign. Hiding the truth, though, doesn't change what the truth is. In their book, "Facts, Not Fear: Teaching Children About the Environment," Michael Sanera and Jane S. Shaw catalog a stunning array of hysterical, in every sense, assertions found in children's textbooks. In one textbook, "Access to Health," kids are told the earth's natural resources "will become so depleted that our very existence will become economically and environmentally impossible." This, it warns, will cause "famine, disease, pollution, unrest, crime and international conflicts." Indeed, virtually all of the textbooks Sanera and Shaw cite mention that the Earth's supply of minerals and fuel will disappear too soon for us to come up with substitutes. Therefore, according to "World Geography Today," another typical textbook, the "people of the world must share and use the planet's resources more wisely. ... Will the richer nations share their wealth and resources with the less fortunate nations?'' Alas, this is all either untrue or wildly misleading. Consider that almost all commodities have become significantly cheaper - or, economically speaking, less scarce - over the last few decades. When fuels do become too scarce - like trees in the 19th centuries - humans tend to substitute new fuels, which is why we have more trees today than we did almost a century ago. The core lesson children are being taught is that humans are bad for the environment. I once watched an episode of the Ted Turner-backed "Captain Planet" that baldly stated that the best thing for the planet would be the removal of all humans. Thanks to a story I wrote about the organic food industry, I learned that children's cereal is a keen source of such propaganda. For example, the box of "EnviroKidz" brand "Gorilla Munch" sitting on my desk explains: "The most serious threat to free-living gorillas is the explosion of our human population" and that humans are "the only natural enemy gorillas have." For the record, the biggest threat to gorillas (and most other cute animals) isn't too many humans; it's too many bad policies that encourage humans to cut down gorilla habitats. One such policy is the anti-biotechnology and anti-industrial farming "environmental" movement that makes food scarcer and therefore pushes Third World farmers to clear rainforests for farmland. For all the near-Biblical wailing and gnashing of teeth we hear from liberals about keeping religion out of schools, it's shocking how much environmental propaganda passes for its own religion. University of Rochester economist Steven E. Landsburg, writing in his wonderful book "The Armchair Economist," describes the "naive environmentalism" taught at his daughter's preschool as "a force-fed potpourri of myth, superstition and ritual that has much in common with the least reputable varieties of religious fundamentalism." Children too young to read are taught to accept terrifying scenarios on faith, not reason, Landsburg observes. They are encouraged to turn on their parents when the grown-ups are being Earth "unfriendly." In a sense, this sort of fervor is reminiscent of St. Jerome's 4th century incitement to the children to join the monasteries: "If your father blocks the door, knock him down." How else are we supposed to interpret this nugget from another textbook? "As human activity interferes with the earth's capacity to maintain a maximum range of tolerances for life, history traces the roots of degrading activity to: the advent of agriculture and the rise of civilization; the Judeo-Christian view of human beings as having domination over the earth; the industrial and scientific revolutions; and the rise of capitalism." In short, the world would be better off, our kids are told, if humans had never been born (especially Judeo-Christian humans, as opposed to those noted stewards of the environment in China, Japan and India). Look: There's nothing wrong - and plenty that's right - with teaching children about the environment. The National Audubon Society and the Boy Scouts have been doing that in our schools for about a century. But, as John Stossel discovered, that's not what children are being taught, and we shouldn't wait for our kids to "knock us down," a la St. Jerome, before we do something about it.