Radio Disney of Cleveland joined the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program to promote the use of oil and gas to children and families – and environmentalists are not happy.
“Kids are the best way [to spread the message],” said Ron Grosjean, one of the board of directors for OOGEEP. “They retain [information] – they remember it.”
But that approach has rankled environmental activists and some parents, who believe the program is a propaganda campaign and shouldn’t be taught to their children.
One parent, Lisa Hoyos, even started a petition on Credo Mobilize to “immediately halt” the program, which has garnered nearly 80,000 signatures.
“Radio Disney should not – under the guise of teaching kids ‘science’ – promote dirty energy that that[sic] gives kids asthma, pollutes our air and water, and fuels climate change,” Hoyos said.
Hoyos is also a co-founder of Climate Parents, a group dedicated to “mobilizing parents and families to push policymakers and energy companies to stop prioritizing dirty energy, and to scale up kid-safe and climate-safe' energy instead.”
Robert Shields, chairman of the Ohio chapter of Sierra Club, said that “kids’ ability to reason is not yet quite established, so it feels to me that they’re getting some kind of propaganda.”
Shields did not respond to an inquiry about whether he would like Radio Disney to partner with an alternative energy organization.
Alison Auciello from Food and Water Watch in Ohio at least said that energy education programs for children should be balanced.
“They're not giving a balanced education on [oil and gas],” Auciello said. “Public schools should also be inviting anti-fracking people into schools. That doesn't seem to be happening at all.”
Would the activists be as outraged if Radio Disney had partnered with a solar or wind energy company to talk to the kids?
Update, Jan. 9, 5:22 p.m.: In a statement to Al Jazeera, Radio Disney indicated that it would pull out of the program.
"The sole intent of the collaboration between Radio Disney and the nonprofit Rocking in Ohio educational initiative was to foster kids' interest in science and technology. Having been inadvertently drawn into a debate that has no connection with this goal, Radio Disney has decided to withdraw from the few remaining installments of the program," Radio Disney said.
Update, Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m.: In a statement to the Washington Examiner, Robert Shields said he would not like Radio Disney to partner with an alternative energy company either.
"In short, no, I wouldn't be comfortable with Radio Disney teaming up with an organization to promote renewable energy," Shields said. "Even though I am committed to renewable energy and energy conservation, as a teacher I do not think the classroom is a place for promoting anything. I think such action is somewhat akin to proselytizing."
"At the same time I do encourage teachers to engage their students in debates, a full study of all aspects of an issue such as fracking wherein the students find the sources of information, determine the positive and negative aspects of the issue and finally decide how they see it personally," Shields continued. "That's all in high school though."
"Radio Disney is, according to their website, focused on preteens and teens under 16 in areas of music and teen idols," Shields said. "With an audience in middle school and even elementary school and a business focused on music I question why they are working with OOGEEP — frankly I think they are out of bounds on this."
"This issue is now too politically charged to take into those schools thus I believe trying to sell, which is what OOGEEP is doing, children on either side of the issue is simply wrong," Shields said.