Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Disney Tells Kids to Reduce Carbon Footprint, Doesn't Mention Global Warming

If you've watched Disney Channel anytime in the last couple months you've probably seen a commercial for Disney's Friends for Change, a campaign that challenges the channel's viewers to pledge to make simple lifestyle changes in the interest of preserving and protecting the environment. (I watch an average of 2 hours of Disney Channel per day.) The first phase of the campaign involves reducing carbon emissions for the purpose of eliminating air pollution. The commercial never uses the phrases "global warming" or "climate change." The Friends for Change website places carbon-cutting efforts (carpooling, only running the washing machine for full loads, etc.) in the "climate" category but makes no mention of how lowering carbon emissions will affect the climate. For that matter, the site says very little about the positive effects of saving water or producing less trash.

While I think it's a mistake not to tell kids more about why they're doing what they're doing, I also think that the global warming omission may be wise. It's not that I'm not concerned about climate change (I am); I'm just not convinced that talk of global warming is the best way to change people's carbon-emitting habits. The science behind global warming is complicated, and the effects of global warming are long term. Climate change has become a political hot button. Regardless of the available evidence, there always will be people for whom an unseasonably cool day in June is proof that global warming is a hoax. Moreover, some people who are convinced that the planet is warming do not accept that human activity is responsible for the warming; and some people who are convinced that humans are to blame for climate change do not believe that there's anything we can do to correct our mistakes.

But those who deny that the climate is changing or that human activity is responsible for this change still have plenty of other good reasons to shrink their carbon footprint. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels has adverse effects on health and quality of life; coal and petroleum are nonrenewable resources that we cannot afford to use excessively or carelessly; planting trees has an aesthetic benefit and provides habitats for several species of animals. The benefits of reducing pollution, conserving resources, and planting are clear, non-controversial, and easy to understand. If we want people to develop habits to combat global warming, it may be best to de-emphasize global warming (as Disney has done).

See Also: "Should We Expect a Green Backlash From the Kids?"


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