Michigan school kids can be
grateful that only a quarter of the bills introduced in the state Legislature
each session get enacted. The odds are thus against a proposed law that would
have them abandon their books to caulk windows, inflate bus tires and dust
refrigerator coils in pursuit of energy savings and a "Green School"
designation. That a Republican lawmaker from Livingston County conceived of this
eco-instruction calls into question the environmental platform of the Grand Old
Republicans have been
routinely vilified by environmental activists as nemeses of Nature. But the
"Green School" legislation and similar tree-hugging measures elsewhere expose an
eagerness among some GOP lawmakers to secure green credentials.
The "Green School" proposal
lays out 19 eligibility criteria that span the spectrum of environmental angst,
including recycling paper, magazines, newspapers, batteries, ink cartridges and
cellular telephones; protecting rain forests, native plants and endangered
species; and, of course, reducing energy use to cure our "addiction" to oil and
to curtail global warming. For good measure, "Green School" activity also
includes classroom visits by the Sierra Club, as well as school observances of Earth Day.
Republican state Rep. Joe
Hune, sponsor of the Green School bill, told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, "It's something that would help kids get acclimated to the political
arena." Or as Lenin said, "Give me four years to teach the children, and the
seed I have sown will not be uprooted."
Whether Hune's legislation
will become law remains to be seen. The bill passed the Michigan House on March
23 and was sent to the state Senate. Just last month, Republican majorities in
the Michigan House and Senate overwhelmingly approved a new regime of
groundwater regulation advocated by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm and her
GOP lawmakers in Michigan
aren't alone among their brethren in turning over a green leaf. New York Gov.
George Pataki has mandated the use of "green" cleaning products in schools, and
he has called for converting every school bus in New York, all 50,000, to
operate on "clean fuel," at an estimated cost of $150 million.
California Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger, the self-styled
"smart growth governor," signed legislation allocating $7 million to develop a
curriculum that makes environmental principles "an integral part" of primary and
Against this backdrop, it's
less surprising that President George W. Bush recently complained of America's
"addiction to oil." But in so doing, the President has invited fellow Republicans
everywhere to engage in environmental hyperbole.
Ironically, Republicans may
have largely missed the opportunity to reap much of the supposed political
benefit from ceding environmental policy to statists. Compared to national
security, the economy and health care, the environment just doesn't worry voters
that much anymore. The enormous progress that has been achieved undoubtedly is a
There is an alternative to
embracing Green Orthodoxy. Few states or school districts have actually
evaluated the veracity and impartiality of environmental curricula. That's a
principled cause that any Republican (or Democrat) could proudly promote.
There's no shortage of science-based
materials that avoid doomsday scenarios and instead document dramatic
improvements in environmental quality and explain the role of property rights
and markets in maximizing environmental protection. After all, the greatest
environmental gains have been achieved by free-enterprise
nations, rich ones, in other words, that can actually afford to worry about
wetlands and tree frogs.
Republicans should indeed take
up the environmental mantle - by advocating truth and balance in the classroom
and in the regulatory labyrinth. Otherwise, our children not only will be
tutored in tire inflation, but will be taught that humanity is cruel;
consumption, selfish; technology, dangerous; capitalism, destructive; and
Diane S. Katz is director of
science, environment and technology policy at the Mackinac Center for Public
Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Mich.
Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the
author and the Center are properly cited.