We live in a nation founded on democracy – a system that succeeds only when the people living within it engage in civic participation, a value prized so highly that “civics” has long been central to every public school K-12 curriculum. Kids learn that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees their right to “petition the Government for redress of grievances.” In other words, if you want something to be different, speak up and tell those who have the power to do something about it.
We also live in a world of finger-pointing and hypocrisy. Some point their fingers more than others. And some point their fingers to distract you from what they are doing behind their back.
Last month, Energy In Depth (EID), a front group for the oil and gas industry, pointed its finger at Food & Water Watch Western Region Director Sam Schabacker. The group cried out with rage at Sam’s audacity for what it called “using children in ‘ban fracking’ campaigns.”
Essentially, EID interrupted its regular programming—promoting the extracting of the last remaining ounces of fossil fuel from the earth by blasting it out with water and chemicals, endangering public health and the environment of thousands of American communities and millions of people, and exporting the final product to the highest bidders overseas—because it saw something it thought it could exploit: Food & Water Watch supporting children who wanted to learn about civic engagement and social responsibility.
It’s taken us a few weeks to catch the shortest break from our regular programming – fighting this lying industry’s dangerous profit-driven practices like fracking – to point out the comedic egregiousness of EID’s hypocrisy.
EID took issue with the fact that, in 2013, Sam helped train a group called “Kids Against Fracking” when its members visited their state legislators (with their parents’ permission) to urge them to place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Colorado. These youth leaders organized themselves, scheduled their own meetings, led the discussions with the elected officials, and even reached out to the press to publicize their efforts to get involved in their democracy. Watch this video to see the result of Sam’s civics lesson. We’re pretty proud of Sam’s efforts to help educate these kids about democracy and civic engagement. EID’s charge that we’re “using kids” is not only desperate—it’s hypocritical.
Case in point: Talisman Terry. In 2011 gas extraction giant Talisman Energy created a propaganda coloring book, which it distributed widely to children in the Eastern United States. The book, which was later discontinued by Talisman (but still can be downloaded), features Terry, an amiable Fracasaurus and everyone’s favorite gas industry representative. He goes from house to house, asking homeowners for permission to frack their land. Then, Terry clears the land before drilling into the shale. But don’t worry, kids, reassures Terry, fracking only leaves behind a beautiful grassy field with its rainbow and sunshine completely intact. Terry even throws in an extra falcon. All this from a company that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection cited for 145 violations.
But did EID make so much as a peep about Talisman Energy “using children?” Yeah … no.
What’s the matter, EID? Afraid that these kids engaging elected officials with nothing but their sincere concern will have some influence when all you’ve got is dough? From 2008-2011, the oil and gas industry spent $4.7 million lobbying in Colorado to promote its fracking ways. In 2014, they spent a whooping $ 11 million to elect pro-fracking candidates. In 2012, the American Petroleum Institute paid $85.5 million to four PR and advertising firms including a whopping $51.9 million to just one firm—Edelman, which calls itself “the world’s largest PR firm”.
Nothing scares a bully more than a knowledgeable truth-speaking foe. If the most powerful industry points a finger at you for teaching kids to be good citizens, it’s fair to say you’re doing something right. Go, Sam!