En­vi­ron­men­tal lit­er­acy? Give our kids a break

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Kids aren’t the only ones giong back to school. Pow­er­ful en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cacy groups are join­ing them in the class­room. The Mary­land State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion ap­proved an “en­vi­ron­men­tal lit­er­acy” grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ment at the be­hest of or­ga­ni­za­tions that pro­mote their far-left po­lit­i­cal agenda based on mis­in­for­ma­tion and anti-cap­i­tal­ist fer­vor.

Ac­cord­ing to the pro­gram’s cur­ricu­lum, en­vi­ron­men­tal lit­er­acy means turn­ing chil­dren into cen­tral plan­ners. For in­stance, it instructs stu­dents to “[d]evelop a strat­egy for fair dis­tri­bu­tion of a lim­ited amount of en­ergy avail­able within a com­mu­nity” and to cre­ate a “plan for the fair con­sump­tion of goods” and to “elim­i­nate ... un­nec­es­sary con­sump­tion of goods.”

Mary­land has not pro­vided fund­ing for the pro­gram, so it is very likely that the teach­ing ma­te­ri­als will be pro­vided free of charge by en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist groups.

One likely such provider is the No Child Left In­side Coali­tion (NCLI), an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist group that has ex­pressed its strong sup­port for the new cur­ricu­lum. NCLI ad­vo­cates “ma­jor so­ci­etal change . . . in re­sponse to global warm­ing” — in other words, cen­tral plan­ning and a dein­dus­tri­al­iza­tion agenda based on cli­mate alarmism. This dove­tails with the Mary­land cur­ricu­lum’s in­struc­tion to stu­dents to “ex­plain how hu­man im­pacts threaten cur­rent global sta­bil­ity and, if not ad­dressed, will ir­re­versibly af­fect earth’s [sic] sys­tems.” The only piece miss­ing is a dead­line of en­vi­ron­men­tal Ar­maged­don to be proved false in 10 years.

The NCLI also ped­dles the long-de­bunked no­tion that pop­u­la­tion growth has made re­sources scarcer. It claims, “[T]he grow­ing needs of the grow­ing global pop­u­la­tion in­creas­ingly presses up against the lim­its of the earth’s [sic] re­sources and ecosys­tems.” His­tory shows that just the op­po­site has oc­curred. As pop­u­la­tion has grown and tech­nol­ogy has ad­vanced, hu­mans have been able to ex­pand the pro­duc­tive ca­pac­ity of agri­cul­ture and in­dus­try, en­abling more peo­ple to be fed than ever be­fore.

The cur­ricu­lum de­scribes fos­sil-fuel en­ergy as an “un­sus­tain­able sys­tem” even though its ef­fi­ciency has in­creased pro­gres­sively as tech­nol­ogy has ad­vanced. Fuel ef­fi­ciency in pas­sen­ger cars nearly dou­bled from 1975 to 2000, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil. And with oil priced as high as it is now, it’s no sur­prise au­tomak­ers are build­ing cars that achieve more than 40 mpg.

More­over, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey, es­ti­mated world oil re­serves have in­creased from 600 bil­lion bar­rels in 1940 to 3.9 tril­lion bar- rels in 2000. If global oil sup­plies ever were to run low, the price of ex­tract­ing oil would then be­come high enough to make other forms of en­ergy af­ford­able by com­par­i­son. In the mean­time, it makes no sense not to use the most af­ford­able en­ergy source at our dis­posal.

Even worse, the new pro­gram threat­ens valu­able time needed for the teach­ing of real sub­jects, in­clud­ing math, science and read­ing skills.

The cur­ricu­lum pur­ports to pro­mote “en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice” by urg­ing stu­dents to “[i]den­tify a lo­cal en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice is­sue (such as the lo­ca­tion of [a] toxic waste fa­cil­ity in the neigh­bor­hood) and pro­pose pos­si­ble so­lu­tions” — which gen­er­ally in­volves lob­by­ing against such a plant. Un­for­tu­nately, ad­vo­cates of “en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice” usu­ally end up harm­ing those they claim to help. That’s what hap­pened in 1996 in Con­vent, La., a low-in­come, largely black com­mu­nity. Lo­cal res­i­dents and the NAACP wel­comed the con­struc­tion of a Shin­tech plas­tics fac­tory that would have brought more than 2,000 well-pay­ing jobs to the area, but the Sierra Club and Green­peace — rais­ing fears of dioxin pol­lu­tion fall­ing dis­pro­por­tion­ately on blacks — lobbied against it. The Louisiana Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity stated that “diox­ins were never de­tected . . . from these man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties,” but the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency de­nied Shin­tech the con­struc­tion per­mit any­way.

Mary­land par­ents should be­ware the in­nocu­ous-sound­ing al­lure of “en­vi­ron­men­tal lit­er­acy.” They should let school of­fi­cials and law­mak­ers know that they won’t stand for green zealots tar­get­ing their chil­dren for in­doc­tri­na­tion.

Matthew Mel­chiorre is a re­search as­so­ciate at the Com­pet­i­tive En­ter­prise In­sti­tute.

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