My Father's Clouds - A Line in the Sand by John Borowski
"...when I point this out and demand that overt and pernicious advertising by corporations be booted out of our schools, my actions are seen as fearmongering, radical or extreme."
Corporate America’s expenditure of nearly $100 billion per year to further its “engineering of consent” is winning the battle for the American mind. Nowhere is this more apparent than in recent positions of the environmental community. This expensive indoctrination is causing doubt in the minds of those who know the indisputable facts re: environmental damage caused by industry.
A decade-old blitz of doublespeak, word-smithed by the slickest PR purveyors of misinformation, has environmental activists retreating and redefining their agenda. It is a recipe for disaster. Instead of what is “right” the motto is now, “take what we can get.”
As an educator, I was asked recently to be part of a campaign to broaden the outreach of environmental education. I sat almost numb as I listened to a group of intelligent, ecologically fluent environ-mentalists swallow the lure of corporate benevolence. Buzz phrases were all familiar: win-win scenarios, compromise in the name of “furthering the agenda”, pragmatic and reasonable approaches... ... oh, and industry’s favorite opiate: “consensus and compromise.”
The question begs a national dialogue. How can the industries that rape and pillage nature have the arrogance to suggest “compromise” on issues ranging from deforestation to species extinction? Why do we allow these industries into our schools? How can mainstream environmental organizations accept “dirty money”, or allow corporate flacks a seat on their boards? The bar of expectations has been lowered to the point of negative returns.
This “bar”, conjured by PR shills, is now entrenched in the minds of many activists and in the perception of the general public.
The true extremists here are not those who call for swift action to protect our environment. It is those who clearcut forests, drive species to extinction, destroy local economies in the name of free trade, and flood our schools with lies disguised as “teaching tools.”
Yet, instead of mounting a campaign driven by the faces and futures of our children, some in the environmental community (education and activism) have bought into this co-option. Could it be they are in search of dollars from these “corporate citizens”? Nature’s despoilers are buying “cooperation” from environmental organizations that once led the charge against them.
Educators rightly lament the lack of funding for environmental education, so corporate America steps in and offers to fill the void. Weyerhauser has clearcut over 4 million acres of forests, yet here they are, teaching educators at forest retreats. Tobacco executives, who perjured themselves during Congressional hearings on tobacco and nicotine, are here building community relationships through blood money. Yet, when I point this out and demand that overt and pernicious advertising by corporations be booted out of our schools, my actions are seen as fearmongering, radical or extreme. How can this be? Have the bold and visionary days of the early environmental movement been entirely dulled by industry’s massive ability to “manage the outrage”?
We are at the most significant fork in the road in our brief history on this planet. The sheer magnitude of the challenge is mind-boggling. The extinction of 75 species a day; the deaths of nearly 35,000 children daily due to starvation; the rapacious consumption of resources to feed an insatiable and unsustainable economy of “needs”. Is complacency the intelligent response?
Ironically, we have answers to almost all these problems. These answers are ecologically sound and would generate jobs. They would provide cultural, aesthetic and spiritually rewarding futures for our children. But, this won’t happen under the pretense of the “win-win scenarios” offered us by industry and politics as usual.
These times call for accountability. Those who poison our waters and slice away at our life-support system should be recognized as the extremists, the radicals. It is time to draw a line in the sand, and that line is not negotiable. Process is built on consensus and compromise, but the protection and wise use of resources is based on science and built on a set of rules that applies to all. Timber, chemical and extractive industries are not exempt.
Carl Sagan once stated that we have no assurance that there is enough nature left to ensure our continued survival. We have been blindly withdrawing our interest and now are openly having a spending orgy with the Earth’s capital. My children’s health will not be a bargaining chip in this new and perverse game of “Let’s Make A Deal.” I am a mother grizzly bear when it comes to the safety of my girls, and I consider all children as my extended family.
I urge environmental organizations to refuse “dirty” money. They should demand what is right, not accept what is expedient.
John Borowski is a teacher at North Salem High School in Salem, Oregon.