Children, forward to the Glorious Green Future!
Kids are being re-educated to become moaning little Maoists forcing their ignorant mums and dads to ‘go green’.
‘Imagine if every child in the country channelled their Pester Power in service of the Glorious Green Future.’
So says James Russell in his recent book How to Turn Your Parents Green. And he’s far from alone in his musings. npower, a large British electriciy supplier, have also been envisaging a world in which kids, renamed Climate Cops, are instructed to ferret out ‘climate crimes’ in their homes, schools and cities and report them to the authorities, that is, in Russell’s words, to ‘nag, pester, bug, torment and punish the people who are merrily wrecking [their] world’, fining ‘transgressors’ for non-compliance with green orthodoxy.
This is no idle dream. Greens seem determined to convert the nation’s children into environmentalist versions of Mao’s Red Guards, the blindly-revolutionary youths who spearheaded China’s disastrous Cultural Revolution.
In his book, Russell tries to stir up hatred against ‘Groans’ (grown-ups) and their wasteful ways, and encourages children to become ‘Guardians of the Glorious Green Future’, nagging until their parents sign a ‘Glorious Green Charter’.
This Charter affirms parents’ desire to avoid kids being ‘subjected to the perils of a new Ice Age’ or being ‘forced to evolve into aquatic organisms in order to contend with rising sea levels’, and concedes that their ‘brilliant children understand way more about this so-called Global Warming nonsense than I do’, empowering them to patrol the house looking for climate crimes and to levy fines for non-compliance with the rules laid down in the book. Kids are also instructed on how to seize their school councils to create ‘Eco Teams’ and lobby local government as green citizens (1).
The ‘Groans’ are described in the most misanthropic language. Apparently they are supremely greedy and lazy, hating the word ‘less’, grumbling ‘about having to recycle’: ‘They moan that organic carrots are too expensive and they have a big shouty tantrum if anyone says they shouldn’t fly off on another holiday.’
All they bellow is ‘MORE, CHEAPER!’ and ‘MAKE LIFE EASY!’, ‘slumped in front of the TV’ or ‘salivating over a holiday brochure’. They are ‘merrily wrecking your world… cranking up the heating so you can’t breathe’, chucking out ‘mountains of Revolting Rubbish’, spraying ‘Fiendish Fertilisers and Pestilential Pesticides’ and even ‘poisoning the air you breathe’ with their cleaning sprays. Worst of all, they simply don’t care: ‘People die, they say with a shrug.’
Every contemporary prejudice and fear is somehow woven into the alarmist narrative. Nuclear power is dangerous; plastic bags are apparently strangling Rwandan farmland; household cleaning products are killing Mother Nature; supermarkets are soulless, anti-social pillagers of the environment; development is robbing children of opportunities to play outside; even obesity is tied in – ‘What do you expect if people always use energy which isn’t their own?’
Adults ‘have got us into this mess and they’re too busy goggling at the TV and booking exotic holidays to sort it out… Only you can make the Groans behave because only you can make their lives a misery if they don’t’, the book instructs. The suggestions are so puritanical and authoritarian they might even make spiked’s Ethan Greenhart blush. Kids should patrol for ‘poisons’, demand they be replaced with eco-friendly products, monitor the depths of baths and put time limits on showers; they should start ‘griping for organic carrots’ and clothing, insisting on walking instead of taking the car, ensuring taps aren’t running and toilets aren’t flushed (‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow…’). The list goes on, and an escalating system of fines is to be collected weekly from ‘transgressors’ of the children’s Glorious Green Charter.
Turn Your Parents Green is just one instance of a broader campaign to turn our children green in order to increase pressure on adults (2). Kids are fed such alarmist horror stories about climate change through the popular media that, according to surveys, more than half of British children regularly lie awake at night feeling terrified. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth is now distributed to all schools, despite its inaccuracies. Some British schoolteachers are apparently so desperate to win ‘Eco School Gold Award-Green Flag’ status that they have banned children from exchanging cards at Christmas.
And now, even the ‘nasty corporations’ that greens deride are getting in on the act.
npower has created a new website encouraging kids to become ‘Climate Cops’, giving away diaries to ‘record climate crimes at home and in your community’ and to ‘encourage others to switch-off and conserve energy’. Children are instructed to email details of the ‘biggest climate crime’ to npower, which might send a team to ‘help you bust’ the perpetrators (3).
Kids should build up ‘case files’ and ‘report back to your family to make sure they don’t commit those crimes again (or else)!’. They are instructed to ‘keep a watchful eye over [the climate criminals] by revisiting the case every week or two to make sure they don’t slip back into any of their old habits’. After that, ‘What about the homes of your uncles, aunts or friends from school?’ (4) Apparently, nowhere is safe from the new Green Guards.
Both Russell and npower share a simplistic, moralising tone, attacking the fruits of modern civilisation. One of the games on the ‘Climate Cop’ website entails chasing ‘The Waster’, an SUV driver who tosses ‘energy-wasting junk’ on to the road – ‘junk’ like washing machines and lightbulbs. Worse, Russell informs children: ‘Groans think future generations will admire them for their motorways and tall buildings, but their legacy to the world is rubbish: huge, revolting mountains of the stuff.’ ‘Dastardly Developers’ are even derided for building ‘Hideous Houses and Frightful Flats’ – presumably for those Poopy Polluters to live in.
npower is less harsh on ‘Groans’ than Russell – apparently they are just ‘too busy to realise how much energy they are wasting’ – but likewise encourages petty monitoring: turning off running taps and devices on standby (since this apparently wastes ‘a lot’ of energy – though both sources are remarkably light on actual facts) (5). And npower guilt-trips children into action, implying in one game that turning your radiator down can save ‘K’eyushi the polar bear’, perilously perched on a melting iceberg (6).
The march of the ‘Guardians of the Glorious Green Future’ is sinister. It cannot help but remind one of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, where thanks to organisations like the ‘Spies’, children ‘were turned into ungovernable little savages, yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the Party… it was all a sort of glorious game to them. All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State… thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over 30 to be frightened of their own children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which The Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak – “child hero” was the phrase generally used – had overheard some compromising remark and denounced his parents to the Thought Police.’ (7)
Now, we have ‘climate criminals’ and ‘Rubbish Inspectors’.
It ought to be obvious why authority over public policy on energy, the environment or anything else should not be handed to children: they are incapable of assessing the veracity of information, contextualising it and judging what to do about it. Greens themselves recognise this fact by simply asserting that ‘ghastly Global Warming is here’ and trying to impose their preferred policies – to scale back consumption and live in harmony with nature.
Even if global warming is here, there is no reason to accept green policies. Most adults, let alone children, cannot assess independently the evidence for global warming. But adults can resist the imposition of a ‘solution’ that would puritanically destroy the fruits of economic development, deny them to ever-more people in the Third World, and leave everyone less prepared to face the challenges ahead. We are at least capable of thinking critically, understanding and defending our interests, and developing alternatives to miserabilist, doom-laden and retrogressive green ideology.
It also ought to be obvious why environmentalists are targeting those people least able critically to assess what they are being told: it is a result of the very unpopularity of green ideas among adults. Poll after poll shows the British public does not buy environmentalists’ alarmism, believes the problem is being exaggerated, has faith in mankind’s ability to transcend environmental problems, and rejects the restrictive, retrogressive solutions preferred by greens (8). Unable to convince the adult population, environmentalists turn to more malleable minds.
One reason why greens seem able to entice children is because mainstream society seems to have lost its cultural authority over the next generation. Perhaps it is time that adults countered the green ideology of limits with a positive, progressive message, defending the fruits of material progress and their expansion to others around the world, and promoting people as problem-solvers who have historically managed to overcome their limitations rather than deriding them as mere problem-creators. Then we can win children back from dead-eyed killjoys such as Russell, with his dire warnings: ‘In Germany, you have to recycle, and if you don’t you’re likely to get a visit from the Rubbish Inspectors. Within five years the same thing will be happening here, so you might as well train your Groans now.’
Lee Jones is Rose Research Fellow in International Relations at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Visit his website here.
Lee Jones wrote about an interactive BBC game about climate change, and said all the talk of apocalyptic climate disaster was turning children green with fear. Daniel Ben-Ami thought the cartoon Wall-E was a waste of space. Helene Guldberg wondered whether childhood would soon have to come with a health warning. Or read more at spiked issue Environment.
(1) James Russell, How to Turn Your Parents Green (Tangent Books: London, 2007)
(3) See Climate Cops diary here.
(4) See Climate Cops crime cards here
(5) Whether devices on standby do in fact waste ‘lots’ of energy is completely unclear – see Matthew Parris, The Truth About Those Little Red Lights: A Tale of Power and Poppycock, The Times, 22 July 2006
(6) See Climate Cops mission 3 here.
(7) Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, Penguin: London, 1987, pp. 26-7.
(8) See It’s Official: The Masses Are Not Gullible, by James Woudhuysen, 16 August 2007
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