- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 25, 2001

Your Aug. 21 editorial, “Rain forest chic,” questions the way the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) disguises its activities as education. Let me go one step further in examining its frightening interpretation of “education.”

RAN maintains a section of its Web site for teachers and children. The Web site contains a seven-step program as part of its curriculum for grades four through six. One recommendation urges youngsters to eat less red meat because “for every quarter-pound fast-food hamburger that comes from the rainforest, 55 square feet of rainforest is destroyed.” For children who have not yet had Geometry 101, it explains that 55 square feet is the “size of a small kitchen.” Other recommended steps for “saving the rainforest” include writing letters to the presidents of companies or corporations “that destroy the rainforest.” RAN informs teachers and students: “Unfortunately, there are many corporations that destroy the rainforest by logging the trees, drilling for oil, or using rainforest beef in their products. The RAN Kids' Corner always has ideas for a company to write, just see the Action Alert' section.” I hope teachers who succumb to using this nonsense in their classrooms at least use it as an opportunity to grade the penmanship of the letters.

Maintaining such a sophisticated presence on the Web does not come without significant cost, and RAN is no slouch when it comes to raising funds on its site. In addition to featuring youngsters who have raised money for “saving” the rain forest by holding lemonade sales, it also lists businesses that donate to the organization. Among those is the Rainforest Cafe, a restaurant popular with youngsters. The Rainforest Cafe provides a link to its site, and with a couple of clicks, I was able to peruse its children's menu. There I found “Rainforest Rascal, a kid-sized Rainforest Burger,” listed as one of the entrees. So much for intellectual honesty.

Most alarming is that RAN may be coming to a school near you. According to its Web site, RAN is taking its “education” on the road to schools in the Southeast.

I can guarantee that the concept of irony will not come up during the RAN presentation. After all, it just wouldn't help the “cause” if youngsters learned to question the sincerity of those who warn against eating a fast-food meal because it would kill a tree, yet fund their programs with burger sales.


BRIGID M. SHEA

Manager of government and environmental affairs

International Wood Products Association

Alexandria


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