Welcome to Quadrant Online | Login/ Register Cart (0) $0 View Cart
April 10th 2015 print

Tony Thomas

Get Them Young, Make Them Green

Education ministers do not seem troubled that a  green propaganda machine, Cool Australia, has garnered the support of thousands of teachers and schools, happily peddling slick scare campaigns and nudging students towards its militant allies and dark-green partners. If governments won't object, maybe parents should

eyes have itAustralian schools are handing over the  all-pervasive ‘sustainability’ syllabus to a militant green organisation, Cool Australia, whose curriculum material and projects have enjoyed a red-carpet ride into the state and private education systems, with accolades from the Australian Education Union and the Independent Education Union.

Much of Cool Australia’s program for schools is benign: recycle trash, don’t waste electricity, plant trees, embrace reconciliation. But the rest of the agenda tirelessly advances the supposedly impending global-warming catastrophe, plus, inevitably, preaching the evils of fossil fuels. The impression of what some might see as brainwashing is enhanced by the featured endorsements of hard-line carbon-phobic groups like the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and civil disobedience advocate/ex-NASA scientist James Hansen [1]. Beyond that, there are links to Bill McKibben, of the 350.org climate-zealot lobby group[2], and the Skeptical Science website, which devotes itself to pummelling ‘deniers’ while declining to publish their demurrals on its comments threads. Such groups’ videos are  offered to students to watch in their own time, leaving more time in class for ‘discussion’ of the messages.

The success of the Cool Australia in planting its deep-green message in the minds of school children suggests a growing and structural obstacle to any rational discussion of climate matters in the future, as green-indoctrinated voters emerge from the education system and join the ranks of voters. Sadly, while green-dyed propaganda becomes a fixture in the classroom, there is not much chance that, say, the coal-mining members of the Minerals Council of Australia or a Big Four bank lending for fossil fuel  projects, will be invited to contribute a measure of balance by providing curriculum modules that deviate from the green orthodoxy.

Cool Australia claims that 42% of Australia’s 10,000-odd schools had a teacher registered with it. From early childhood to Year 10, some 500,000 students were engaged, and 120,000 “learning activities” downloaded for their use. Roughly 20,000 teachers are signed on (that’s 1-in-15 nationally) and the number is growing at the rate of 1400 a month. Teacher sign-ups more than doubled in 2013-14. Targets for 2015 are “more than 50%” of Australian schools, 30,000 registered teachers, and 600,000 children from age 3 upwards (about 20% of all students). Penetration rates are about equal in the government, private and Catholic sectors.

One Cool Australia partner and donor is the magazine Dumbo Feather. Here’s inspiration, kids, from a current Dumbo article by Paul Yacoumis, an RMIT tutor (Environment Economics), Melbourne University tutor (“Reshaping Environments”) and acolyte of the university’s nutty Sustainable Society Institute:

  • “This year I will be further experimenting with self-sufficiency and minimising my participation in the corporate economy. I’m delving into urban foraging, trying my hand at dumpster diving[3] [getting food from rubbish skips] and cultivating a small garden in my front yard—although the food gods have not been especially kind so far… Fortunately for friends and family, I drew the line at hemp clothing.” 
  • “In my darker moments, I’ve even found myself hoping for some kind of global cataclysm—at least then the human race may have the chance to start anew.” 
  • “We can choose to allow the “evil” of social or ecological collapse to fall upon our future kin, or we can start to shift the power away from this unsustainable economic system that’s caused it and build a better one in its place.” 

As Cool Australia founder Jason Kimberley puts it[4]: “We understand … that all information at Cool Australia must be science-based, never politically or ideologically driven.” Regard Cool Australia and its partners as a team, however, and more than a whiff of ideology does seem to be wafting  around the classroom. Indeed, the Cool Australia material quite specifically encourages students to become political activists. In its main textbook, We Are the Weather Makers, we read (emphasis added):

“Tim Flannery says that community leaders ‘need to hear your voice’. Write a letter to a public figure or other influential member of the community [code for local member, TT] explaining your concerns about global warming and climate change.”[5]

Cool Australia’s long march into schools begins with three-year-olds in "early learning centres", what previous generations knew as day-care and kindergartens, where “our youngest learners" are "a long term investment in shaping our future”.[6] Make no mistake, activism is the end-goal. “Information and awareness are critical, but it’s more important to build young people’s skills and capacity to innovate and implement these solutions…" and this as well, "we educate and engage future generations in the critical thinking required for them to become the revolutionaries we need to tackle the challenges of the twenty-first century.”[7]

Despite its pleas for reduced consumerism, Cool Australia is, ironically, the brainchild of the Kimberley family, once the proprietors of the Jusst Jeans chain.  Craig Kimberley, who netted $64m from his group's sale  in 2001, is a director, and his son, Jason, is founder and CEO. Consumerism is bad, apparently, once you have sold your chain of stores devoted to consumerism.

Jason Kimberley endlessly recycles the story of his ‘eco-epiphany’, which happened during a 2005 visit to Antarctica. He returned an ardent eco-warrior. While he may not yet have noticed that Antarctic sea-ice  is at record levels for the satellite era, school principals love his shtick. Kimberley claims to have spoken personally with 50,000 students, at the impressive rate of 10,000 a year. The people running Armadale Primary School in Melbourne were so impressed that, in August, 2013, they declared Jason “Principal for a Day”, with an address to the school assembly thrown in.

The Australian Education Union’s (former) National President, Angelo Gavrielatos, puts the case:

“I don’t know if the Cool Australia team fully understands what they are achieving… an incredible achievement in just six years. Only UNICEF has a greater schools penetration, and they had a 50-year head start… You are, quite seriously, the good guys in education.”

Cool Australia last year partnered with the AEU and Independent Teachers’ Union (ITU) on the “AEU/IEU Greens Conference”, featuring such activists as the global warming scholar Rod Quantock (B.Arch, Melbourne University [failed]), the comedian whose more recent laughter-generating moments are quite unintentional. The AEU called it “Greens Conference”; Cool Australia called it “Green Schools Conference”. Perhaps they’re both right.

Jason  Kimberley has scruples. According to one account, he “delights in reports from teachers of younger children who say their students see the Cool Australia learning activities more like games than serious learning. But he’s less inclined to talk global warming with his own kids: Florence, 8, Cooper, 6 and Olive, 3. ‘I don’t want to shove the environmental stuff down their throats.’ he says.”

Other wealthy backers of Cool Australia include:

  • Ex-Wotif tycoon and Greens Party mega-funder Graeme Wood, worth around $350m.
  • Aged-care tycoon Robert Purves,  WWF  president,  former board member of WWF International and Governor of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.  Purves’ foundation has distributed more than $10 million to environment, climate-change and activist causes.

A major donor (possibly THE major donor) to Cool Australia since 2012 has been Bendigo Bank, whose Bendigo Wealth executive John Billington is on the Cool Australia board and endorsed a three-year sponsoring deal in 2014.   In a cosy double-deal, Bendigo says, “Cool Australia will deliver the Bendigo Wealth brand to thousands of teachers, children and their families.”

And Cool Australia’s report re-pays the praise with interest: “[Bendigo Bank] have a conscience and a heartbeat. They are far bigger than a bank.”[8] To suggest the scale of things, bear in mind that Cool Australia’s and Bendigo Bank’s national Enviroweek in 2013 involved 1200 schools and 162,000 students who adopted 500,000 “challenges”.[9]

Here’s how Bendigo Bank gets a free kick against the Big Four:

Cool Australia strongly endorses the Australian Youth Climate Coalition's (AYCC) juvenile activists, who battle for Gaia by jumping around in  fish costumes at Lend Lease annual meetings, to name but one of their stunts, while denouncing coal financing.

AYCC boasts that it “can provide speakers and group facilitators to schools around the country. The AYCC draws on the significant experience of many of its member groups, as well as its own ‘Climate Messenger’ program to deliver excellent presentations concerning a broad range of issues surrounding climate change. To find out more visit http://www.aycc.org.au/ or call (02) 9247 7934.”[10]

A current AYCC campaign is Dump Your Bank. “Could your bank use your money to fund the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and our climate?” it asks, going on to urge readers to “Take the Pledge. ‘I pledge to dump my bank  because they’ve refused to rule out funding coal ports on the Great Barrier Reef’." AYCC has made a slick little video (below), featuring photogenic moppets, that specifically targets the Commonwealth, a Bendigo Bank competitor, for allegedly financing the Great Barrier Reef's destruction.

The material on the AYCC bank-dumping campaign only refers to “Australia’s big four banks”. Posters are provided saying, “Love the Reef? Dump Westpac.” Ditto dump ANZ, CBA and NAB. No wonder Bendigo Bank is thrilled with the Cool Australia/AYCC tag-team operation.[11] And with Cool Australia and WWF, donations flow both ways. Cool Australia partnered with WWF on the  school curriculum for 2015 Earth Hour, and the curriculum recommended: “Schools can hold a gold coin day for Earth Hour or WWF-Australia.”

Even more brazen in relieving kids of their pocket money is the material promoting Cool Australia’s Enviroweek, set for the end of August.

“Enviroweek encourages students around Australia to take on a challenge and raise money for their own environmental causes, or donate funds towards Cool Australia’s projects. Since 2009, more than $260,000 has been raised for environmental causes nationwide.”

Education ministers, even Coalition ones, apparently see nothing wrong with environment lobbyists using class lessons to solicit kids’ dollars for their campaigning.

Guy Olian, a director of Cool Australia, is CEO of a business, Energy Lease, providing low-doc, zero-deposit  loans for packaged installation of domestic solar power installations. He was previously director of a similar company, Australian Solar Solutions.  The  pitch is that the solar loans can be paid off from the savings on electricity bills. Whether these savings come good may depend on whether governments maintain their solar subsidies (there was a flurry about threatened subsidy-axing in WA in 2013). Regardless, the solar-power lenders clip  the ticket. Maybe Cool Australia should issue a declaration of interest to teachers and kids every time its lessons sing the praises of household solar power, which they do a lot.[12]

The seductive power of Cool Australia is its professionalism in terms of classroom know-how. Teachers are required in  the new Australian Curriculum to interweave “sustainability” themes into the corpus of their teaching practice. The teachers are flummoxed, as  Dr Margaret Loughnan, a Monash health geographer,  has described:

“I have quite a few friends who are primary teachers and they are ringing me up and saying, ‘What is this about climate change? We have to teach climate change. We don’t know how to teach climate change. We have no text at all to teach Grade 3, so how do we teach?’

“From what I gather those poor teachers are blundering around in the dark and trying to get things off the internet to teach our children. It’s something that needs a little bit more attention.”

Enter Cool Australia with its portfolio of on-line, fun-and-friendly lesson plans: “Free online environmental resources where all the hard work is already done.”  The ‘free’ element must have a special appeal to under-resourced and smaller schools.

Cool Australia claims 90% of Australian teachers want to teach sustainability, with more than 85% unsure how to do it.

“We fill this gap, help fulfil teachers’ demands …  This is our gift to Australia. We are changing the face of education in Australia by incorporating real world understandings as part of the key school curriculum.”[13]

The teachers involved are spread evenly between Science, Maths, English, and the Humanities.

As Cool Australia puts it, “a Maths teacher will teach primary students to tell the time by linking time with water-saving activities. An English teacher will inspire students to develop a communication project that explains the challenges of "a clean energy future". Some may recall those last three words from the Gillard years, when they featured prominently in the government’s ill-fated Clean Energy Future carbon-tax package.

Back in the classroom, teachers are delighted to have such tailor-made “toolkits”, approved by headquarters, to dial-up as required on “climate change, environment and sustainability”. The risible nature of Cool Australia’s “science”   includes its 2015 focus on “highlighting the impacts of global warming on Aussie food and farming”. Unmentioned is that global atmospheric warming stopped 18 years ago.

Australian farmers now coping with drought, storms etc., are suffering from weather and coping with variations in microclimates, as farmers always have. But Cool Australia knows better: “Tasteless carrots, bad pizza dough and poor quality steak are some of the impacts we can expect from Australia’s changing climate”. It quotes a study from climatologist David Karoly (of course) about the impact that extreme weather, climate-related diseases blah blah blah  “will have on the production, quality and cost of Australia’s food in the future.”

The basis for 16 modules of Cool Australia secondary curriculum material is Tim Flannery’s save-the-world book “The Weather Makers”, written way back in the ‘settled science’ era of 2003. The book in 2006 was re-issued for students as “We Are the Weather Makers” (every secondary school in the country got a copy) and again in 2007 as  “Thinking about climate change – A guide for teachers and students” . That free version was devised by David Harding, Rose Iser, and Sally Stevens, but who are these people? Well, one of them, Iser,  was the 2010 Greens candidate for the Victorian State seat of Essendon and later adviser to Greens MHR Adam Bandt.

Cool Australia has spruced up “Thinking About Climate Change” with up-to-date material from the Climate Council to make it a multi-media resource for its teacher clients, an initiative that reflects the group's leaders are serious professionals with plenty of management/marketing expertise. Chair David Simpson, an executive coach,  is a veteran international advertising executive. Director Sergio Galanti is a turnaround expert with successes at Coles Myer and Kraft. He’s gone green because of “his children accusing his generation for the environmental challenges we face today”.  (Kids are pretty arrogant these days). Staffer Angela Andrews BComm, MTeach, spent a decade at Sydney boys school Newington College, and was an economics HSC examiner for four years. She also worked for Manly Council as Climate Change & Sustainability Education Officer.

Thea Nicholas, science and sustainability teacher and Cool Australia staffer since 2013, writes,

“I know first hand the challenges that schools, teachers and students face in this current educational climate … By providing a variety of curriculum resources that suits each educators  (sic) personal teaching style and needs, we will be creating a new generation of students who are change-makers and energised to help build a sustainable future.”

When a classroom teacher, she used Cool Australia materials in class for four years, and won many education awards.   However, her style was so apocalyptic that her students, she says, got traumatised. She expects, for example, a 6degC average temperature rise for Australia’s hottest days by 2100, wiping out many species along with the Kakadu wetlands.

“As I digest these devastating [IPCC] findings [she means ‘speculations’] my personal response is despair. I know this isn’t helpful, or productive, when my job revolves around writing sustainability curriculum for school kids.   How do I tell them that we may be up shit creek without a paddle?”

She recalled one of her science lessons six years ago about atmospheric gases. The kids were bored until they started talking about how people are causing global warming that would impact all living things. But then the kids got apathetic, anxious and hopeless.

“ Had I failed these kids by peddling the scientific gloom and doom and not considering the psychological and emotional impacts of my teaching? It was clear these kids were feeling hopeless and this broke my heart. For me, there is nothing sadder than a child that has lost hope. A child who has barely seen the world – yet has experienced enough to not want to be part of it and contribute to the future.”

So she gave these (benighted) kids hope with a program for going green and cutting their CO2 footprints.

“This was the most rewarding and memorable experience of my life. One that defined my teaching career and ultimately who I am as a person.

“Imagine if every child around the world woke up tomorrow and felt empowered. ... Sustainability education in our classrooms can achieve this…They learn that we are part of the Earth rather than simply a destructive presence on the Earth.

“We must make sure all children feel hopeful and enthusiastic about their future. Only then can they develop into CEO’S, politicians, nurses and builders who are solutionaries (sic) of the future.

And they will be solutionaries…if they learn how in schools.”

One Cool Australia module teaches Year 9 science students how to analyse statements by ‘sceptics’ and ‘deniers’, and "make judgements around the motivations behind them”. After paying lip service to science scepticism, Cool Australia then equates “denial” about the  global warming consensus with tobacco companies originally denying health damage; anti-evolution arguments; claims that animals can learn languages; and even aliens and UFOs. Elsewhere, Cool Australia links climate scepticism with anti-vaccination campaigning. Any funding of research or groups by industry or energy companies (as distinct from government or green-lobby funding) is seen as cause for alarm.

Students are asked to assess statements by orthodox warmists vs. those by scary sources such as “denier” Fred Singer (a world-renowned physicist and space-research pioneer), the late Ray Evans of the Lavoisier Group, who is dubbed a “sceptic”, and someone from the US Western Fuels Association (another ‘denier’).[14] The exercise is set against the conclusion of John Cook’s notoriously flawed paper claiming a 97.1% consensus on warming orthodoxy (which on the paper’s own figures, was actually only a 0.3% consensus). Students are then asked to put forth their own credible statement on climate change. It would be a brave student who took the sceptic line.

With all its marketing and management firepower, Cool Australia knows how to leverage its reach. For example, it provides a template letter for parents to urge principals to get aboard the Cool cart:

Dear Principal,
Like most parents, I am very concerned for the future of our planet and how this will affect my child and their children. It seems that most of us are under-educated when it comes to understanding that our natural world is our life support system…I have recently become aware of the excellent teacher resource and student toolbox – Cool Australia…  I would like to talk with you to discuss how we can get the Cool Australia resources into the school’s curriculum…

Cool Australia runs on a budget of about $820,000, including $325,000 for the salaries of four full-time and three part-time staff. There is also a 20-strong team of top-qualified curriculum writers. Unless there’s some external source of finance, the pay at Cool Australia seems  modest. Moreover, all team members are expected to contribute an extra Stakhanovite-like  20 weekly hours to their official workload, as part of the struggle to succeed “in a very difficult market to crack – education.”

Cool Australia has superseded its original Environmental Science credentials and now touts its own conception of “Learning for Life” to students:

“This will include understandings about ethics, morality, wealth and the clear link between good mental health and spending time in nature.”[15]

Come to think of it, churches also want to teach about ethics, morality and wealth, but I can’t imagine 20,000 teachers welcoming their dogma and representatives to classroom and curriculum.

When not keeping an honest eye on the piffle being served in Australia's schools, Tony Thomas blogs at No B-S Here (I Hope)

[1] From Cool Australia’s website: James Hansen, who warned of the dangers of global warming as early as 1988, said a United Nations-endorsed target for capping global warming is too high and will ensure future generations suffer “irreparable harm.”

[2] Cool Australia touted McKibben’s 2013 Australian visit and message:   “’The fossil fuel industry are outlaws against the laws of physics.’ He contended that the fossil fuel industry needed to lose their veneer of respectability, the way the tobacco industry has. ‘If it is wrong to wreck the climate,” he said, “then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage’.”

[3] A typical message on  Dumpster Diving Melbourne community facebook: “HEAPS of cauliflower, frozen pies, asparagus & some otha goodies in the city Aldi bin if anyone is in the area today & wants to hit it up!”

[4] Annual report, 2013-14

[6]  Annual report, 2013-14

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

[9] ibid

[11]  Other tidbits from the AYCC website include, 'Climate denial is immoral, says head of US Episcopal church' ‪ ; and  “The reckless business model of the fossil fuel industry is now threatening half of all bird species on the planet and entire nations are at risk of becoming environmental sacrifice zones.”

[12]  Cool Australia website: “The installation of rooftop-solar has become such a ‘no brainer’ for Australian households that whole suburbs could generate and store enough electricity to go-off grid.”

Tim Flannery’s Weather Makers book, by the way, also includes a plug for loan financing of solar power. “It is well worth taking out a loan,” he writes, “for in sunny climates like Australia or California or southern Europe the payback period is around two or three years. The solar heating devices usually carry a ten-year guarantee, so you will get at least seven to eight years of free hot water.” (Kindle edition, Location 2896).

[13] Annual report, 2013-14

[14]  You may need to create an account to access the material

[15] Annual report, 2013-14