Earth Day poster contest causing controversy

Posted at 6:10 PM, Mar 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-21 21:58:43-04

FARMINGTON, Utah - One Davis County father's protest over an Earth Day poster contest is gaining national attention.

The contest invites kids to make Earth Day posters that ask, "Where would we be without oil, gas and mining?"

But Colby Paulson, the dad of an Eagle Bay Elementary kindergartner, says our lives revolve around fossil fuels every day, but Earth Day exists to draw attention to alternatives.

"That's really what got me upset in the first place was thinking about my son," Paulson said. "It just feels like getting a little propaganda from the oil, gas and mining industry. And saying, 'Hey, 5-year-old boy, let's teach you to celebrate on Earth Day all the things we get from oil, gas and mining.'"

Last year's contest also focused on oil, gas and mining. It was administered by the state government and funded by companies including Rio Tinto, Mag Corp and Anadarko Petroleum.

"The division and the industry both I think do a good job based on science and developing these essential natural resources in a responsible manner," said Chris Williams, Davis County School District spokesperson.

Students are not required to participate in the poster contest, and Williams says there are other alternatives.

"There's also a Great Salt Lake coloring contest going on right now, so if the kids want to take part, great, if the parents decide this is not for my kids, that's great," Williams said.

But Paulsen says that's a false choice.

"If trying to cover up the negative impacts of the fossil fuel industry on Earth Day is wrong, it's wrong. You shouldn't say, 'Well you can do something wrong or you can do something right.' That's not what our schools should be telling our kids," Paulsen said.