Should Shell be helping teach students about energy issues?
With the seventh annual Earth Hour—you know, the event that sees people turn off their lights for an hour, tweet about it, and feel good about themselves—set to take place on Saturday (March 23), a PR rep drew my attention to something called the Classroom Energy Diet Challenge. Apparently, there are schools in the Vancouver area involved in it.
What is the Classroom Energy Diet Challenge? Its website explains:
The Classroom Energy Diet Challenge is a competition between Canadian classes from Kindergarten to Grade 12. As the students progress through the Challenge, they will learn valuable lessons about energy use and share that knowledge with the rest of the country. The Challenge is about more than great classroom prizes like a $5,000 Technology Package, it’s about increasing energy awareness among Canadian youth and educators.
Sounds pretty good, eh? That is, unless you don't think a classroom exercise on energy awareness should be "sponsored and administered" by Shell Canada (in association with Canadian Geographic). Yes, that Shell Canada, the subsidiary of multinational oil-and-gas giant Royal Dutch Shell. The same Shell that Greenpeace and the Berne Declaration presented with this year's Public Eye People's Award for worst company of the year, and that's heavily involved in the Alberta tar sands. Its business is a major driver of the world's present ecological crisis.
According to a February news release from Shell Canada, 40,000 students from across the country, including those in a Grade 3 class at Surrey's Prince Charles elementary school, are participating in this year's "three-month program to increase their energy literacy". The challenge involves "energy-focused, curriculum based lesson plans" and a video contest. The challenge site also lists schools in Vancouver, Delta, Langley, Maple Ridge, North Vancouver, and Port Moody as taking part.
In January, a Greenpeace report included the tar sands on its list of the “world’s biggest dirty energy projects”. The report noted that "production of oil from the tar sands in Alberta will triple from 1.5 to 4.5 million barrels a day by 2035, adding 706 million tonnes of CO2 to global emissions a year. By 2020, the tar sands expansion would add annual emissions of 420 million tonnes of CO2, equal to those of Saudi Arabia."
I hope the kids are learning about that, and being fed much more than tips like "fuel efficiency is all about smoothness" (in the Transportation Tricks challenge), through this program.