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Blowback for Disney As Pro-Fracking Elementary School Tour Exposed
Disney withdraws from "Rocking in Ohio" tour following public anger, as concerned parents say 'not enough'
Disney has pulled the plug on a pro-fracking and drilling tour of elementary schools and science centers across Ohio, bankrolled by the state's oil and gas industry, after drawing fury from environmental activists and concerned parents.
Yet critics charge Disney's withdrawal, which was announced publicly on Thursday, falls short. "This is an important first step, but we want a policy to ensure children are not having fossil fuel energy promoted to them in Radio Disney's programs across the country," said Lisa Hoyos, director of the group Climate Parents that played a lead role in the campaign against Disney, in an interview with Common Dreams.
Billed as an educational program, "Rocking in Ohio" visited elementary schools and science centers across the state, with a total of 26 stops last month. It was led by Radio Disney staffers based in Cleveland, who presented workshops promoting oil and gas pipelines to youth attendees. The presentations created party-like atmospheres with thumping pop music and pipeline-building contests, in what critics have slammed as propaganda for the oil and gas industry in a state that is ground zero for fracking.
All of the program's funding came from the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP), which is in turn funded by the state's oil and gas industry.
Radio Disney, which does nation-wide youth programming, had planned to bring the tour to other states if proven a success, The Hill reports.
Yet before they could go nation-wide, "Rocking in Ohio" sparked an outraged response.
A Climate Parents petition declaring, "Radio Disney should not—under the guise of teaching kids "science"—promote dirty energy that that gives kids asthma, pollutes our air and water, and fuels climate change," has garnered over 80,000 signatures.
The Sierra Club called for critics to take to Twitter and rename popular Disney movies to reflect the corporation's pro-fracking stance. Responses included "Beauty and the Benzene" (Josh Fox @gaslandmovie) and "Honey I Shrunk the Amount of Well Water We Can Drink" (Heather M @RaptorH).
Disney released a statement to Al Jazeera America on Thursday proclaiming the corporation's withdrawal from the program. "The sole intent of the collaboration between Radio Disney and the nonprofit Rocking in Ohio educational initiative was to foster kids' interest in science and technology," it reads. "Having been inadvertently drawn into a debate that has no connection with this goal, Radio Disney has decided to withdraw from the few remaining installments of the program."
Yet, Hoyos said the announcement fell short of Climate Parents' call for the corporation to halt "dirty energy" programming nation-wide. "There is no acknowledgement that what they were doing was bad judgement," she said. "They give presentations to kids at schools and science fairs and museums across the country. What is there to ensure that they are not going to do this again?"