"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 13 January 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Green Machine



Americans today witness nature in

a Jeep Cherokee commercial more

often than in a national park.

And when we do finally load up

the kids and drive to Arizona,

we see the Grand Canyon not as a

product of nature, but as

product. It's not a monument,

it's an image - a postcard, a

glossy ad, a movie. Even Buffalo

Bill's phenomenally successful

Wild West travelling road show

earlier this century only became

popular after the West had

already been won and its "wild

frontier" image had solidified

in the national consciousness.



Nature isn't where we live, it's

where we go; not an environment,

really, but a destination.

Securely roped off so we can

locate it on a map, nature is in

our national parks, in some

vague areas of Africa, and, of

course, in Antarctica. But it's

easier to get parking at the

mall, where a peculiarly

American view of nature is on

fluorescent display at The

Nature Company.



Only in America would we put the

two words "nature" and "company"

together - and nature's stock is

high these days. In less than a

decade, The Nature Company has

come to dominate the green

market - sales in 1995 were $175

million and the company has more

than 100 stores in malls from

sea to shining sea. But if PBS

specials have taught us

anything, Nature is nothing

without Discovery.


The Discovery Channel, which

bought The Nature Company last

April for $40 million in cash,

will infuse cash even as it

downplays commodity exchange,

renaming the chain Discovery

Channel as well. The planned

expansion includes establishing

300 locations nationwide, a

25,000-square-foot flagship

theme park in Washington, D.C.,

and a "Discovery Channel

Destination" in San Francisco,

complete with Sony IMAX theaters -

Sea World meets NikeTown.



"We're telecasting to the

best-educated generation that's

ever been alive," Greg Moyer,

president of Discovery

Communications Inc., said

recently. "The thing consistent

in our audiences is a lifelong

curiosity." Maybe so, but the

curious are also those with

credit lines, automobiles, and -

most importantly - guilt. Fluffy

baby seals tug at heartstrings linked to

purse strings, and our

ecofriendly, environmental

subconscious demands that we buy

that image so we can hold onto

an Animal Kingdom that is

rapidly slipping away.


[Nature COmpany]

Enter the cool green slate facade

of any Nature Company store, and

what awaits are the sounds and

sights of the natural world -

the groans of a

"motion-detecting croaking frog"

called Randy Ribbit,

cardboard-cutout smiling

penguins, Virtual Nature videos,

bird fountains, smooth rocks

with the word "solace" etched in

them, and, because indigenous

people are better connected to

nature than us mallgoers,

"native" (to where?) crafts and

music. But while we discover

nature with our credit cards,

perhaps we should not be asking

why our avenue to nature is

consumerism but why our avenue

to consumerism is nature. After

all, a trip to the mall is no

less authentic than a trip to

the Grand Canyon.



Sure, it's a nice concept, but

market models are tired these

days. Nature models, on the

other hand, are wired - or so

say Kevin Kelly, Wired's

executive editor, and Michael

Rothschild, founder of the

Bionomics Institute. Nature is

so pervasive that even our

economic structure evolves from

it, they argue. Our corporations

are living, breathing organisms.

Capitalism, like nature, is a

headless, ever-evolving being.

The concept of the holistic Gaia

can be transferred to our

economy, the bionomists promise.

In keeping with Robert Bly's big

ideas, which brought social

Darwinism into the workplace and

took cadres of male executives

"back to nature" to beat drums

and talk motivational tactics,

bionomists argue that the

economy is based on the

principles of evolutionary




"The market economy, like a

tropical rainforest, is the

product of a naturally

occurring, spontaneous,

evolutionary process," posits

Rothschild. And, he argues, so

is the Internet. The growth of

the Internet is spontaneous,

like the growth of the

rainforest. While there are

several consortia and more than

a few companies that might argue

that Rothschild's conception of

the Internet free-for-all

reflects projected speaker's

fees, not reality, his

conception of the rainforest is

just as fatuous. The real

rainforests are being cut down

at a rate of 150 acres per

minute. But we can still do our

part: At The Nature Company, you

can put a quarter in the

Rainforest Meter, and the money

goes to a good cause.

courtesy of Miss de Winter


Miss de Winter