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Are Children Sounding the Global-Warming Alarm?

Even though Americans may be less concerned with global warming than people in many other countries, it is amazing how the subject has recently become so omnipresent. The media is brimming with global warming stories every day, from a variety of angles: environmental, economic, political, etc.

How did this happen? How has such a sweeping, complex, controversial issue become such a pressing concern — not overnight, certainly, but very rapidly as of late?

One theory came to mind the other day when I was looking over a list of the most profitable worldwide movie releases of 2006. No. 1 on the list was Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, an animated — and apocalyptic — kids’ movie, which took in just over $1 billion at the box office. And as you can see here, the animated kids’ movie Happy Feet has also been huge, with over $350 million worldwide, and counting. While Happy Feet isn’t quite about global warming, it is about mankind’s disastrous overreach into nature. (In order to appreciate the reach of these kids’ movies, consider that Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, a global warming jeremiad, has done $42 million worldwide, a huge figure for a documentary but a drop in the bucket compared to the animated blockbusters.)

We all know how influential kids can be. Newspaper editors and TV producers and even politicians have kids, and when those kids start obsessing about something, it’s amazing how fast the parents do, too. Just look at anti-smoking education in the U.S. My kids are so thoroughly indoctrinated against smoking that if they see someone in an old movie smoking a cigarette, they look at me, horrified, as if they’ve just seen someone slit a puppy’s throat. Similarly, I wonder if children may have been the ones who were scared straight about global warming — and have gone nipping at their parents’ heels.

I am not saying that global warming hasn’t become front-page news for a host of other reasons; but I do wonder if its recent prominence may have come about through a channel that no one was expecting.