Research shows that children under 7 years of age can not see that is trying to sell them something. One analysis found that even middle school students cannot distinguish between news and advertorials.
But that hasn’t stopped the fossil fuel industry from selling aggressively to kids in elementary school. In fact, this could be exactly why the industry is targeting elementary school age children. C.The limate journalist Amy Westervelt and I examine how the industry has shaped young minds for decades episode 2 of our podcast miniseries is called a collaboration with Drilled The ABC of great oil.
Gleb Bahmutov found out about the industry targeting young children first hand last spring. One day in May he picked up his son and his boyfriend from their elementary school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The weather was nice so he let her play on the jungle gym for a while before taking her home.
Usually Bahmutov looks forward to listening to podcasts in the car while waiting for his child in the playground, but that day he found something that confused him: a notebook in his son’s backpack.
“I thought, oh yeah, it looks like a coloring book,” said Bahmutov. “And then I saw Eversource in the upper right corner.”
The sight of the logo of Eversource – a utility that supplies Cambridge residents and millions of others in the New England region – stamped on both brochures piqued Bahmutov’s interest. So he pulled out the notebook and found that there was another one behind it. The first was entitled Natural gas: your invisible friend, and the other was called My Nat and Gus. Both praised the fossil gas and explained how our lives depend on it.
One page of the first booklet has an activity called “Natural Gas Is Great,” which has a list of positive things about the dirty power source. The students guess which member of society – an office building owner, a pizza restaurant manager, a bus driver – has made which positive statements about gasoline.
The second book, My Nat and Gus, is kind of even more blatant in schillings for natural gas, what a Main source of methane and caused deadly explosions. One activity that focuses on using gas for transit says, “Natural gas is the cleanest fuel available for transportation.” cleanest fuel for transportation, for the record.)
We reached out to both Eversource and Bahmutov’s son School for comments on the brochures and will update this story if either of the two replies.
the School district and the school both told Bahmutov back in May that the materials were distributed randomly. But he still cares that they exist at all. Bahmutov already struggles with how to let his kid know about the climate crisis without freaking him out too much, let alone how to tackle the talking points of the industry.
“Apparently there is an industry that specifically targets children,” said Bahmutov. “It’s not about propaganda, it’s about making sure that when they grow up they have a special impression of natural gas.”
Eversource’s materials are the latest in a long line of products Industry-funded curricula. Amy and I found on the podcast Examples from the 1920s showing oil companies sponsoring educational materials. But among the most angry ones Examples of fossil fuel propaganda targeting children is a cartoon series from the 1970s called The kingdom of Mocha.
Mocha is a fictional place that appears in comics, coloring books, film strips and videos from Amoco Oil, now BP. The narrative is full of absurd stereotypes. Take the cartoon version of the 1976 story, in which a cartoon of a black man is delegated to the town fisherman, and a sloppy, curvaceous woman sells melons – but we all know they’re not just talking about the fruit.
The bigotry in the video is palpable, but equally terrible are its messages about the economy. For example, in the film, wood is used to power cars and the character that starts a logging company is the hero of the story. He constantly spreads the message that taxes are a burden on the public and, above all, serve to enrich government officials. THose in the film asking him to protect the forest are portrayed as a silly interest group, not as people concerned about the environmental impact of cutting down every tree in the forest Kingdom.
These and other messages have been addressed to elementary school children for decades. When you’ve come across others, contact us at [email protected] or send a tip anonymously via The SecureBox from Drilled.
Amy Westervelt contributed to the coverage of this article.
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