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Fossil Fuel’s Grip on Climate Education in America

“They’re basically asking students to debate something that scientists don’t debate, and that’s a big problem.”


Have you ever heard of a children’s book titled Petro Pete’s Big Bad Dream? The book describes a young boy waking up in a world where petroleum products do not exist – his bike tires have disappeared, ice cream is a liquid mess, and his toothbrush is nonexistent. At the close of the book, his teacher makes the chilling statement, “Having no petroleum is like a nightmare!”

The real shocker? This book is on the shelves of every elementary school in Oklahoma.

Petro Pete’s Big Bad Dream is just one of many books backed by Oklahoma Energy Resources Board, a “privatized state agency” that is funded by oil and gas companies. Since 1996, the OERB has spent nearly $50 million and reached over 3 million students with their “educational” texts, videos, and “Petro Pro” speakers, all spreading the same message: fossil fuels provide life-altering benefits and climate change is a hoax.


And this isn’t just happening in Oklahoma. There seems to be a nation-wide disconnect for American students about climate issues. While 84% of American young people experience climate anxiety, over 1/3rd of students disbelieve that global warming is manmade. Students are participating in climate walks and protests but are not being educated on the real crux of the climate crisis.


In her recent book Miseducation: How Climate Change is Taught in America, investigative reporter, Katie Worth, explores the history of climate education in America. While investigating a story about climate change in the Marshall Islands, Worth found that young people there were very fluent about climate issues. This made her curious about the difference in climate education in America. How is it that American young people experience climate change anxiety but struggle to understand the source of the crisis?

After reviewing countless textbooks, interviewing students and teachers, and building a database of 50 states’ approaches to climate issues, Worth has provided an in-depth look at climate education in America. She lays out how climate denialists and fossil fuel companies have been spreading misinformation in American schools for decades and what we can do to change the system.

At NJIN, we are passionate about helping young people discover their earth-purpose to become future change-makers. Our STEM programs are designed to offer structured curriculum and real-world experiences within the natural world in a way that encourages students’ curiosity, innovation, and experimentation. Join us!

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