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Fossil Fuel Propaganda In Education: Connecting the Dots

Get ‘em while their young!

It’s a widely know fact that children, whose immune systems are weaker than adults and still developing, are especially susceptible to getting sick from the chemicals and toxins found in fossil fuel pollution. They are also susceptible to another kind of fossil fuel pollution: educational propaganda.

Scientists have even discovered that brains don’t fully develop and mature until the age of 25. That’s why kids continually shove unidentified objects up their nose, light random things on fire, eat worms, and think licking the light socket might be the best ideas of their short-lived little lives. It’s also why they won’t be able to tell the difference between well-rounded educational materials and industry propaganda.

That’s also why it’s disturbing to see the array of news reports showcasing coloring books, cartoons, and lovable characters that the fossil fuel industry has come up with to entice little tykes. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill energy education. The reason these materials are so exploitative is because none of them explore any of the pitfalls of dirty energy.  There’s nothing about public health concerns, water pollution, or the decimation of local ecosystems. And there’s definitely nothing about climate change, which surely belongs on the top 10 list of things kids should be peeing their pants about (after the closet monster of course).

Stories From The March On Blair Mountain - Part 2 The Rally

Continued from Part 1, The March.

By the end of the week, over 300 people had joined the march, some having walked the full 50 miles. The campsite the rally was held at was overlooked by Blair Mountain itself, a large looming reminder of what we were fighting for. As Saturday rolled in, a thousand supporters in total had joined the marchers to walk up the last two miles to the summit, to reclaim the historical landmark.

The day started off with a stack of speakers, musicians, and community members. The crowd heard personal accounts from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who spoke out against mountaintop removal, describing the destruction of mountains, pollution of local waterways, and exploitation of the communities surrounded by mountaintop removal mines. He spoke of how corporate greed reigns and how companies get away with crimes everyday that normal people would be thrown in jail for.

“If you came to the Hudson River, and you tried to fill 25 feet of a Hudson River tributary, we would put you in jail…If you tried to blow up a mountain in the Berkshires, or the Catskills, or the Adirondacks…you would go to jail. It all started here on Blair Mountain, this is the Gettysburg of the union movement in our country.”

Stories From the March on Blair Mountain - Part 1 The March

I arrived a few days early to headquarters in Marmet, WV with an overly large pack that threatened to topple me over with one slightly unbalanced step. A sleeping bag, multiple changes of clothes, a bottle of Listerine, and ample bug spray would have to last me through the long and arduous journey of marching 50 miles along highways careening through the West Virginian Appalachians.

Over the next week, hundreds walked along the path of the original 1921 miners who rose up against the tyrannous coal companies in an attempt to unionize. In the 2011 March on Blair Mountain, community leaders, union members, and conservationists rallied to save the historical labor icon of Blair Mountain, sentenced for destruction via mountaintop removal mining (MTR).  We marched to protest against MTR and to advocate for safer working conditions and sustainable jobs for West Virginians, whose economy and proud natural landscape have been eroded by greedy coal barons.

Ralliers March To Preserve Blair Mountain And Stop Mountaintop Removal

This week, hundreds of marchers will convene in the West Virginian wilderness to walk over 50 miles in 5 days. Organized by Friends of Blair Mountain and Appalachia Rising, the March to Blair Mountain is a 7-day event in which participants will weather obstacles such as the outdoors, possible intimidating counter protestors, port-a-potties, and withstanding 500 people who haven’t showered in 5 days all culminating on June 11th in a protest atop historic Blair Mountain in West Virginia.

Blair Mountain is slated as a site for mountaintop removal - in which the coal companies (like Massey) literally explode the tops off of mountains to reach the coal deposits inside and leave the surrounding ecosystems and communities devastated. In fact, the the amount of explosives used each week is equivalent to one Hiroshima bomb. It would be like if your doctor were to just blow off parts of your body in order to excise a tumor, instead of carefully cutting their way through in order to later put the pieces back together in a functional form.

WPI Students Protest ExxonMobil Speaker at Graduation

After four grueling years of late nights studying and more Ramen noodles than any one person should ever consume, most students don’t find themselves protesting their own graduation. Yet on Saturday, a group of graduates from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) did just that as a row of seats towards the back were left empty for them. No, they weren’t protesting the abhorrent prices of graduation gowns they would never wear again or the absence of top-shelf champagne at the ceremony: they were protesting its speaker.

As soon as WPI announced Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, would be this year’s graduation speaker, many students suddenly were “left confused, even betrayed,” graduating senior Katrina Crocker told DeSmogBlog. It didn’t make sense that WPI, a school recognized as one of the greenest universities in the nation, would invite the CEO of one of the largest dirty energy companies on the planet to address the class of 2011. In contrast to WPI’s green priorities, ExxonMobil reaps billions in dirty energy profits while polluting the environment and contributing to global climate change, all while simultaneously funding front groups to attack climate scientists and confuse the public.

California Town’s School Board Wants Politically “Balanced” Curriculum On Climate Change

And the headdesk moment of the week goes to Los Alamitos Unified School District, who recently decided that teachers in the school district would have to prove that their curricula have political balance when teaching controversial subjects, including global warming. Reminiscent of the creation of the universe debacles, teachers will now be required to teach “opposing views” because conservative board members are “concerned that ‘liberal’ faculty members could skew lessons on global warming”, according to local news coverage.

This could potentially become a dangerous trend, considering that several other districts, including the Texas board of education and South Dakota public schools, have taken similar views as well. It might be okay to teach climate skepticism if it indeed was taught and identified as climate misinformation that industries deliberately use to confuse the public, not as just a “dissenting opinion”. However this doesn’t appear to be the case here. Just listen to what one of the school board members has to say:

BREAKING: Peabody Energy Threatens To Sue Yes Men For Exclusivity

See updates below the fold!
Earlier this week, Peabody Energy was the target of a genius parody website, Coal Cares™, offering free novelty inhalers to families living within 200 miles of a coal plant along with coupons for $10 off asthma medication in lieu of spending money on pollution-reducing technology at their own coal plants. The spoof site was put together by a group called Coal is Killing Kids through the Yes Lab, a spin-off of the Yes Men.

But then, Peabody decided it wasn’t fair that they were getting all the spotlight, and had their lawyers whip up a quick legal threat. But it wasn’t the expected cease and desist letter to take down the website. Rather, Peabody complained that they were unfairly targeted because while they are the largest coal company, they aren’t the only coal company causing asthma attacks in children. 

New Coal Cares™ Campaign Targeting Link Between Coal And Asthma Leaves Viewers Breathless

Peabody Energy seemed to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day yesterday as they started to receive curious phone calls from consumers asking just how many Justin Beiber inhalers they were planning on giving away, and how courageous it was that a coal company was stepping up to acknowledge the role that pollution from their coal plants makes people sick, especially kids with asthma. Alas, the PR team at Peabody was quite confused on both accounts.

Around 9:00 am eastern time, a new “market-friendly public health initiative” hit journalists’ email inboxes announcing the launch of Coal Cares™, a campaign from Peabody Energy that would give away free novelty-themed inhaler actuators and also generously offer a $10-off coupon for the actual asthma medication, but only if you lived within 200 miles of a coal plant (news flash, you probably do).

Power Shift 2011 Round Up

I was sitting outside the DC Metropolitan Police Station last night at 11:30 pm when the last arrestee out of 21 for the day came out to cheers from the supportive crowd. The weekend of Power Shift 2011 ended with quite a bang, with the final day of the conference leading up to a massive day action to say no to big polluters.

I’ve been attending the Power Shift conference, in which 10,000 climate youth leaders descended onto Washington DC. It is always reaffirming to be around thousands of people that don’t think you’re some kind of nerd or radical hippie when you say you’re associated somehow with the environmentalist/climate change/clean energy/climate justice movement. There’s still such a stigma associated with climate change and environmentalism, especially with the right-wing denier machine pushing out tropes that we’re all communists wrapped in a blanket of radicalism vying to “kill the parents”.

It’s uplifting to remember at least once in a while there are thousands of people committed and passionate about working to establish a clean energy economy and promote meaningful climate legislation. And the climate justice movement isn’t just geared toward saving the planet, this movement also works toward helping to improve racial and social justice issues too.

Power Shift 2011- Youth Leaders Flock to DC

This weekend in Washington DC, thousands will descend upon the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for Power Shift 2011. A veritable boot camp of movement building, it will bring together the leaders of the so-called “youth” movement to converge on finding solutions to effectively fight climate change, ensure a clean energy future, and finally displace the entrenched dirty energy industries.

The jam-packed agenda includes keynote addresses from Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson along with a plethora of workshops, meetings, and trainings planned from morning until night each day of the conference, culminating in a day of action on Monday the 18th in which attendees will take direct action against major polluters and also participate in citizen visits to Congressional offices.

With climate threats posed by hydrofracking and unconventional gas production booming across the US, the Canadian tar sands  and dangerous proposed pipelines, and the coal and oil industries stubbornly fighting to keep their dirty energy subsidies, we definitely have our work cut out for us.

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