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Propaganda in schools

I wonder what the kids learned in school today?

According to one of my readers (to whom I'm grateful for the tip) some of them (and I'm relieved to say none of mine) have been learning about...the same thing they learn about all the rest of the time - yes folks you've guessed it - environmentalism.

There's a toe-tapping new musical for primary kids to put on for their parents - it's called Eddie the Penguin Saves The World and it's about (yes, you guessed right again) global warming! (Tada!)

(Actually that's a bit of a surprise - I could have sworn it was Al Gore that saved the world). Anyway, let's find out about Eddie...

Eddie the penguin discovers that the world he lives in is changing and that the ice is melting. He decides to take his family to find a new home at the North Pole, where he meets Peggy the polar bear and discovers that human beings are causing the ice to melt. Eddie goes on a mission to save the planet and let the world know how they can change things for the better.

This fantastic new musical from Niki Davies is a must for any school investigating ecological and environmental issues. Songs can be used in conjunction with the script or stand alone.

Science education has certainly moved on since my day.

At the bottom of this post you should be able to find a sample from the show, helpfully provided by the publishers, Out of the Ark Music. The jaunty number I've picked for your delight is "The Melting Song"

The icebergs where we like to play are melting, melting away

Drip, drop, drip, drop, drip, drop.

and although I haven't copied it over, you might also enjoy "The Recycling Song"

Don't put your cardboard in the trash

Put it in a box, you can do it in a flash

Those of you who want more can visit Out of the Ark yourselves and enjoy more samples from the show, including the smash hits "Trees" and "One World" together with the bonus tracks "Use it again" and "Turn off the tap".

I bet you can hardly wait.


The melting song

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Reader Comments (15)

We have just completed Recycling Week. The highlight was making sock puppets. For reasons only know to the teaching profession they didn't use old socks but new socks bought in Asda. I can only assume Health and Safety trumps Recycling.
Mar 23, 2009 at 8:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterKit

Mar 23, 2009 at 8:26 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
We really don't do education in this country anymore. Frankfurt School Marxist indoctrination we seem to do in spades though.
Mar 23, 2009 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterSebastian Weetabix
There's a strange process of inversion going on ....

Schools do less and less of the academic things they used to be good at - like calculus, physics, chemistry experiments. Topics that are hard or impossible for parents to cover themselves.

But they do more and more things that parents can and should arrange - like friendships, bullying, personal safety, what to eat, recycling ...

If this trend continues then in about 5 years from now my children will sleep and get their meals at school and then pop home during the day for some maths and science and foreign languages.

They will have to come home as well if they need first aid - schools don't want to deal with cuts or scrapes any more.
Mar 24, 2009 at 12:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes
Inspired by this post, I offer a very modest poem of my own.

Earth Hour is coming up, oh the joys!
Sitting in the dark, all the girls and boys.
If no new power stations get under way,
We'll soon have Earth Hour every other freakin' day!
Mar 24, 2009 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

That's a good point. In fact I'm not sure we're not there already. My children do history and geograpy and Spanish at home (all voluntarily, I hasten to add). There's a bit of 3Rs at school, but not a lot else.
Mar 24, 2009 at 9:04 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
I presume these are the same schools that look like someone tipped a rubbish skip over onto the grounds by the end of the day..

It bugs me to no end that kids can all recite the global warming mantras or get one up on their parents by guilt-tripping them over their carbon footprints, but when left to their own devices have little sense of stewardship. I suppose that's why I actually *am* Mrs. Gestapo about the reducing/re-using/recycling, i.e. we try to respect Daddy by making good use of the money he earns, we minimize the degree to which we shittify the planet, we all share in the labor of washing cans and hauling them up the hill. I don't honestly care if recycling is not much more efficient than creating things from raw materials. The point is to instill mindfulness along the whole path of ownership, from the labor that allows the consumption to minimizing what you have to make trash out of--all the while trying to be reasonable. I roll my eyes every time the Guardian has some blog out by someone trying to live for 3 months without buying plastic. Of course, I've always been a big cynic when it comes to the effectiveness of individual boycotting. The stroppy British letter of complaint, however..that's something different. If everyone wrote Tesco a letter insisting on compostable packaging and meat produced with high animal welfare standards, they'd have it on shelves by Christmas! I'd like to hope so anyway. It would be a fantastic thing if the only thing between how things are and how they could/should be is the human laziness factor. Laziness is more easily overcome than dug-in corporations and governments, surely?

Mar 24, 2009 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterLanna

Let's have an argument! ;-)

The point about packaging is that it's there to reduce waste. It stops food being thrown out unnecessarily. In India, some ridiculous proportion (2/3?) of food is simply thrown away because it goes off before it can be used. We have all this plastic packaging because it has a good combination of preserving its contents and cheapness. It may be possible to come up with compostable packaging, but does it do an adequate job of preserving food? Can you fill it with nitrogen? Most of the resources are in the food itself - not the packaging. The really important issue in avoiding waste is therefore to ensure that the food gets used.

The thing to remember about plastic packaging is that it's cheap (polyethylene is a by-product of the oil refining process - if you don't use it for bags and films you're probably going to have to burn it), it's effective (see above), it doesn't take up much space in landfill (according to FoE, it's not even in the top ten waste categories by volume), and there's not even a real shortage of landfill anyway (we extract more from quarries each year than we produce rubbish).
Mar 24, 2009 at 4:55 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill
Hmm. I've seen plenty of compostable packaging that serves the function of keeping food hygienic and fresh, so I presume it can be utilized more than it is. That would certainly be better than making something nondegradable that will be used once and then chucked. Isn't that common sense? I think when people see a person who cares about packaging, they assume all sorts of things about their idealogy. I'm interested in the issue of needless quantity because it's so tangible for me. For example, if I buy an expensive cosmetic, undoubtedly it will have copious amounts of packaging to increase its appeal. Lush have bucked this trend, but their face creams are rubbish and they now package things with popcorn, which is a practice I hate (so stinked up with jasmine the birds won't touch it!). I think there can be a better balance of getting what we want and being willing and able to forego the things we don't. I don't need my bottle of perfume or my daughter's Sylvanian Families sets to have all that packaging. Don't even get me started on junk furniture or the laptops that are meant to be replaced every few years..The point of teaching stewardship is to learn to identify the things that are truly needed and/or desired, and not be a consumer of the rest so far as is possible. If we can socially pressure companies into producing less waste and making things of quality that we don't have to throw out, so much the better.

I don't really like the reasoning of accepting the status quo of one issue because its a by-product of a related issue. If I had the choice, I'd rather investigate why there is so much waste in the oil-refining industry. I don't know anything about it, so maybe you can just tell me straight away, but could we not try to make oil-refining more efficient or lessen the need for it to begin with? It just makes sense to me that using less/making less crap is always the most reasonable path.

I suppose the quarry argument works until we run out of streets to pave or driveways to gravel..:P

I don't know what to make of the global warming issue, but I do know that I don't like waste, I hate looking at rubbish, and people with no sense of stewardship or respect for their surroundings piss me off. Basically I'm an environmentalist (of sorts) because I'm actually an old woman. ;)
Mar 24, 2009 at 11:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterLanna
I can't say I've ever seen compostable packaging (not so I would know anyway). Remember too that composting is potentially more damaging than the alternatives. Composting food gives off methane, which is a considerably more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Now it's going to give off methane whereever it composts, but it's better that it does this is a landfill site, where the methane can be collected and used as fuel than in your back garden where it will be released directly to the atmosphere. (Incidentally one of my readers makes the equipment for doing this - he says you can collect 80% of the methane from a landfill).

Ethylene is an unavoidable by-product of cracking crude oil. It's not a function of inefficiency, it's a function of the chemistry involved. If someone could come up with a way of making petrol without releasing ethylene they certainly would because the values of petrol is far higher than that of ethylene.

I accept that there is surplus packaging on a few items, but at the end of the day these are occasional luxury items. The important area is food packaging because we consume it nearly every day. I agree that waste is bad, but there is a direct financial incentive for everyone involved not to waste things. I pointed out in a posting some time ago that supermarkets are run by rampant capitalists and that there is no earthly reason for them to put surplus packaging onto food - why would they spend money on packaging when it annoys their customers?

We have to be very careful about reducing poor people's access to cheap things. Junk furniture is cheap because it is made from cheap, abundant resources, and because it is made by poor people who need the money badly. If the only thing available is high quality, long-lasting furniture poor people are going to struggle to afford it. Perhaps they can have cast-offs from the wealthy - I wouldn't be comfortable with that though.
Mar 25, 2009 at 7:27 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Despite the nit I am about to pick, I agree with you about the merits of composting, landfilling, packaging, etc.

BUT... Composting only gives off significant volumes of methane if it is being done wrong. If it is properly managed, it should be mostly aerobic decomposition going on, which produces CO2 and H2O, not anaerobic decomposition, as in a landfill or AD plant, which produces mostly CH4 and CO2 (and yes, you should be able to capture around 80% of the methane from a landfill, and getting on for 100% in an AD plant). The problem with composting is that it is a dreadful waste of the energy-resource, a large part of which is simply wafted into thin air, not that it releases a lot of methane.

Having said that, there are plenty of composting sites where you can smell that the process has gone "sour", and in that case, it will be emitting methane, and your point applies.

Lanna is right that you can get compostable packaging. But I very much doubt that it is better to compost packaging than it is to recover the energy from it. Most compost produced from the domestic waste stream is worth very little, as it is almost impossible to demonstrate that the product is "clean" (i.e. not contaminated with materials such as heavy metals).

We should avoid the use of chlorinated plastics, such as PVC, as it is halogen compounds from combustion of such material that causes the health risks that people worry about. And then recover the energy through combustion, digestion of specific wet organic wastes, or possibly in the future gasification or pyrolysis.

Of course, if you (e.g. Lanna) want to do your own composting for your own garden or allotment, good luck to you. You know how much you need, you can control what goes in to it, and you can consume what comes off it at your own risk. That's probably a very sensible thing to do. And there may be situations where the same can be said for centralized composting. But not many. Centralized composting is mostly done nowadays as a means of getting round the landfill-tax costs, not because anyone values the product enough to pay a market price for it that price weren't near enough zero because of such a strong distortionary incentive to produce and offload the stuff.
Mar 25, 2009 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruno Prior

So is that to say that landfills can collect the methane or that they typically do? I can understand the argument of compostable things going to landfill--indeed, I don't have my own compost heap because it's never been practical and I figure a banana peel is going to rot at a landfill as well as it rots in my garden.. What about nondegradable items though? Does it take more energy to strip all the metal, plastic, etc. out of items than it saves in avoiding creating things from raw materials? At this point I do my best to strip my rubbish in that manner because my assumption it's better to re-use things rather than have them pile up and be replaced.

I'm not so sure that companies are always determined to minimize waste because of the bottom line. A lot of pollution/waste/etc. is an issue of appearances, having to make an initial investment into better technology, or even just simple laziness or boardroom ineptitude. As a consumer, I'm also guilty certainly of making demands that are perhaps unreasonable, like wanting exotic fruit in the winter. That said, until they manage to keep orange groves in polytunnels in Scotland, I'm more interested in my kids not dying of scurvy in the winter than I am in minimizing carbon miles..there has to be a balance, but one that keeps things moving towards more cleanliness and efficiency. Until they figure out how to throw our crap at the sun, that is. Then we're set.

I am all about Ikea. Where would students be without Billy bookshelves? But then they tend to be a fairly responsible company and most of their stuff will take a fair knocking, even if it looks horrid. What I'm talking about is the utter sh*t.


I must admit, I'm not shedding any tears over the fact that our county doesn't do centralized composting. It's because of the cleanliness issue you brought up--basically, I don't trust people to not put dead rabid cats and Draino bottles in their bins. :P
Mar 25, 2009 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterLanna

It's not merely typical for landfills to collect the methane, they are obliged to do so, and have been for the past couple of decades. There are still some very old landfills that handed back their Waste Management Licence before the regulations were tightened, where the gas is not collected. But at the rest of the sites, between being obliged to collect it and its value as a source of energy, if there are significant quantities of methane being produced by a landfill, it will be being collected.

The 80% figure relates to the difficulty of collecting the gas before a cell is capped (this period can be minimized with good design, but isn't always) and at the tail end, when the volume of gas and the proportion of methane in the gas has fallen so low that it cannot practically be combusted. 80% is probably a very conservative figure for a well-engineered landfill.

You may not be aware, but we have historically produced far more electricity in the UK from landfill gas than we have from wind. In fact the one renewable technology in which the UK was a world leader was landfill gas, so of course the Government has done its best to kill it. Landfill gas is now in a bit of a decline, because of the huge amount of negative government intervention to try to kill landfilling, but even so, landfill gas and onshore wind produced roughly the same amount of power in 2007 (the last year for which we have full stats), and if you take biomass as a whole (including anaerobic digestion, sewage gas, and burning wood, straw, chicken-litter, waste, etc), it still produces much more than the trendy renewables (wind, wave, tidal, solar).

The comment about polytunnels brought to mind this passage (pre-empting Ricardo) from The Wealth of Nations:

"The natural advantages which one country has over another in producing particular commodities are sometimes so great, that it is acknowledged by all the world to be in vain to struggle with them. By means of glasses, hotbeds, and hotwalls, very good grapes can be raised in Scotland, and very good wine too can be made of them at about thirty times the expense for which at least equally good can be brought from foreign countries. Would it be a reasonable law to prohibit the importation of all foreign wines, merely to encourage the making of claret and burgundy in Scotland? But if there would be a manifest absurdity in turning towards any employment, thirty times more of the capital and industry of the country, than would be necessary to purchase from foreign countries an equal quantity of the commodities wanted, there must be an absurdity, though not altogether so glaring, yet exactly of the same kind, in turning towards any such employment a thirtieth, or even a three hundredth part more of either. . . . As long as the one country has those advantages, and the other wants them, it will always be more advantageous for the latter, rather to buy of the former than to make. It is an acquired advantage only, which one artificer has over his neighbor, who exercises another trade; and yet they both find it more advantageous to buy of one another, than to make what does not belong to their particular trades."

Maybe high costs of carbon and greater use of waste heat will result in a comparative advantage to producing wine or exotic fruit in Scotland. We need a proper mechanism to internalize the social cost of carbon, and then we would find out. I doubt it would be common.

And in the meantime, I wouldn't feel guilty. Think instead of the Africans who will be able to buy food or education for their children because of the jobs they have on the farms producing those crops.
Mar 25, 2009 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruno Prior
Thank you, most of that is genuinely news to me. If you have a spare few minutes, could you good people suggest some edifying links? I have the nagging feeling I've been selectively educated by the government's and the granolas' mantras. Even if I end up content with my initial take on things, I would prefer to have a position that is well-informed of all views. *shrugs in a friendly manner*
Mar 25, 2009 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterLanna

If you mean links about renewable energy, I suggest you try the Renewable Energy Foundation ( I don't agree with all their analysis, but they provide the invaluable service of pulling together and presenting in an accessible format the very detailed information that is available but impenetrable on what used to be known as the ROC Register, now Ofgem's Renewables and CHP Register ( See the UK Renewable Energy Data page on REF's site. With the help of this data, you can make your own mind up.

To blow my own trumpet, I would also recommend some of the papers I have prepared over the years in response to government consultations on energy and waste policy. Some of them are available for downloading at .

On energy generally, I always recommend the excellent Energy Flowchart produced by BERR ( This tells you almost everything you need to know about the broad UK energy picture.

As for waste issues (other than my old response to the Waste Strategy consultation on that Downloads page), I can't think where you could get good information. Certainly not from any government-sponsored site, or quango, or from most academics. Some of the work that Peter Jones (formerly of Biffa, now government-adviser/academic) has produced isn't bad, though (like REF) I don't agree with all of it. You can find plenty of references to him via Google, but it's harder to find documentation of his analysis (which he has done a lot of) than media stories.
Mar 26, 2009 at 3:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruno Prior

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