Features Australia

Change everything? You bet

13 October 2018

9:00 AM

13 October 2018

9:00 AM

Naomi Klein from Canada oversees courses for tens of thousands of Australian high school students. She’s an anarcho-environmentalist mobilising grass-roots mobs like Occupy to overturn capitalism. She never finished her bachelor’s degree but made a hit with her 2014 book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. As a New York Times reviewer hyper-ventilated: ‘[It’s] a book of such ambition and consequence that it is almost unreviewable.’ Klein cites a 2012 author of a paper, Is the Earth f–ked? who  tells her, ‘Yeah, pretty much!’ Klein has collaborated with tax-free charity Cool Australia to provide no fewer than ten discrete lessons based on This Changes Everything for our Year 9-10 kids. Each lesson certifies, ‘Produced in partnership with This Changes Everything’. Other lessons are co-partnered with lobbyists WWF.

Cool Australia has hundreds of free environment lessons in ready-to-go format. From Cool’s start in 2008, the modules are now used by 89,000 teachers in about 80 per cent of schools. It claims 1.9 million kids took lessons in 2017.

Cool is the creation of the Jason and Craig Kimberley family, which sold its Just Jeans chain for $64m in 2001. Independent charity watchdog ChangePath fails Cool on transparency (zero stars out of three). Its 2017 income was $1.08 million, half funding its six staff. It’s got other mega-rich pals like Wotif $140m beneficiary Graeme Wood. Bendigo Bank departed last year as Cool’s big sponsor since 2014, explaining guardedly that both parties had moved on and agreed to split. New sponsor is Teachers Health union super, covering 320,000 educators.

Jason Kimberley says Cool’s goal is for students to be empowered change agents able to identify and solve world issues. Maybe they should pass their driver’s test before they fix the Middle East.Teachers require kids, as per Cool lessons, to mobilise to improve society and harangue parents, small businesses, MPs, councillors and the public. With every child in class required to state his/her view, any kid would need outside knowledge and a hero’s courage to buck the teachers. The climate zealotry in schools – also enforced by teachers’ unions – contrasts with polls showing 43 per cent of Australian adults are sceptical of human-caused warming doom (Climate Institute, 2017). Much of Cool’s urgings are harmless, like picking up plastic and conserving tap water, though it admits to kids’ growing message-fatigue. But Cool’s climate gospel is driven right down to pre-schoolers, or tiny-trots. ‘Early Learning Hot and Cold’ lesson for pre-schoolers: ‘Using less electricity and finding alternative and greener sources of electricity – such as wind or solar – is essential to addressing climate change.’ The material adds helpfully: New words for children to learn: ‘Electricity’, ‘Energy’. Recommends one teacher: ‘Great ideas that we can use with the children  on the importance of sustainability at kindy and at home.’ At kindy? It’s not as though we out-pollute Nigeria.

Klein is a master (or mistress) of videos brainwashing kids with her messages like, ‘Our economic model is at war with life on earth.’ One film depicts  Greek villagers battling an Eldorado Gold project start-up. They chant, ‘The birds are welcoming us. Everything is blooming. We are one with this mountain. We won’t survive without it. To victory!’ Interviewer: ‘What is the core problem?’ Peasant woman: ‘It is the economic system, capitalism I guess… They will go away and leave a desert behind.’ Narrator: ‘Squeeze the earth, squeeze the people.’Mining equipment was torched (not shown in film), while demonstrators are shown being tear-gassed. Eldorado last year mothballed its billion-dollar mine, citing delays with permits.

Another movie finishes with Germans – including a rabbi – literally sobbing for joy over new wind and solar plants. The material harps on imminent economic collapse, hat tip to Karl Marx. ‘Thought starter: How do you think climate change would be affected if the global economy collapsed?’

Klein’s nostrums include higher wealth taxes and ‘basic income for all’, carbon taxes, fracking bans and anti-trade ‘re-localising’. She promotes worker and community ownership and ‘community-controlled’ clean energy. Teacher: ‘Do students have their own strategies for how to develop a clean and just economy?’ Her courses time-travel to the future where all climate horrors have come true, including Sydneysiders expiring from dengue fever. A strange graphic includes such Tim Flannery-style Gaia worshipping as ‘Consider everything alive and animate. Create a personal dialogue with your environment. Talk to it.’

Cool lists the Human Rights Commission among its ‘guys [that] get our creative juices flowing.
They are our daily go-tos and our funnest (sic) playmates.’ Ex-HRC head Gillian Triggs pops up ‘fighting for freedom, equality, fairness and Justice’, except for persecuted QUT students and those, sadly, still saying what they like around the kitchen table. Other ‘funnest playmates’ are teachers’ unions and the Victorian Education Department. (Here’s a factoid: the Victorian Essential Learning Standards up to 2013 prescribed ‘Climate Change’ lessons in seven different subjects for kids in Years 1-2).
Klein concludes disarmingly: ‘What if global warming is not only a crisis? What if it is the best chance we will ever get to build a better world? Change or be changed!’

A 2017 survey found 15-20 per cent of Cool-registered teachers – particularly coordinators – were using the website 10 to more than 30 times a year. Most sought lesson plans which they used four times each. Cool has become a free, popular substitute for teacher-centred input, saving teachers 700,000 hours work last year.

Cool’s asylum seeker coverage is just as one-sided – with at least 12 ‘lessons’ based on activist Eve Orner’s 2016 Chasing Asylum film with such commentary as: ‘Staff would have to be trained how to use a Hoffman’s knife. The knife would be used to cut people down when they are found hanging.’ Learning Intentions: ‘Students will recognise that human rights and social justice are core in issues relating to seeking asylum. Students will identify ways to take action at their school or in their community…’

Teachers love the stuff. ‘Wow! I’m vibrating with joy after going through your gazillion lessons and resources… this is gold,’ testified Terrina Phelan, then sustainability teacher at St Mary’s Primary, Echuca, on the website. A coordinator (hopefully not of English courses) wrote that the lessons gave her ‘piece of mind’. Maybe parents could give their local school a piece of mind too.

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