Meet Hector, the lump of coal in a hi-vis safety jacket. Apparently, Hector has been popping up at community events in the Mackay area of north Queensland for a couple of years.
He’s the mascot for the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal and the main attraction in the “fun zone” on the terminal’s website (I was keen to do the word search but it wasn’t working, but the colouring pages are great… I’ve already run out of black crayon).
Dalrymple is the larger of the two terminals which make up the Port of Hay Point – which is laying claim to be the world’s biggest coal export port. The terminal shipped out 63.5 million tonnes of healthy and wholesome coal last year. Isn’t that great, kids?
Now I don’t want to spoil the family fun or anything, but shouldn’t someone mention.. erm… climate change?
The marketing chaps at Dalrymple Bay aren’t the first to morph environmentally questionable sources of energy into fun for kids.
There’s been Super Rock and his sidekick Spurt – two chunks of coal which starred in a kids colouring book to promote the Pennsylvanian coal industry described generously by Grist as “wonderfully crappy”.
I’m sure you’ll agree, though, he’s not a patch on Hector.
Earlier this year, there was Talisman Terry, the “friendly fracosaurus” [gedit?] who featured in a colouring book from the gas company Talisman Energy.
The company withdrew the colouring book after complaints it was engaging in child-directed propoganda.
A wicked parody of Terry’s exploits from American satirist Stephen Colbert probably didn’t help matters, especially the bit where Terry committed “frackicide” by standing in the shower and setting fire to the water.
But it’s not just corporations who are keen for kids to see the “cool” side of coal.
In Illinois, the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity runs an annual competition (top prize $100) where school kids draw posters about coal, the best of which are chosen to feature in the state’s “coal calendar” which is in its 23rd year.
Among the winning entries, are such marketing gems as “If Coal is Our Past… then it’s also our future,” and “You can’t say no to Illinois Coal”.
I’m wondering which industries might be next to kiddify their products? How about Uri Uranium, Billy the Brominated Flame Retardant, Calista the Cluster Bomb and her friend Lenny the Landmine?
Or we could have Asbestos Bertha, Chris the Chlorofluorocarbon or DDT Debbie? (I’m claiming copyright on all those).