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Schools Unleash 'Eco-Kids' to Badger Their Parents

A similar aspiration was expressed by leading cabinet minister David Miliband, who argued that "children are the key to changing society's long-term attitudes to the environment." Miliband is convinced that "not only are they passionate about saving the planet but children also have a big influence over their families' lifestyles and behavior." Former Education Secretary Alan Johnson wrote that "children have a dual role as consumers and influences" and therefore "educating them about the impact of getting an extra pair of trainers for fashion's sake is as important as the pressure they put on their parents not to buy a gas-guzzling car."

A report entitled The Role of Schools in Shaping Energy-Related Consumer Behavior is devoted to elaborating a policy framework as to how this objective of promoting educational initiatives can impact parental behavior. One such initiative which involves 5,500 schools is called the Eco-Schools Scheme. Andrew Sutter, who runs Eco-Schools, believes that it provides an opportunity for children "to be the teachers and tell their parents what to do for a change."

This point is underlined in a government report on energy. It states that the "installation of renewable technologies in schools can bring the curriculum to life in ways that textbooks cannot." Moreover, it observes, "with schools often being the focal point of communities, the installation of renewables could help to shape attitudes in the wider community." Not infrequently the mobilization of pester power to alter the behavior of adults acquires the character of a frenetic crusade. The book How to Turn Your Parents Green by James Russell incites children to "nag, pester, bug, torment, and punish people who are merrily wrecking our world." Russell calls on children to "channel their pester power and issue fines against their parents and other transgressors."

In previous times the practice of mobilizing children to police their parents' behavior was confined to totalitarian societies. Authorities who attempted to harness youngsters' simplistic views of good and evil are reminiscent of Orwell's Big Brother. But who needs Big Brother when the then-prime minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, can assert that "on climate change, it is parents who should listen to their children"?