Something nearly as sinister is occurring in contemporary America, as the next great totalitarian movement, environmentalism, is using our schools and popular culture to indoctrinate and recruit young converts. For now, these Green Shirts-in-the-making are content to lecture and shame their elders about our environmentally-incorrect ways, as this disturbing New York Times story indicates. But how far off can command-and-control coercion and outright persecution of "Earth enemies" be, once the eco-youth grow up to be Nature Nazis, with their hands firmly on the levers of power?
Yet American parents -- many of whom would have a fit if their kids began dragging home the dogmas of any other religion -- seem to find this form of programming and indoctrination cute, rather than menacing. They feel guilty, instead of alarmed.
“I have very, very environmentally conscious children — more so than me, I’m embarrassed to say,” said Ms. Ross, a social worker in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. “They’re on my case about getting a hybrid car. They want me to replace all the light bulbs in the house with energy-saving bulbs.”
Ms. Ross’s children are part of what experts say is a growing army of “eco-kids” — steeped in environmentalism at school, in houses of worship, through scouting and even via popular culture — who try to hold their parents accountable at home. Amid their pride in their children’s zeal for all things green, the grown-ups sometimes end up feeling like scofflaws under the watchful eye of the pint-size eco-police, whose demands grow ever greater, and more expensive. They pore over garbage bins in search of errant recyclables. They lobby for solar panels. And, in a generational about-face, they turn off the lights after their parents leave empty rooms.
“Kids have really turned into the little conscience sitting in the back seat,” said Julia Bovey, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental group that recently worked with Nickelodeon on a series of public service announcements and other programming called “Big Green Help.”
“One of the fascinating things about children is that they don’t separate what you are doing from what you should be doing,” Ms. Bovey said. “Here’s this information about how we can help the environment, and kids are not able to rationalize it away the way that adults do.”
Another fascinating thing about children is that they are infinitely malleable and the ultimate idealists, making them easy prey for fanatics and propagandists. They're also, by and large, economic illiterates, oblivious to what things cost, where things come from and the necessity of making trade-offs. They take their affluence and material comforts completely for granted, and are willing to vilify the institutions and individuals that make both possible. They are disconnected from reality and still believe in magic -- all qualities they share with "eco-adults."
Today's "pint-size eco-police," as The Times calls them, are tomorrow's green gestapo. Today's "little conscience" in the back seat will become tomorrow's "sustainability" commissar, once behind the wheel. Perhaps the green menace is less menacing to some Americans because it marches under the seemingly benevolent banner of "saving the Planet." But every totalitarian movement is animated by such grandiose and messianic goals. "The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes," warned Thomas Paine.
And what more noble cause can there be than "saving the planet?"