The Danger Of Being Environmentally Correct | By Dan Coleman | Issue 223 | The Sun Magazine

The Danger Of Being Environmentally Correct

(Maybe There Is No Hundredth Monkey)

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Dan Coleman responds:

Coreen Walsh is correct to stress the importance of environmental education for our children. Unfortunately, tomorrow’s environmentalists, like today’s, will find themselves with minimal political power and in service to an economy that is fundamentally anti-ecological. My book, Ecopolitics, emphasizes the social, political, and economic structures behind the environmental crisis.

I assure Mary Siler Anderson that I, too, grind my own peanut butter at the neighborhood co-op. Unfortunately, many neighborhoods lack any alternative to chain supermarkets. Economic alternatives are the foundation for ecological living.

Dan Coleman [“The Danger of Being Environmentally Correct,”July 1994] says that simply buying environmentally safe products and organizing boycotts won’t change corporate behavior. Sadly, this is true. But his solution — to become more involved in the democratic process and the production of consumer goods — fails to mention another critical component: education.

By supporting environmental-education initiatives in our communities, we can raise children who will grow up with love and respect for the earth and will base their decisions on that education.

It may seem difficult to get involved with production at a local corporation or to circulate petitions, but it may not be so difficult to take your child on a nature walk, or to the recycling center, or to the library to check out a book on the rain forest. It is in our hands to educate the future corporate decision makers right now.

Coreen Walsh Venice, California

I teach environmental education for a recycling center, and I am constantly urging people to take personal responsibility for their resource consumption and waste making, but that doesn’t mean I believe that consumers drive production. Clearly, profits drive production and consumers are only considered when it’s time to market the product. As Dan Coleman indicates, supermarkets purport to offer a wide range of choices, but in fact offer very few. Thankfully, there are still some options. For instance, forget Peter Pan peanut butter. Go to your neighborhood co-op or health-food store, glass jar in hand, and make your own peanut butter.

Before supermarkets, people ate locally produced food. After the arrival of supermarkets, we thought we’d been given greater freedom — all those brands of cereal and potato chips! Truth is, we were trapped into a system that has put us at the mercy of corporate whims.

I don’t know about hundredth monkeys, but I know I don’t care how Peter Pan packs its peanut butter because I don’t buy it anymore. Truth is, I rarely go to the supermarket at all these days. There’s nothing there I really need.

Mary Siler Anderson Redway, California
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