Last week, on one of those increasingly rare lazy afternoons, I caught myself sinking comfortably into a living room of familiar faces while watching TLC’s highly-addictive reality juggernaut “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” which has since become far more depressing than it once was uplifting – a trashy train wreck in the wake of a bitter and public pending divorce, allegations of cheating, and questions about the care of Jon and Kate Gosselin’s eight adorable children.
New episodes are frankly too disturbing to watch. But the marathon of reruns I revisited that day was like something from an alternate universe. There were Jon and Kate, calling each other “honey” and sharing a couch, uttering gut-wrenching witticisms like “happily ever after” and “Aren’t we lucky?” And now, less than a year later, they’re living separate lives in separate cities, dating other people (if we’re to believe the rumors), fighting over the huge sums of money they’ve earned, and, of course, filming the new season of their television show, now completely unwatchable without Zoloft or hard liquor. Happily ever after, indeed – or a 40-episode television contract. Whichever comes first.
But it wasn’t the tragic look back at the Gosselin House-That-Was that I found so unsettling. The most interesting moment came during an episode in which Kate revealed part of her parenting philosophy. After learning from Jon that her kids often come out of Aunt Jodi’s house with lollipops hanging out of their mouths, she writhes in disgust and then asks, “Are they organic lollipops?”
Now, believe it or not, on the very same day I watched this old episode, a major new study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, announced that organic food has no nutritional or health benefits over ordinary food. Researchers said, according to Reuters, that “consumers were paying higher prices for organic food because of its perceived health benefits, creating a global organic market worth an estimated $48 billion in 2007.”
The whole thing is pretty funny, really. There were entire “Jon & Kate” episodes devoted to Kate’s insistence that her family eat organic and go green. In one, celebrity “green living expert” Sara Snow comes over to cook an organic dinner. In another, solar panels are installed on the roof of the Gosselin’s new million-dollar home in rural Pennsylvania. In another, they drive an hour to buy half a cow’s worth of organic beef for the year at their favorite farm. And in every one, Kate can’t seem to help but preen for the camera, unintentionally telegraphing to her Middle America audience – folks who don’t have a 40-episode television contract – I’m a better mother than you are.
But Kate is hardly the villain here. The constant shaming and guilting by liberal activists, Hollywood celebrities, California Democrats and the left-wing press to “Go Green” and eat organic almost makes her smug self-satisfaction forgivable. I have to believe that Kate Gosselin and mothers like her genuinely believe they’re raising healthier and happier kids by shoving organic lollipops in their mouths, shelling out twice as much of the hard-earned family income at Whole Foods for organic peas, and sending their husbands out to build picnic tables from reclaimed wood. Why else would they do such ludicrous things in the middle of a recession?
Well, because the messengers of cooked-up liberal marketing schemes like the eco-movement are very persuasive. And good-looking. After all, Leonardo DiCaprio drives a hybrid. Halle Berry spent $60,000 to make her baby’s three nurseries green. And Zac Efron went to the Teen Choice Awards in an eco-limo.
It’s worse than that, though, because these generally listless celebrities now have the imprimatur of genuine political leadership in their hair-brained initiatives to “save the planet” in ways that are probably doing more harm than good – or, in the case of organic food, doing the exact same amount of harm (for far more money).
Al Gore’s made millions pushing a green agenda, regardless of whether or not science proved it valid. In addition to promoting global warming as certain fact, he also fell for the organic hoax, delivering the keynote address for the All Things Organic Conference and Trade Show in 2007.
In 2006, Rohnert Park, California – population 41,000 – spent a whopping $4 million refitting its City Hall with rooftop solar panels and high-efficiency windows, efforts that, repeated across the state, undoubtedly helped to bankrupt it.
The Democratic National Convention in 2008 boasted that it ran its generators on bio-diesel, and forced local caterers to meet tough (and bizarre) eco-friendly standards – like serving dishes that incorporated at least three different colors – that kept many of them out of the bidding.
Democratic lawmakers tried to stuff billions worth of eco-pork (farm-raised, likely) into President Obama’s stimulus package. Rep. Ben Chandler wanted $1.9 billion in federal funds to create eco-friendly schools in Georgia, one of the five states in the country with the lowest high school graduation rates. Apparently, for Chandler, solar panels, and not computers, better textbooks, more teachers, or new lab equipment, will improve education in his state.
Is all of this really helping the environment, a cause almost all human beings can agree is worthwhile? Is all of this really helping humanity? Better yet, as the economy plunges deeper into debt and families across the country struggle to feed their kids, is all of this cost-effective? And finally, is all of this just one giant hoax – an emperor without eco-friendly clothes?
We’ve been duped before. Bottled water isn’t, as it turns out, cleaner or better for you than tap water. But it is a billion-dollar industry. Stores that give away reusable shopping bags are only helping the environment if people actually use them – if they don’t, the heavy cloth sacs will sit longer in landfills than paper or plastic. Totes made from cotton or canvas require more water and energy to produce than plastic ones. But sales in that industry shot up 1000% last year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
When are we going to learn to be skeptical and judicious consumers and parents? We’ll spend hours researching the best flat-screen television or desktop computer, but without even flinching we fall hook, line and sinker for the latest eco trend and incorporate it into every aspect of our life and the lives of our children because someone we saw in a movie insists it’s cool, and Democratic lawmakers insist it’s responsible. When are we going to realize that practical, pragmatic ideas are better for our families and than pie-in-the-sky fantasies that we later discover were illegitimate (and maybe even dangerous)?
As Kate Gosselin tries to move forward from the devastation of a failed marriage that was, by her own choice, broadcast on national television, to raise her eight cute-as-a-button children, I can’t help but wish her the best. But maybe going forward she and countless other parents across the nation will realize that there might be more important lessons we can teach our children than the (imagined) benefits of organic lollipops.
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