May 4, 2012

Amazon.com Is Funding Global Warming Denial In Our Schools

Last month, Tennessee passed a law that would establish protections for teachers who chose to teach unscientific theories doubting global warming in a science classrooms. (It was somehow attached to a bill also providing protections for teachers instructing about creationism.)

The group behind these climate denial laws, which have popped up all over the country, is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive corporate front group mostly financed by Big Business. ALEC and its corporate funders write model bills and then pass them off to state legislators to advocate for and pass in their states.

Here’s an excerpt of ALEC’s climate denial bill:

[Teachers should] provide instruction in critical thinking so that students will be able to fairly and objectively evaluate scientific…controversies…balanced and objective environmental education materials and programs will…be used

And here’s a passage from Tennesee’s bill that was passed:

Create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues

Following the outrage at the organization for promoting “Stand Your Ground” laws and voter suppression bills, ALEC says that it is re-focusing itself on economic issues — yet it doesn’t seem to be backing off of this part of its agenda.

One of the funders of ALEC is Amazon.com. The online retailer giant was a “Director”-level sponsor of ALEC’s conference last year, meaning it gave at least $10,000 to the group. Presumably it funds ALEC because the organization helps advocate against charging online giants like Amazon.com any sales tax, which gives them an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar stores.

There are a few corporate interests financing ALEC who would directly benefit from denying climate change. ExxonMobil, Chevron, Koch Industries, and Shell are all ALEC donors.

But by funding ALEC, Amazon.com bears responsibility for all of the organization’s activities. If it doesn’t believe in promoting climate denial and undermining science education, then it shouldn’t be funding an organization that apparently does.

  • Nkeegel

    Has somebody organized a campaign to help us tell Amazon how we feel?

    • Sounds like it’s time for another change.org petition.

  • logical

    This is just spin. Can anyone really object to the teaching of critical thinking? Here is a quote: “[Teachers should] provide instruction in critical thinking so that students will be able to fairly and objectively evaluate scientific…controversies…balanced and objective environmental education materials and programs will…be used”

    The plain fact is that scientists disagree about whether man-made CO2 is having a large and dangerous effect. There is a need to study and think about the evidence they present.

    • CatKinNY

      No, scientists who work for ExxonMobil, Chevron and Koch Industries disagree that man made CO2 is having an effect; 96% of the membership of the National Academy of Sciences agrees. Who was it who said that it’s hard to get a man to see something when his livelihood depends on his not seeing it? I’m old enough to remember tobacco companies trotting out scientists who didn’t believe that cigarettes were addicting or caused cancer. Do you think that it’s a scientific controversy that tobacco is addictive or carcinogenic?

      • logical

        Well of course I think the best scientists are saying that man-made CO2 is not doing much and not dangerous. Nor is the present temperature very high. It is not as high as during the Medieval Warming and the Roman Warming. These high temperatures were long before industrialization so must have been due to natural variation. They were times of good crop production and population expansion. But my comment was not about whether the fear of global warming was soundly based or not – it was about whether it was good to teach children critical thinking.

        • CatKinNY

          So, the best scientists work for the petroleum industry? Really? Like the ones who worked for tobacco? And the 96% who think man made climate change is real are the worst? I wish I was your bookie! All those English vinyards that gave the French fits during the medieval warm period are back in business, so I’d rethink that assertion about it being cooler if I were you. And it’s not just temperature that is the problem with climate change, you know. It’s extremeties, like the heat wave that caused the Russian heartland to spontaneously combust a few summers ago, or this winters extreme cold and precipitation that left much of Europe buried under snow for weeks and caused quite a few deaths, or a series of heat waves that have also killed quite a few Europeans lately. I don’t wish to debate climate change with you, but I would be remiss if I did not point out to you that ALEC’s intent is not to teach critical thinking to children, but to sow confusion and ignorance. Asking science teachers to give equal weight to arguments that are rejected by 96% of scientists is asking them to waste half their time. It’s no different than asking them to teach creationism alongside evolution. I don’t want kids graduating from HS with the belief that the world is 6000 years old and that Noah herded dinosaurs on to the Ark. If I wanted to live in a country like that, I’d move to Afghanistan.

        • That’s BS. 95% of climate scientists – you know, the ones who actually know what they’re talking about – agree that anthropogenic climate change is happening and is a problem. Most of the other 5% still think that climate change is happening but they don’t attribute it to humans. This has absolutely nothing to do with critical thinking.

          • GuerneseySky

            It’s relevant to what curriculum documents mean, or teachers infer, by “critical thinking.” Curricular “neutrality” can insist that teachers NOT take sides on environmental issues, even when something as urgent and cleverly media spun as climate change is the topic of much artificially created “debate.” If you read curriculum policy documents you may find that issues which are contentious will be framed in terms of asking students to discuss “pros and cons,” “advantages and disadvantages,” and “negative and positive impacts.” This means that it’s the research that counts, that according to education systems all answers may be equal, and students may critique their findings as an intellectual exercise. “Education” itself takes no stand on teaching students the truth about our fossil-fuel-driven climate change problem. Public education systems are prep schools for the status quo economy, where renewable energy, biodiversity conservation, and climate change are contentious, but consumerism, competition, infinite economic growth and globalization are assumed and not often topics offered for critical examination by students.

    • GuerneseySky

      Climate scientists don’t disagree. There is a need to act on the evidence that climate scientists have been presenting for years. Here’s a link to a good assessment of the scientific “consensus” in the peer-reviewed scientific literature on the subject, which is where we should be looking for the truth.

  • ErikSF99

    Is Zaid Jilani being dryly ironic? It’s hard to imagine otherwise. Why on earth would he post the two very reasonable quotes above as some sort of proof of villainy?

    Please explain.

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