Logging and Mining Industries’ "Provider Pals" Target Public Schools

A Ford Motor Company donation of $1.5 million dollars to “Provider Pals” epitomizes the quest by extractive industries and their spawn to conquer society’s last, un-commercialized bastion: our public school system. Provider Pals is the latest attempt to run the gauntlet and blow wide open the proverbial doors of fairness, objectivity, and sound science found in schools and replace it with nothing short of corporate America’s wish list. And that list has a long history of distortions, half-truths, and bold-faced lies.

Provider Pals, organized by Bruce Vincent, a mouthpiece for logging, mining and grazing on public lands, is brilliantly orchestrated with a charismatic, yet simple objective. Put a face on miners, loggers and ranchers: a very happy face indeed. Bringing his minstrel show to urban areas, Vincent and his happy band of “providers” apparently show the “city kiddies” how wood, meat and other resources are brought to the market. Central to this theme, is the pretext that no good American would criticize American icons like the cowboy and logger. Industry has often used workers as pawns; millions of dollars were spent on the timber corporation’s PR ploy to pit loggers versus Spotted Owls. Loggers were not the bad guys, it was the likes of Boise Cascade and Weyerhaeuser who butchered millions of acres of watersheds, fragmented forests on a scale never seen before and used “cut and run” techniques caring little about workers and their communities.

The irony of programs like Provider Pals is while they tug at our ‘heart-strings’, and have a valid message in terms of good, hard working rural folk, the omissions in the classroom are akin to a corporate commercial. Will the urban kids be made privy to information about predator control and vile, toxic substances like Compound 1080 (one of the world’s most lethal chemicals) that are used by grazing interests to destroy our nation’s predators? Will the logger character discuss the fact that only 4% of our native forests still stand, that tree farms and massive clear-cutting have lead to our current fire dangers? Will the miner expose the 1872 Mining Law, which leads to legal theft of hard-rock minerals, while companies pay no royalties and the public picks up the cost of abandoned mines? On all cases, the answer is very doubtful.

The Wood Promotion Network suggests on their website that the Ford donation is an attempt by the auto giant to make nice with extractive industries. Or as the website gleefully notes, “the initiatives are part of Ford’s earlier commitment resulting from an overwhelming response to advertorials and previous grants by the Ford Fund that damaged the reputation of wood and the wood industry on product and environmental issues.” A Ford donation to the National Audubon was seen as an immoral act by those “Wise Use folks” who cannot fathom a rational discussion on environmental issues, unless it is crafted, tailored and pigeon holed to fit industry’s set of myths about resource abuse, and their age old denial of being nothing more than shysters.

But if a puppet show doesn’t work, Mr. Vincent can follow the lead of the American Petroleum Institute. Exposed by the N.Y Times for trying to create”junk science” curricula, to downplay global warming, and cast the Kyoto Protocol into the same category as leprosy, API tried the clandestine route: seek cover from an established charlatan. They helped fund a module on energy for Project Learning Tree, an educational program funded by the American Forest Foundation. Project Learning Tree, fond of ignoring forest issues like clear cutting, monocultures, short rotation forestry, the track record of multinationals on public lands, is a powerful player in environmental education with the backing of the nation’s most powerful and ecologically unsound timber corporations. In the absence of big environmental organizations providing sound curricula, teachers are being bamboozled into using PLT materials and its’ omission filled agenda.

Sitting on the “panel” for this illustrious energy packet was the American Coal Foundation, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and the American Petroleum Institute. API president Red Cavaney sat on the panel himself, and he is an avid supporter of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The American Coal Foundation has been chastised for their previous foray into science curricula. “Power from Coal” was cited by educators as commercial and incomplete, downplaying the effects of carbon dioxide and actually suggested the earth could “benefit rather than be harmed from increased carbon dioxide.” Lastly, the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers is fighting California’s attempt to regulate emissions from cars to combat global warming. Now there is nothing like adding rogues to your existing “Rogues Gallery” to circumvent a fair and even discussion on pressing environmental issues like energy?

And if all fails, go the “Operation Greenout” route. Gestated in Oregon, Operation Greenout uses inflammatory rhetoric to castigate environmental education. Literacy in environmental issues is depicted as “eco-child abuse” and “indoctrination”. Earth Day is seen as the unholy celebratory date for druids and the Lorax. Several times in their literature they coldly warn us, “You cannot trust the greens.” Deeper inspection of their data suggests that they are nothing more than mouthpieces for the Wise Use movement. Yes, it is a shrill and transparent approach, yet fear is a wonderful motivator.

While the fortress of public schools, have withstood these attacks, the cracks are showing. Growing state deficits means less funding for curricula. Educators are being tempted to use corporate curricula that offer a “fast food approach” to learning: the questions and answers are the best that industry can cook up, similar to corporate profit sheets and exaggerated financial gains. Corporate America knows as long as students have literacy in environmental issues, there will always be Rachel Carson and Cesar Chavez types in the American lexicon. And that is not permissible in a corporate run world, were knowledge is seen as a roadblock to quarterly profits.

Yes, it must be frustrating for certain corporations. They have unfettered access to the airways, given their monopoly on the television. Their pockets are deep and massive sums of money can be afforded to propaganda campaigns. American culture is increasingly being dictated by our citizens’ dizzying compliance to fulfilling their ego and spiritual satisfaction through consumption and paying less and less heed to meaningful dialogue about the consequences. But, there has always been that outpost of hope, a roadblock if you will, that prevents free education from becoming “owned and paid for education.”

Our public schools offer our youngest citizens access to scientific information not tainted or presented with outcomes already determined. Discussion and critical thinking, in the absence of corporate come-ons, will determine the best possible road to sustaining resources for eons to come. And if this bastion gives way to the knaves who would manipulate their own mothers to generate greater stock options, then, we as a free and just society will see democracy erode and blow away as so much dust found in a clearcut, overgrazed prairie or neglected strip-mine.

John Borowski has taught high school environmental science for 24 years. his articles have appeared in the NY Times, “Z” magazine, and UTNE Reader. He lives in Philomath, Oregon and can be reached at: jenjill@proaxis.com

Today’s Feature

Norman Madarasz
Brazil, the Workers’ Party and the Financial Times

Leah Wells
The Wedding Was a Bomb

CounterPunch Wire
Trial of the SOA 37

Edward Hammond
Bombing the Mind:
The Pentagon’s Drug Warfare

Sam Bahour
Ramallah Occupied:
Uninvited Guests Become Neighbors

Dave Marsh
John Entwistle’s Heaven and Hell

Norman Madarasz
Brazil’s Triumph

home / subscribe / about us / books / archives / search / links /

More articles by:

John Borowski is an environmental educator in Oregon.

March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography