Sustainability group reacts with surprise to full-page ad - In the ad, a writer from Southern Oregon says environmentalists operate with a "covert plan"

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The Oregonian

Portland, Oregon - Judy Walton, who heads a Portland nonprofit involved in environmental education, said she was shocked to open the newspaper Sunday and find her group accused of brainwashing the children of Oregon.

"We just consider ourselves a nonthreatening, mainstream organization," said Walton, who heads the Education for Sustainability Western Network. "The ad is so offensive and misleading."

But Holly Swanson, a Southern Oregon writer and founder of a group called Operation Green Out, said she's convinced that environmentalists involved in the sustainability movement have a "covert plan" to push the values of international Green parties.

Swanson's group bought a full-page ad in The Oregonian's Metro section that attacked the sustainability movement and one of its more high-profile supporters: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

In Oregon, where almost anything having to do with the environment quickly gets polarized, there has long been debate on what is said in the schools about such subjects as timber harvesting, endangered species and animal rights.

But until now, there has been little public debate about the sustainability movement, which encourages people, government and businesses to figure out ways to reduce their daily impact on the environment. Gov. Ted Kulongoski and his predecessor, John Kitzhaber, ordered state officials to work to conserve resources and encourage environmentally sensitive development.

Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, are two of the founders of Second Nature, a Boston-based group that encourages universities to promote sustainability, both in their curriculum and in their operations. In turn, Second Nature has spawned the creation of the Portland-based Education for Sustainability Western Network, which is working with colleges throughout the West.

"When we began," Second Nature's Web site states, "we envisioned a path to start transforming our relationship with nature and each other through the transformation of education -- a high leverage way to affect change throughout society."

"Set Up & Sold Out"

Swanson, who once owned an advertising agency with her husband and headed a group supportive of the timber industry, said she became concerned about the sustainability movement after attending an environmental conference.

The White City resident wrote a book, "Set Up & Sold Out," that came out in 1995 and argued that the movement was a "radical departure from what standard education is in the United States."

Instead of teaching basic skills, Swanson said environmental educators were promoting values that she said were more aligned with the socialism of the international Green movement. This included such things as downgrading the value of individual initiative, she said.

Her ad sought contributions to Operation Green Out, which she describes as a grass-roots group with some 1,200 members. It does not have nonprofit status, she said.

Walton said her group is not encouraging the indoctrination of anyone. She said it's valid for teachers to discuss environmental issues in the classroom, particularly at the college level where environmental concerns can apply across a variety of fields.

For example, she said she just attended a conference at the University of Oregon where design students wanted their curriculum to include more information about such things as environmentally friendly building materials.

Jeff Mapes: 503-221-8209;



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