Here’s what author Bill McKibben has to say about it:
“You spend half your life in Internet space, but trust me—you don’t understand how it works. Eli Pariser’s book is a masterpiece of both investigation and interpretation; he exposes the way we’re sent down particular information tunnels, and he explains how we might once again find ourselves in a broad public square of ideas. This couldn’t be a more interesting book; it casts an illuminating light on so many of our daily encounters.”
- How to grow food sustainably without fossil fuel inputs and without eroding topsoil or drawing down increasingly scarce supplies of fresh water;
- How to support 7 billion people without depleting natural resources—including forests and fish, as well as finite stocks of minerals and metals; and
- How to reorganize our financial system so that it can continue to perform its essential functions—reinvesting savings into socially beneficial projects—in the context of an economy that is stable or maybe even shrinking due to declining energy supplies, rather than continually growing.
One cause, he says, is an array of vested interests who manipulate the media and the power structure, oblivious to the consequences of their actions. Many would say that this is business-as-usual. After all, what do we expect when governments are thoroughly dominated by the industries they are supposed to regulate? As a result, we may say, a few more people will be maimed or killed or maybe just ripped off than would otherwise be the case. But, would such interests be so crazy as to persist in their manipulations when faced with compelling evidence that suggests their actions could result in widespread starvation? Apparently the answer is yes. Two examples illustrate this possibility. Many readers may be familiar with the rapid decline in honeybee populations worldwide due to what is now called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD has been attributed to various causes including mite infestations, climate change, cell phones and pesticides. New evidence and observations suggest that the main culprit is a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids--which you might rightly guess are related to nicotine. These pesticides are neurotoxins designed to disorient and paralyze insects. They are not only sprayed, but also applied to seeds and therefore become lodged in the fibers and nectars of plants, killing insects who suck nutrients from such plants. (One of the reasons these pesticides are so popular is that their toxicity to mammals is low.) France, Germany, Italy, and Slovenia have severely restricted or banned this class of pesticides. Ironically, Germany is home to Bayer, one of the largest manufacturers of neonicotinoids, a company which continues to profit from hefty sales abroad. In the aftermath of the bans and restrictions, bee populations have quickly recovered. Naturally, this is not absolute proof that the bans generated the revival. But as the evidence continued to mount that neonicotinoids are strongly implicated in CCD, these European countries applied the so-called precautionary principle. Better to be safe than sorry when it comes to something as critical as food, and honeybees are pollinators for as much as a third of the world's food supply. Other nations have been slow to act because of pressure from the agricultural chemicals industry. The industry's hue and cry is that there is no definitive proof that neonicotinoids are a central cause of CCD. But, of course, the industry has the burden of proof backwards. If the industry is going to put one-third of the world's food supply at risk, then it ought to prove that its products are harmless. That would cost money, lots of money, and it would mean that many new chemicals with expensive development costs might never be approved. Naturally, the industry wants the burden of proof to fall on government and university scientists spending public money to prove a pesticide is dangerous. Nice arrangement! For the industry, that is. A more recent revelation is that glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide, may be setting us up for a major crop failure worldwide. Sold primarily under the trade name Roundup, the herbicide has been central to chemical and seed giant Monsanto's strategy to lock-in alfalfa, corn, cotton, canola, soybean, and sugar beet growers who must buy the company's genetically engineered and patent-protected seeds every year from Monsanto if they want to reseed their fields with herbicide-proof crops. Now a leaked private letter from an agricultural researcher to the secretary of agriculture seeking funds to research possible connections between the herbicide and increased levels of plant and animal disease has called into question the safety of this herbicide (http://www.alternet.org/story/150733/why_is_damning_new_evidence_about_monsanto's_most_widely_used_herbicide_being_silenced/). Apparently, glyphosate promotes what is now being called Sudden Death Syndrome in plants by making them more susceptible to soil-borne diseases (http://www.responsibletechnology.org/blog/664). This might not be so urgent an issue if it were relegated to crops that were of minor importance in the food supply or if the size of the genetically engineered crop were small. But neither is the case. Keep in mind that some 80 percent of all calories consumed by humans originate as grains or oilseeds. (A significant portion of these, of course, is used as feed for dairy and meat production).
In 2010 in the United States, the world's major grain and oilseed exporter, 90 percent of the soybean crop was Roundup Ready (i.e. glyphosate-resistant) as was 70 percent of the corn (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/business/energy-environment/04weed.html). For the world the numbers were lower but considerable: 77 percent for soybeans and 26 percent for corn. A major decline in yields of these crops could certainly result in sky-high food prices and therefore hunger and starvation for many of the poorest in the world. One would think that authorities would be rushing to determine whether such dangers exist and how severe they are. But while many agricultural governmental agencies are aware of the concerns, little is being done. Perhaps it will take a major harvest catastrophe to convince policymakers that the dangers are real. By then, of course, it will be too late for many. But, at least the agricultural chemical interests will be pleased that their political and financial muscle extended profits right up to the moment when it became clear to everyone why the harvest failed.
“We submitted somewhere between 300 and 350 member signatures,” said petitioner Adam Asquith. “People are really motivated about the issues. Initially, there were 10 people who hustled up 20 signatures each. Then when the article came out in the paper, the signatures flooded in. It shows that KIUC members want and need to be involved.”
KIUC’s legal counsel David Proudfoot said the co-op has 30 calendar days to hold the member meeting. There is no required timeline for the vote within KIUC’s bylaws.
“We have to give notice of the meeting by May 25 and hold the meeting by June 9,” Proudfoot said. “The vote is up to the board. There is no time or method set for it, but the law implies that it must occur within a reasonable time, but that’s subjective.”
KIUC spokeswoman Anne Barnes said the co-op has not yet set a date for the meeting, but is anticipating it will be sometime during the first week of June. Before setting a date, she said it must find a venue large enough to accommodate a sizable crowd while keeping the cost down. The football stadium was one consideration.
“We’re going to find someplace,” she said. “We should have something solidified by the end of the week.”
Asquith emphasized that he was appreciative of members’ support and thankful for the professional conduct of KIUC staff members in handling the first petition it has ever received.
“I suspect KIUC will lead the meeting,” he said. “I hope that to some extent they can make it a conversation rather than just a presentation of the information.”
Asquith, a Wailua River taro farmer, has said that he is not against hydroelectric power on Kaua‘i. He is against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission process utilized by Free Flow to secure six island waterways for hydro development. His concern is that the federal agency’s rules for water flow will supersede more stringent state water code rules that protect environmental and stakeholder interests.
“Prior to the FERC bomb detonating, I had been advocating for hydro,” Asquith said. “But the FERC thing drew me off. Now, we are going to be able to have a discussion about it with community members, who gave the (petition) a nod and pushed it over it the top.”[Publisher's note: We are not the only place targeted by Free Flow Power with the use of FERC permits. "A Massachusetts company hopes to develop hydroelectric projects at nine upper Mississippi River lock and dam sites by 2017, officials said Monday. Free Flow Power Corp., 3-year-old Boston firm, plans to apply for federal licenses for hydropower projects that in this area include Lock and Dam 4 at Alma, Lock and Dam 6 at Trempealeau, Lock and Dam 7 near Dresbach, Minn., and Lock and Dam 9 near Lynxville." From (http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/article_5dd18d24-7ab3-11e0-8060-001cc4c03286.html). We think it interesting that there is no listing of completed or on-going projects on the FFP website.(http://www.free-flow-power.com/Projects.html)] See also: Ea O Ka Aina: FERC - KIUC Related Stories .
By Fern on 25 March 2011 for Life on the Balcony -
Image above: And all others from original article.
Good news and bad news. I had planned to film a short video showing you how to make a pallet garden, but the weather didn’t cooperate. I was stapling the landscape fabric onto the pallet when it started drizzling and got really windy. That’s the bad news. But I know I promised a tutorial today, so I took photos and have kept my word to share how to make the pallet garden. I tried to be as detailed as possible. That’s the good news.
So keep reading my pallet loving friends, instructions on how to make your own pallet garden are just a few lines away…
Find a PalletThe first thing you need to do is–obviously–find a pallet. I’ve had good luck finding them in dumpsters behind supermarkets. No need to be squeamish. It doesn’t smell. At least, it doesn’t smell that bad. Don’t just take the first pallet you find. You’re looking for one with all the boards in good condition, no nails sticking out, no rotting, etc. If you intend to put edibles in your pallet, be sure to find one that was heat treated as opposed to fumigated with pesticides.
Collect Your SuppliesFor this project, you’ll need the pallet you found, 2 large bags of potting soil, 16 six packs of annual flowers (one six pack per opening on the face of the pallet, and two six packs per opening on the top of the completed pallet garden), a small roll of landscape fabric, a staple gun, staples, and sand paper.
Get Your Pallet into ShapeOnce you’ve dragged your pallet home, give it a once over. Are any of the boards a little loose? Is the wood chipping in places? Nail down any loose boards, and use sand paper to smooth down any rough spots.
Let the Stapling Begin!Decide which side of the pallet will be the bottom when the pallet garden is completed and leaning against the wall. You are going to be covering the bottom, back, and sides with landscape fabric, leaving the spaces between the slats and the top uncovered (you’ll be planting flowers in the uncovered spaces).
Lay the pallet face down. Roll the landscape fabric over the back. Cut two identically sized pieces that are long enough to go from the top edge of the back of the pallet and wrap all the way around the bottom, plus a few extra inches.
Hold the two pieces of landscape fabric together as if they were one piece of fabric. Fold over the top edge by one inch and center it on the top board of the back of the pallet. Staple the fabric into place near the top edge of the top board. Smooth the fabric out to the left and right and pull it taut. Staple the fabric down on the top, right edge of the top board. Repeat on the left side. Fill in between those three staples with one staple every two inches along the top edge of the top board.
When the top of the landscape fabric is securely attached to the top, back board, smooth the fabric down, and repeat the process along the bottom edge of the bottom board, except don’t fold the fabric under, leave a long flap on the bottom.
Pulling the fabric tautly along the bottom, fold the cut edge under, and staple the fabric down along the front edge of the bottom. Smooth the fabric out to the left and right and staple every two inches along the front edge of the bottom.
Now for the sides. Start near the bottom and fold the excess fabric inwards as if you were wrapping a present. Fold the cut edge of the fabric under and staple it down near the front, bottom edge of the side facade. Smooth the fabric out and place a staple every two inches along the front edge of the side of the pallet. The fabric should be taut but not in danger of tearing. Repeat on the other side of the pallet.
You should now have a pallet with landscape fabric wrapped around the sides, back, and bottom. Place more staples along the spine of the back side of the pallet, and anywhere else you think the fabric needs to be held down so that soil can’t creep into places you don’t want it to go.
Now for the Fun Part–Planting!Bring the pallet close to wherever it’s final spot will be and lay it down face up. You’re going to plant it while it’s laying flat on the ground.
First slide the plants into what will be the top. Plant everything very tightly, you should have to practically shoe horn the last plant into place. Now that you have capped the top, pour the entire first bag of potting soil on top of the pallet. Push the soil into the pallet between the slats and smooth it out so that the soil is level. Repeat with the second bag of potting soil.
Push potting soil into the bottom cavity, so that there is a trench directly below one of the bottom openings. Plant six plants in the trench, so that they are very tightly fitted into the opening. Repeat with the other bottom opening. Now push the potting soil up against those flowers you just planted, making a trench beneath one of the openings in the second row. Plant your flowers tightly in that opening. Repeat for all the remaining openings.
When you’re done planting, you should have plants that are completely covering every opening (i.e. there shouldn’t be any place for soil to fall out). There should also be soil firmly pushed into every part of the pallet where there aren’t plants.
Caring For your PalletNow, I’m going to tell you what you should do, and I what I always end up doing (which is what you should not do). You should leave the pallet flat on the ground for a couple of weeks (watering when needed), so that the roots can start to grow in and hold all the plants in place. I can never wait though, so I always tip the pallet upright a few days after planting. Some soil does fall out, but it seems to be okay. But I think it would be better if you left it to settle and only tipped it upright after a few weeks. Do as I say, not as I do.
Water your pallet regularly, they dry out quickly. Pay special attention to the bottom two openings, they seem to be the driest. Fertilize with water soluble fertilizer added to your watering can (follow package instructions for amount and frequency).
Did I leave anything out? I’ll try to answer all questions left in the comments.
By Joe Bageant on 3 April 2009 in JoeBageant.com -
Image above: A home and garden in Hanapepe Valley. Part of the real world. Photo by Juan Wilson.
[ Joe Bageant recently spoke at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University at Lexington, and the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, where he was invited to speak on American consciousness and what he dubbed "The American Hologram," in his book, Deer Hunting With Jesus. Here is a text version of the talks, assembled from his remarks at all three schools.]
Just because we come from the manufacturer equipped with individual consciousness, does not make us the center of any unique world, private or public, material, intellectual or spiritual. The fact is, you will seldom if ever make any significant material or lifestyle choices of your own in your entire life. If you don't buy that house, someone else will. If you don't marry him, someone else will. If you don't become a psychologist, lawyer or a clergyman or a telemarketer, someone else will.
We are all replaceable parts in the machinery of a capitalist economy. "Oh but we have unique feelings and emotions that are important," we say. Psychologists specialize in this notion. Yet I venture to say that none of us will ever feel an emotion that someone long dead has not felt, or some as yet unborn person will not feel. We are swimmers in an ancient rushing river of humanity. You, me, the people in my Central American village, the child in Bangladesh, and the millionaire frat boys who run our financial and governmental institutions with such adolescent carelessness. All of our lives will eventually be absorbed without leaving a trace.
Consequently, even though Americans are only six percent of the planet's population, we use 36% of the planet's resources. And we interpret that experience as normal and desirable and as evidence of being the most advanced nation in the world. Despite that our lives have been reduced to a mere marketing demographic.
Worker rights, such as mandatory accrued severance pay for workers, even temporary workers. Most Belizeans own their homes outright, and all citizens are entitled to a free piece of land upon which to build one. Employment is scarce, and that has a down side: Many folks waste a lot of valuable time having sex , perhaps because they have too much time on their hands. The Jehovah's Witnesses missionaries are working hard to fix that problem.
This societal media software tells us what music our digitized corporate complex is selling, but you never see images of ordinary families sitting around in the evenings making music together, or creating songs of their own based upon their own lives and from their own hearts. Because that music cannot be bought and sold, and is not profitable. I think about that when the children and their parents sing and dance on the sand in front of my shack in Central America. We Americans are not offered that choice.
Guiltless as individuals. And we do remain innocent, in a sense, as long as we cannot see beyond the media hologram. But it is a terrible kind of self-inflicted innocence that can come to no good. We are a nation latch key kids babysat by an electronic hallucination, the national hologram.
But in serious, intelligent people, experiencing non-manufactured reality usually gives lifelong meaning and insight to the work. You will have experienced the eternal verities of the world and mankind at ground zero. And you will find that the healthy social structures our well intentioned Western minds seek are already inherent in the psyche of mankind, but imprisoned. And the startling realization that you and I are the unknowing captors.
By Juan Wilson on 13 May 2011 for Island Breath -
Image above: Greenhouse style solar oven prototype built from scratch codenamed "Hibiscus". Photo by Juan Wilson.
Around the beginning of the year I became interested in building a solar cooker. I was inspired by two articles posted by John Michael Greer at the end of 2010 in the ArchDruid Report.
The Haybox Factor
The Tarpaper Shack Principle
The first was a way of slow cooking in an insulated box after heating the cooking vessel on a stove, and the other was about using the direct radiation of the sun to cook food in a box heat trap. My reaction was to build a two-in-one haybox/solar-oven. Specifically, the goal was to build an insulated container that could be heated by solar radiation and hold that heat to provide slow cooking like a crock-pot. I knew going in that this was an experiment and that there would likely be missteps along the way. It would be more sensible to simply buy a commercially manufactured solar oven and try and insulate it or, on the other hand, buy a crock-pot and run it off an inverter off a battery fed by a couple of solar panels. As it turned out those alternatives would have been in the first case cheaper, in the other more effective. None the less the unit I built does to an extent work. It took three major overhauls and several minor modifications to get it to where it is today. along the way I learned a lot - so much that I really need to re-build the unit from scratch. But more on that later.
Crucible or Greenhouse
If you are considering building (or buying) a solar oven there are two major types that are quite different. In one case the sunlight is trapped in an enclosure with a "Greenhouse" effect. Often flat reflective surfaces are used to multiply the effect of the sun. In the other case curved (parabolic) reflective surfaces focus sunlight in a "Crucible". Today when I searched YouTube for "How to build solar oven" I go 545 matches (http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=how+to+build+solar+oven).
You can build a parabolic reflector "crucible" that will focus sunlight on a small area and cook food like you might fry an ant with a magnifying glass.
These cookers are effective generating high temperature in a small space. It's like cooking over a very small hot charcoal grill. The materials for highly reflective curved surfaces is quite expensive. The temperatures achieved will set lumber on fire in short order. Even a short period of bright sun can grill meat, however, cleanup can be difficult.
Example of Crucible
Video above: Grilled cheese sandwich in a minute over parabolic mirror. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ22QCAqFCc).
You can build a flat reflector "greenhouse" that will capture sunlight ins a cooking space like melting ice-cream in a closed car in the sun. These cookers are effective in holding medium temperature in a large space. It's like cooking in an oven set to 250º. The materials can be as cheap as tinfoil and cardboard. The temperatures achieved make it hard to boil water unless the sun is bright an the unit efficient. It will take hours to cook a casserole or soup. It is best to use glass mirrors to multiply light into the box.
Example of Greenhouse
Video above: Baking potatoes with tinfoil and glass in a box. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt1DgZp0n2g).
For a wider spectrum of cooking options you might build a Crucible and a Greenhouse. That is what what one women did with tinfoil and cardboard.
A Bit of Both
Video above: Cooking vegetables in the Greenhouse and meat in the Crucible. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JOSGSGM0KA&NR).
The biggest short coming (besides efficiency) is what happens if it rains. Both the Crucible and Greenhouse solar ovens tend to be bulky and large. They will likely spend a lot of time outdoors, and need to be weatherproof to get through a year. I chose to build a Greenhouse oven. With these types of ovens you need to plan several hours in advance when preparing a meal. Those of you who have had crock-pots know the drill. You have to know before you go to work what you want for dinner - and do something about it.
Image above: Demonstration of how to build high performance Greenhouse oven. From (http://www.omick.net/solar_ovens
The link above is an example of a high performance Greenhouse solar oven that is rugged and high performing (400ºF). I think it's about the best design for a do-it-yourselfer I've found, although it's quite a bit of work to construct. I used some of what these folks learned in making my solar oven.
But, before you try and make your own oven, look at some of the commercial products out there. Commercial Products There are many commercial solar ovens available online. One of sites with the widest selection is www.solarovens.net. They have have many videos of products in action. Here's a video of a commercial parabolic oven that is available for about $700.
Video above: A high performance parabolic "Crucible" oven. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzbKXZQeTTA).
Here's a video of a popular reflector box oven that is available for about $200.
Video above: Demonstration of popular "Greenhouse" style Sun Oven product. From
In Part Two of this series I will detail building my first "Greenhouse" solar oven and its performance.
Ea O Ka Aina: Solar Ovens - Part Two 5/18/11
Ea O Ka Aina: Solar Ovens - Part Three 5/26/11
[IB Editor's note: Chinese and Americans demonstrating very different reactions to Disney Corporation.]
By Jen Doll on 8 April 2011 for the Village Voice -
Image above: Source original article.
Exciting news for the children of China: Walt Disney Co. and its Chinese government friends have finally broken ground on Shanghai Disneyland, reports the Wall Street Journal. The "Disneyland" portion is just part of what will be a $4.4 billion resort with hotels, shops, restaurants, and everything a person could ever want, because after all, it's Disney! Everyone wants to go to Disneyland! Despite that, it took over a decade to get the Chinese government to agree to this.
As part of the deal, the majority of the resort is controlled by three state-owned businesses called the Shanghai Shendi Group. Disney holds 43%. The park's completion is expected to take five years.
Of course, Disney views China as a "great market," and China can't help but love Mickey Mouse.
Thus, "Shanghai Disney Resort will be both authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese," [Disney Chief Executive Robert] Iger said. Shanghai Disneyland will be the sixth park world-wide.
Chinese parents: When announcing your impending trip, remember that the element of surprise is not always on your side.
Video above: American children are told, en route, of surprise visit to Disney World. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8MIBxhh_R_w)
Mickey teaches Chinese Kids English
By Staff on 12 May 2011 for Bloomberg News -
Image above: Disney English launches in Beijing Andrew Sugerman, General Manager and Senior Vice President for English Language Learning The Walt Disney Company (center). From (http://www.prnasia.com/pr/10/05/100411811-1.html).
Five-year-old Wei Ziyun chose “Robot” as his English name after the title character in the Walt Disney Co. (DIS) movie “Wall-E.” Now a Disney learning center in Shanghai is teaching him how to spell it.
“I want to come here every day,” he said after one of his twice-weekly lessons at a Disney English classroom in the Chinese city’s Pudong area. “It’s fun to learn English.”
“Robot” and his classmates are also learning to love Disney characters as the world’s biggest theme-park operator builds the $4.4 billion Shanghai Disney Resort, scheduled to open in five years.
Teaching English to children in the world’s most populous nation has proven so lucrative that Burbank, California-based Disney has tripled its number of language schools there in the past year, with plans for more.
“It’s a very efficient way of marketing their brand as well as the amusement park,” said Shang Yang, chairman of Shangyang Enterprise Management Consulting Co. “They’re starting years early, brainwashing Chinese children and cultivating them as potential clients in a very indirect, yet penetrative, fashion.”
China’s private-education market, including international schools, is projected to grow to 517 billion yuan ($79.6 billion) by 2012 from 356 billion yuan in 2009, according to a December report by Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit. The catalysts include increased domestic consumption, government subsidies for schooling and a cultural emphasis on education, the report said.
The market for children’s English-language learning may increase 29 percent annually over the next four years from the current 24 billion yuan, said Andrew Sugerman, senior vice president and general manager of Disney English.
The first Disney English center opened in Shanghai in September 2008 and the number has increased in the past year to 22 from seven. China is the only market where unit Disney Publishing Worldwide operates the language schools.
“Being surrounded by all sorts of Disney products and characters, it’s almost impossible for children and their parents not to love Disney,” said Wang Bing, an analyst with Phillip Securities Research in Shanghai.
“All good feelings toward the company will surely translate into visitations to its theme park.”
Focused on China
Sugerman declined to give financial details about Disney English except to say that it’s profitable. There also are learning centers in Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo, Tianjin and Suzhou.
The company eventually will look to expand the business outside China, Sugerman said, declining to provide details.
“All of our focus right now is geared on China,” he said.
Disney said Tuesday its profit in the quarter ended April 2 fell 1.2 percent to $942 million, or 49 cents a share, as a shrinking movie box-office, a park shortfall and the disaster caused by the March 11 earthquake in Japan overshadowed gains in television.
“I believe Disney English is profitable without taking into account licensing fees for these cartoon characters,” said Jason Ding, a Beijing-based partner and vice president at management consultant Roland Berger AG. “The business may have a huge potential if Disney licenses its content and teaching methods to others.”
‘Most Important Subject’
The market is fragmented, according to the Merrill Lynch report. New Oriental Education & Technology Group (EDU) Inc. is the largest private education company in the country with less than 1 percent market share as of 2009.
New Oriental, based in Beijing, made about $64 million from children’s English training in the year through Feb. 28, an increase of more than 35 percent from a year earlier, President Louis Hsieh said. The “POP Kids” program, launched in 2001, is expected to expand by at least 40 percent during the next couple of years, he said in an interview.
“As families get a higher income, they are going to spend a lot of money on early-childhood education,” said Hsieh, who also is the chief financial officer. “The most important subject for Chinese kids is English. It’s also seen as an absolutely necessary skill to get a good-paying job.”
Disney English worked with an academic advisory board to create its Disney Immersive Storytelling Approach, and the company produced more than 300 songs for the program, it said.
The curriculum follows standards set by the national and Shanghai education ministries, Sugerman said. A team of 10 Los Angeles-based Disney staff creates culturally relevant content.
“What Disney is doing now in China is growing a future consumer base,” said Mary Bergstrom, founder of Bergstrom Group, a Shanghai-based consumer consulting company. “They are giving them the opportunity not only to learn English, but also to create really deep, intimate memories with those characters.”
Disney charges between 3,000 yuan and 12,000 yuan for the programs, including “Hello World” for 2- to 4-year-olds; “Foundation” for 3- to 6-year-olds; and “Step Up” for primary-school ages.
Classes typically last 45 minutes and are taught by a native English-speaking “trainer” -- certified in teaching English as a foreign language to children -- and a Chinese- speaking assistant. When it’s time to start, kids march down a hallway decorated with characters from “Bolt” and “Ratatouille” to classrooms referencing “The Lion King” and “Mulan,” a Chinese warrior princess.
After the “Hello Song,” children interact with two projection screens, called the Magic Theatre, to study words and phrases. Their lessons include learning the colors of fish on Mickey Mouse’s boat and the articles of clothing Goofy needs when the weather gets cold.
They also manipulate a warrior who fends off a dragon’s fireballs to save Sleeping Beauty while also teaching the words “defeat,” “defend” and “celebrate.”
“Their use of English becomes a comfortable, natural reality as opposed to a forced, painful reality,” Sugerman said in a room filled with stuffed toys including gray cats, blue birds and watermelon slices with bite marks.
Children are tested every six weeks on their reading, writing, speaking and listening comprehension. They also can study at home with materials featuring Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh and “Monsters, Inc.”
Meredith Ge, who works for the regulatory affairs department at Procter & Gamble Co. (PG), enrolled her 4-year-old daughter, Melody, at the center after trying others. Her daughter says the way Disney teaches English is “relaxing.”
“English language is a very useful tool,” said Ge, 33. “I want to lay a solid foundation before Melody goes to primary school.”