Web of deception: environmental mis-education

By Diane Alden and Steve Farrell
web posted September 20, 1999

School children in the United States are familiar with a concept known as the "web of life". The primary movers marketing this philosophy have an interesting web of their own. The Sierra Club, Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, Nature Conservancy; in conjunction with government agencies such as the EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, BLM, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USDA Conservation Service, the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy; and the monolithic eastern foundations have allied themselves with the education establishment and provided questionable information to the school systems and called it "environmental education."

The Web Masters

Dr. Michael Sanera, a Senior Fellow at the Center for the New West, has done extensive studies on the content and quality of environmental education in the United States. His conclusion is that science textbooks "intentionally oversimplify and overemphasize information to get readers to take action on pro-environmental causes."

Sanera examined 130 science textbooks and found egregious errors or oversimplification. In one textbook after another, half-truths and dubious science and lack of balance is offered as fact. Two thirds of the textbooks fail to mention or provide adequate information as to the nature of a slight temperature rise over the last 100 years. The textbooks promote -- as fact-- the "theory" of global warning and fail to present both sides of the controversial question.

Another example of misinformation may be found in Ecology: Earth's Living Resource. This book and others like it boldly state that forests in the eastern U.S., particularly New England have been decimated. The US Forest Service itself determined that since 1850 there has been an increase from 50 percent of rural New England lands covered in forest to over 80 percent. Sanera documents hundreds of instances of misinformation promoted as fact by the "green alliance" and adopted in textbooks.

The powerful green coalition begins promoting its agenda by indoctrinating teachers in the colleges of education. Sanera states, "the materials in teacher's textbooks mislead prospective teachers by mixing science with advocacy."

Mis-educating the Teachers

Quick to pick up the new "discipline" the educational establishment has incorporated EE into teacher training.

Funded by grants from the US Department of Energy, many university education science web sites, like the Nevada Science Project Home Page, for instance, offers a look at what is happening to science education in Nevada and environmental science in particular. In addition to the usual disciplines of biology, chemistry, geology and physics the site offers a category for environmental science.

Included in that category are links to such web sites as Envirolink Network Home Page and World Resources Institute's Environmental Education Project. Offered to teachers as a resource, these web sites embody political advocacy as much as they do education or science. For instance, World Resources Institute's web site covers topics such as Why the United States Needs a National Biodiversity Policy and How and Why Biological Resources are Threatened.

The idea of a national biodiversity policy coincides with the United Nation's Biodiversity Treaty signed by Clinton in June 1993. Mixing science with a political agenda makes the information suspect to say the least.

In addition, the WRI "educational" material offers such faux science as the Neo-Malthusian concepts of overpopulation which are presented as fact. Most reputable scientists have determined the theory doesn't hold up under analysis. Other characteristic statements of WRI's green agenda include: "inappropriate land tenure arrangements discourage rural people from making investments that would enable sustainable use of the available biological resources." In plain English, logging, grazing and mining-any extractive industry and the people who depend on them-need to find other employment.

The EE and science education perspective is revealed in two stated goals cited on the Nevada Science Home Page Project: "to enhance nontraditional ways of teaching science-with emphasis on process over content. Another is to "explore the "whole language" approach to teaching science. Since both deal with education technique rather than content it is not surprising Nevada and most of the United States is home to so many scientific illiterates.

Shedding light on the current state of science education including EE, Dr. Stan Metzenberg, a biology professor at California State University Northridge stated before the Congressional House Committee on Science, that the National Science Education Standards, "are based on the flimsiest excuse for research less than half the science is peer reviewed." He further states, "that government developed national standards mean that scientific facts have little value, and children are being presented 'science' which is written primarily by education specialists rather than scientists, federal funding is helping to create an entire generation of scientific illiterates."

An important contributor to environmental education and part of the green coalition has its own problems. EPA microbiologist David Lewis says "EPA's ability to base its actions on sound science has slipped further and further behind in the last three decades." So much so that Rep. David McIntosh, who chairs the House subcommittee on national economic growth and natural resources, says his committee will investigate.

It would seem that the "green alliance's" scientific credibility is built on quicksand.

Ranger Rick and the Schools

Children are learning environmental science presented by an education establishment trained by the "green alliance." Depending on the viewpoint of the teacher and the resource materials used, environmental education may be balanced and objective or reflect the advocacy leanings of the "green alliance."

Recently, parents in Elko and Spring Creek, Nevada were outraged by a publication for school children distributed by the National Wildlife Federation-Ranger Rick. Found in most elementary school libraries the publication presented the following as facts:

  • If people bought less gold and silver, there would be less need for mines, and that would be better for the environment.
  • Because of gold mining, thousands of miles of rivers and streams in the western United States have been killed.

The supporting data to back these statements is missing. In actuality the current mining industry has worked diligently to clean up after itself. But according to Dr. Sanera and others this isn't about cleaning up the environment-it's about locking up huge tracts of land to keep the "green alliance" happy.

The Web of Good Intentions

On March 11, 1998, seven members of the US House of Representatives introduced HR 3441 to reauthorize the Environmental Education Act. The intention of the bill was to stress the importance of environmental education based on sound science and a balanced viewpoint.

But Dr. Sanera says the bill is simply window dressing and does not significantly change the substance of what is called environmental education. The EPA and environmentalists have praised HR 3441 but thinks it doesn't go far enough.

If past experience is any guide, counting on the "green alliance" for fairness and balance is expecting the fox not to eat the chickens.

A Green Complex

President Eisenhower once warned America about the "military-industrial complex." Apparently he didn't envision the danger to the republic which might emerge from an "environmental--foundation--government and educational complex." The excrescence coming out of this web of organizations is a mis-educated populace which accepts as truth questionable science, myths and half-truths. Their motto must be "don't confuse me with the facts."

Diane Alden is a frequent contributor to Enter Stage Right and has been published in Right Magazine in the past. Steve Farrell is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right. They are both columnists with Newsmax.




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