SPECIAL REPORT- Big Green: Portrait of a Big Green activist who scares your kids 

Of all the questionable lessons being American public schools students, the idea that Legos are destroying the planet might just be the most absurd.

"Riding in the car one day with his parents in Tacoma, Wash., Rafael de la Torre Batker, 9, was worried about whether it would be bad for the planet if he got a new set of Legos," according to the New York Times.

Where once we dispensed practical advice to children about consumerism like "waste not, want not," today's public schools too often teach kids that their new toys make them part of an apocalyptic death cult.

According to the Times, Young Rafael's class had just watched "The Story of Stuff," an animated anti-capitalist diatribe by former Greenpeace employee Annie Leonard. The program, which was financed in part by left-wing Tides Foundation, is widely used by teachers suffused with environmental dogma.

Leonard claims her video has been viewed by more than three million people online, and some 7,000 copies of the DVD have been sold. Another environmental group, Facing the Future, is developing curricula designed around the program for schools in all 50 states.

That Leonard describes herself as an "unapologetic activist," and isn't shy about painting hyperbolic doomsday environmental scenarios for children.

In Leonard's 20 minute documentary, she explains the production of consumer goods with this: "Extraction, which is a fancy word for natural resource exploitation, which is a fancy word for trashing the planets."

Leonard embraces the long-discredited Malthusian view of natural resources, intoning darkly that "we are running out of resources and we are using too much stuff. ... In the past three decades, one third of the planet's natural resource base has been consumed - gone."

Further, according to Leonard, we live on a "finite planet" where rain doesn't replenish water tables, new trees can't be planted and grown, and there are no new supplies of resources such as metals and fuels to be discovered.

In her recent book, "The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health -- and a Vision for Change," Leonard also make it clear that she's driven by ideology, not facts, saying "there's no way around it, capitalism, as it currently functions, is just not sustainable,"

As is typical with ideologues, Leonard "knows" some things that just aren't true, claiming for example that "more than 50 percent of our federal tax money is now going to the military." In fact, more than twice as many tax dollars go to entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security than to defense.

Other facts don't add up, either. Leonard tells kids corporations make up 51 percent of the 100 largest economies. The actual number is significantly smaller than that and even Exxon-Mobil, the largest corporation on Earth is one half of one percent the size of the U.S. economy.

Sometimes, she's just misleading, as when she says only 4 percent of America's original forests remain, without noting that the country is more forested today than it was a century ago, thanks largely to the fact our economy depends on fossil fuels instead of wood.

Despite the fact that Leonard's work is quite fairly described as dishonest, odds are "The Story of Stuff" likely is coming to a classroom near you. Aside from the recent New York Times profile, Leonard has also been declared a "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine.

"My friends often don't believe me when I say I can spend an entire evening listening to stories about garbage and be completely mesmerized," said a writer at Time. "That's because they haven't met Annie Leonard."

Sadly, the only way one can be mesmerized by Leonard is if you're unable to distinguish between stories about garbage and stories that are garbage.

mhemingway@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Mark Hemingway

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