Not Just Railing Against Railey’s: A U.S. School-Based Plan To Rally The World


The confirmation comes soon after a report from the U.K. Met Office in June warned that the planet was well on its way toward that grim milestone. (Photo: Kevin Gill/flickr/cc)
(Photo: Kevin Gill/flickr/cc)

Consumer Reports surveys rank Raley’s among the top U.S. supermarket chains, in particular for customer service, and that fact can be used as a point of departure for changing a great deal about our collective crises.” — one of the author’s home schooled youngsters.

We are now heading, eyes narrowed and shut, towards an environmental catastrophe that might end the human life on earth… just as it is wiping out species at a rate not seen since 65 million years ago when a huge asteroid hit the earth. That we — our lifestyle and blindness comprise today’s asteroid — must be taught in our schools, or all will be lost. Already, that short-sighted tunnel vision of ours has nurtured such a negative effect on nature that life is hardly worth living for the vast majority of people on the planet.

Well, maybe that’s not true for “the vast majority” at the moment… but my comment is sufficiently spot on to warrant a radical — and immediate — revision of education worldwide. U.S. educators can get the ball rolling in the fast lane, if they will open their eyes and screw up their courage to contradict the current academic treadmill’s primary priorities.

Let’s be specific. I walked into one of Railey’s Supermarkets in Lodi, California yesterday; that family-owned supermarket chain — with the multiple Bel Air Markets, Nob Hill Foods and Food Source outlets under its retail umbrella — holds a huge influence in Northern California and Nevada. They’re presently using single-use plastic utensils, and contributing — as is just about everyone else — to one of our many collective crises, the proliferation of plastics in our oceans. What does this have to do with my call for teachers, administrator and their colleagues to “open their eyes and screw up their courage”? Read below.

Underneath the observable motivation for making testing a primary concern in educational circles lies the understandable desire of human beings to avoid what’s ugly and disturbing. Apocalyptic thinking covers such ground. And so — like ostriches and patients who don’t want their doctors to tell them that they have a terminal disease — eyes are diverted into the sands of somewhere else… onto something else. Anything but what’s truly troubling. Act as if careers can be pursued along the same lines as in the past — achieving high marks and making oneself ready for slated interviews — and one voluntarily embraces The Obsolete. Students (and their parents, of course) now have to be disabused of the dated notion that all is well, getting better and laying the groundwork for future individual success. That’s essentially the mantra that’s being drilled into our youngsters. A bright-siding of the future, personal satisfaction only contingent upon one’s keeping one’s nose to the grindstone, and grinding out what academics say is worthy.

The trouble is they are not saying the truth. The academics themselves are walking into outlets like what Railey’s Chain offers, purchasing quick eats on the run, and having lots of undisturbed fun with their plastic forks and spoons during lunchtime breaks from the routine of test prep and testing.

They should test their souls, their character. And they could do that by mobilizing their students — following securing a “green light” from mothers and fathers at a Parent Teacher Association meeting — to test the moral fiber of Railey’s.  Actually, by setting up a litmus test respecting the sanity of those running Railey’s… and all other food chains for that matter.

How? [Pause.] One doesn’t have to begin with The Answer. In fact, one must begin by acknowledging what’s wrong with the status quo, and then going for a solution in solidarity with others. Specifically, with the case I’ve cited (one of thousands I could mention, obviously!), youngsters could be convinced that they don’t have to fall into a Planetary Hospice mentality. A clear correlation could be drawn for them respecting exactly what they can do to make a difference. What’s  not being done at present that must be done. This can all be accomplished following a short exchange with the students’ loved ones, with parents being walked through the steps necessary to support such action.

Following all that prep, colleagues can be urged to GET REAL about our collective crises, and begin — perhaps — by taking a public stand vis-a-vis Railey’s use of one-use plastic. This is a perfect example of where a boycott would produce results post haste.

I have no idea as to exactly what Railey’s could do to deal with the change demanded. However, I’m certain that by stirring up the creative juices of one and all sanity and a more decent approach would prevail. Meaning, I’m sure that Railey’s would quickly go into high gear regarding discussion,  to do what was necessary to put the boycott to bed.

But here’s what’s unsaid. The positive ripples which would be set into motion might lead to one-use plastic elimination ‘cross the board, including in the realms of Safeway and other food outlet giants. And the “changes” would not have to be restricted to the one issue I’m citing. For instance, today there was another report about how giant food chains are changing the meaning of ORGANIC;  that must be stopped. There is a clear need for everyone to be able to rely on the labeling that’s being used for food, but all the documentaries to date on that and all plastics-related issues have done a damn thing to stem the tide of our horrid momentum. And Railey’s perspective on certified fisheries and farms begs to be reconsidered, along with many of the so-called environmentally-conscious new approaches afforded by popular food chain outlets.

Bottom line, food chains could be forced to alter their attitude and practices respecting plastics, organic standards and much more. But a core group of students and parents and teachers must resolve to bravely confront School Boards, members of a given community who are locked into traditional academic pedagogy, and many others who will be inclined to say “No!” to virtually anything new, certainly to anything that smacks of radical revamping.

Everyone knows that the transformation of society desired will not come about without a transformation of education. And only a dummy would think that the present efforts in public and private schools to deal with our collective crises is working.

I submit that the burden of proof that sufficiently significant environmental inroads are being carved out by educators is… on  educators. They must be asked to prove that they’re making decent enough advances soon enough, in time to meet the deadlines we all face. And a good way to do that is to demand that they spell out exactly what those deadlines are, and what they are doing to meet them.

Recycling is now a farce. And most schools I’ve visited don’t even have such environmental action in operation. Most are oblivious to the dangers of one-use plastic too. And organic standards? Forget about, the discussion of dietary issues is virtually non-existent.

I wasn’t using hyperbole when I noted above that there were thousands of issues I could raise for educators to address… just on the environmental plane. I applaud the handful of conscious teachers who are fighting the good fight, but even with them my experience is that they’re proceeding at an arthritic snail’s pace, embracing aims that are not at all sufficiently ambitious.

I’m going to be living right around Ground Zero for Railey’s near West Sacramento, California shortly.  And I’m writing this piece not to rail against Railey’s, but to rally one and all — even those living on continents far away — to spend part of one single day in email contact with me… so that I can delineate exactly how concerned citizens inhabiting foreign lands can contribute to supporting the efforts of U.S. citizens attempting to make a difference domestically… with the ambitious goal of transforming the entire world.

Money will NOT be necessary. Contact, however, is. Seem too simple? You’ve got to start somewhere. A truly new point of departure for change.

Annapurna Tosca Sriramarcel is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at [email protected].




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