Nickelodeon special on climate change causes controversy


The Nickelodeon show “Nick News: Kids and the Impact of Climate Change” which aired in April is not the first time the network has tackled issues usually thought to be too mature for the network’s target audience.

As the month of April came and went, so did Earth Day. People around the world spread awareness about the importance of keeping the planet clean, especially as the movement to stop global warming has gained massive traction in recent years. However, Nickelodeon is receiving backlash after their attempt to teach kids about a particular environmental issue.

The kid’s television network aired an hour-long special called “Nick News: Kids and the Impact of Climate Change” on Saturday, April 17. Hosted by CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas, the episode educated kids about environmental issues and how to protect the planet with the help of celebrity guests including Rob Gronkowski, Skai Jackson, and Liza Koshy.

Nevertheless, some parents expressed their concerns after watching a segment discussing the issue of “environmental racism.” Parents feared that the topic was too mature for children and denounced Nickelodeon for including that segment in the special.

Environmental racism is a form of systemic racism in which minority and low income communities are surrounded by a disproportionate number of health hazards that result from various forms of environmental pollution. This includes landfills, toxic waste facilities, mines, major roads, and power stations.

Yuccas highlighted the experiences of a few interviewees, the first being Fionia Carlton, a former resident of Duplin County, North Carolina. Duplin County is one of the top hog producers in the world, with over two million hogs. This has had an extremely hazardous impact on the residents of Duplin County, who are mainly African-American and Hispanic people.

The hogs produce tons of feces, which is used to fertilize the fields. The feces is mixed with a water-like liquid and sprayed onto the fields, but the mist from the spray makes its way to the African-American neighborhoods adjacent to the farms. “It’s like a shower on your skin, and it’s full of feces,” described Carlton. 

Nickelodeon also discussed environmental racism and how people living in the sacred Apache land in Oat Flat, Arizona need to be protected from destruction by copper mining companies. Naelyn Pike, 21, a Chiricahua Apache youth who has been fighting to protect their sacred land since a very young age was featured in the broadcast.

Pike has spent almost a decade testifying to Congress and other leaders against the extraction of copper ore from Apache lands by foreign-owned mining company Resolution Copper. The site, used for important religious ceremonies, holds a personal connection to Pike and her tribe, which she discussed on Nickelodeon.

Pike explained how “when [the mining companies] extract that copper ore, everything in that land will become a crater.” It is a method of mining called block cave mining that results in cancerous craters that will severely damage the health of the indigenous residents of Oak Flat. 

Finally, Yuccas looked over to Philadelphia, where many minority communities experience low air quality from nearby nuclear plants. Sabirah Mahmud, a 17-year-old Muslim climate activist from Philidelphia, discussed how environmental racism deprives minorities of a proper quality of life.

“It should be the basic requirements of a happy life,” expressed Mahmud. “To go outside and breathe fresh air and not be scared of childhood cancer rates and asthma rates.”

Mahmud was inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg, who was the catalyst for an even more extensive movement to fight climate change in 2018. She also found inspiration from her background to be the start of something worth fighting for. She said, “There aren’t a lot of brown Muslim women who are leading movements, so I felt like, ‘if not me then who?’”

Despite the important message conveyed about environmental racism and how young people can fight to prevent it in their communities, many parents, mainly conservatives, expressed their concerns for the discussion of an “adult” issue on a kid’s network and fear it is a perpetuation of the “liberal agenda.”

According to Black Enterprise, a black owned multimedia company, “many right-wing commenters felt that discussing environmental racism on a family-friendly network is indoctrinating children with liberal propaganda.” Even though Nickelodeon provided scientifically-proven facts in the segment, conservatives continued to denounce the network for providing their children with the content.

On the Fox News program “Fox & Friends,” Dr. Carol Swain, a former law professor turned political analyst, talked about how she only heard about environmental racism in academia, and how kids programming and cartoons have become “tools for the progressive left.” 

Swain argued that children watching the program were only provided with “one view” of the issue at hand, thereby “indoctrinating” children with leftist beliefs. “[The leftists] are not content with destroying the lives of college students, now they’re focused on K-12,” Swain commented. 

Contrary to Swain’s statements, the special did nothing of the sort. The purpose of the special was to teach kids about prevalent environmental issues, so they grow up treating the planet with care and allowing humans to continue living on it prosperously. Nothing from the special was skewed to appease the “liberal agenda”; the information provided is 100 percent factual.

This is not the first time Nickelodeon spread awareness about serious social issues. In June 2020, the network paid tribute to the death of George Floyd by suspending its programming and instead airing the message “I can’t breathe” for 8 minutes and 46 seconds with the sound of a person struggling for air.

Some parents may prefer to shelter their child from serious topics just a little while longer, but there are also parents who appreciate that their kids are being taught these issues early on. The solution seems simple: If parents don’t like the content Nickelodeon is televising, then they can simply choose to not let their kids watch it.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email