Child Climate Cops? Way, Way Over the Top.

This just in from the you-couldn't-make-this-stuff-up-if-you-tried department. A new website designed by npower, a British electric company, is recruiting children using games, badges and cartoons to enlist as "Climate Cops"; their duties are to actively keep records on their parents and neighbors for violations of "energy crimes" against the planet. Children then use the results of their spying to build a "Climate Crime Case File" on the perps, which they then "report back to your family to make sure they don't commit those crimes again (or else)!" The site also warns children that they "may need to keep a watchful eye" to prevent future violations. Did I mention I'm not making this up? It gets worse.The so-called eco-crimes range from leaving the tap running, to failing to use energy-saving light bulbs, to running the dryer on a sunny day, to putting hot food in the refrigerator. Children who visit the site can play a series of games where they chase down gas-guzzling SUVs or save polar bears from melting icebergs; those who complete all the games can unlock a codeword, enabling visitors to "join the elite cadets and train to become a Climate Cop." The codeword then unlocks a download, where successful "cadets" can print out a "Climate Cop ID". Did I mention I'm still not making this up?

If all this seems crazily Godwin to you, you wouldn't be alone; recruiting children to spy on their parents' infractions was artfully purposed by a particular mustachoed guy who was handing out Papers over half a century ago. Barring the patently nonsensical suggested actions (putting hot food in the 'frig? Brother!), the terrifically-horrible part is the implied moral lessons from this type of thing. Raenorth, a commenter from the UmbrellaBlog says it best:

Firstly, the designation of certain lawful actions - desirable or not - as "crimes" is an unwholesome distortion of our moral code. It confers moral equivalency between not turning off a light and, say, shoplifting or vandalism. It seeks to impose a moral judgment on a normal activity, blurring the line between something which is lawful and something which is not. This confusion, especially when children are the focus, cannot help define and communicate our moral code, with which many children have only a distressingly limited acquaintance.

Secondly, the recruitment of children to pass judgment on their parent's "crimes" is wholly malign, not least in undermining the authority of adults.

Third, in that the campaign seeks to align children with an external agency, which is setting the parameters by which the children should judge their own parents and other adults, it creates an alternative authority which purports to be superior to that of the parents and other authority figures. That is confusing to the child, and also creates a potential area of friction ... what if the parents object to this overt attempt to undermine their authority?

Fourth, not only does the campaign encourage the child to believe it has the moral right to pass judgment on the behavior of parents and other adults, it actively encourages the child to "enforce" that judgment, distorting the normal relationships between adults and children.

Fifth, by asking the child to record the "crimes", it undermines the bonds of loyalty which should exist between child and family. The children are being encouraged to put the notional and highly contentious objective of "saving the planet" above that of family cohesion and loyalty.

Sixth, it asks the child to make judgments which it is not qualified or equipped to make. How does the child know whether there is a good reason for leaving a light on in an unoccupied room? For instance, crime prevention authorities recommend leaving lights on randomly in different, unoccupied rooms, to deter burglars.

Yeah; you got it in one. I'm generally not the type to clutch my babies and run for the high moral hills but this is one loony idea that has been passed off with a straight face; and that, my friends, is exactly why it is so dangerous. Die, die, die, Climate Cop ID, die in the egg. :: Umbrella Blog :: National post :: Watts Up With That
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