The best way to get adults to act like environmentalists is by brainwashing their children, according to research published Monday by Oregon State University.
The study found that talking to kids about global warming caused their parents to use less energy and act more like environmentalists. The research was run on was run on 30 Girl Scout troops in northern California and had a “lasting impact on family energy consumption” for at least eight months after the end of the program.
“Children are a critical audience for environmental programs, because their current behavior likely predicts future behavior,” Hilary Boudet, an assistant professor of climate change and energy at Oregon State University and the study’s lead author, wrote in a press statement. “By adopting energy-saving behaviors now and engaging family and community members in such efforts, children can play an important role in bringing about a more sustainable future.”
The scouts experienced hour long sessions on the importance of reducing energy use to fight global warming once a week for five weeks, and participated in activities designed to support the lessons. The girls and their parents completed surveys about their energy-saving behaviors at the beginning and end of the five-week program and again several months later. The study’s authors estimated that the program reduced the amount of energy used by 3 to 5 percent.
Based on the study’s success, the researchers are now disseminating the curriculum to Girl Scout leaders around the country and attempting to adapt it to other groups of kids, including schools and youth-focused organizations such as 4-H with the help of other universities, like Stanford.
The study was financially supported by government grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy Program, the California Energy Commission, the Child Health Research Institute and the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center.
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