Friday, December 6, 2013

ALEC - What the Koch Brothers and Google have in common.

In the Belly of a Luxurious Hotel
There is a cabal of corporations, right wing politicians from the State and Federal levels, and the financial elite who have been operating from the shadows since 1973. ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is a Political Action Committee complete with loyalty oath but, unlike most lobbying entities, the membership of ALEC is secret and what they do is technically not publicly disclosed.


Their official goals are to “advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level.” What they really get involved in is voter suppression, possible vote tampering, curtailing of environmental regulations, keeping wages low,  privatization of schools and pushing for a corporatist agenda in the name of “Freedom from Big Government.”





Amongst their array of tools, ALEC does this through influencing State and Federal politics and holding legislative workshops and giant conventions. Legislators are flown out on company jets to these conventions, usually held at the most luxurious hotels. For 3 days corporate lobbyists and the financial big-wigs wine, dine, and buddy up with these elected officials to work on pro-corporate tailored legislation.


They have just started day 3 of their most recent convention, just after their 40 year anniversary.


In my mind this convention is like the anti-SXSW Eco conference. Instead of trying to find solutions to environmental problems, the ALEC meetings are trying to find ways of gutting the EPA, protecting their most polluting members and ways of not having to pay for killing off a species. I see them sitting around panel discussions sharing ideas on how to curtail solar power and even tax the sun. One can even imagine them cursing their past losses in gay rights and "stand your ground" over overpriced bourbon in darkened smoke-filled rooms.




A Little Background
The history of ALEC starts with, Paul Weyrich, who also founded the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. This is a gentleman who is one of the founding fathers of modern conservative Religious Right movement and publicly stated that he didn’t want people to actually vote and worked to “Christianize America” with Ted Cruz.


In researching this organization I was shocked to see one company in the ranks of members. Through leaked documents it was revealed that joining the ranks of Koch industries, Rupert Murdoch, and the Tobacco Industry was Google.


While a certain moral ambiguity has become expected at places like Facebook or even former ALEC member Walmart, hope still resided in Google's "Do No Evil" motto. While Google has been acting questionably on that front lately with hiring of former Republican Representative Molinari as their lobbyist and the fundraiser for Climate Change denier Jim Inhofe, and other ultra-conservative representatives, what they are doing currently with ALEC makes little to no sense.

The Young Turks, using some video footage from Brad Johnson of Forecast the Facts, explains the situation rather well.





While it is true that there was a panel yesterday discussing ways to influence auto insurance premiums  for driverless cars, like the ones Google is working on, many of ALEC's efforts go directly against many of the programs that Google and other forward-thinking companies pride themselves on. Specifically Google and Facebook’s environmental efforts would be curtailed and the tax incentives would be wiped clean if ALEC had their way.


An Inside View
At conferences, like the one finishing up today, they have a wide bevy of event and workshops that help bolster the corporate efforts on the legislative side. As described by Washington Post writer Dana Milbank when he entered “the belly of the beast;”

The environment and energy task force, led by private-sector American Electric Power. The tax and fiscal policy task force, headed by Altria. The international relations task force, run by Philip Morris. The commerce and insurance task force, by State Farm. And the health and human services task force, by Guarantee Trust Life Insurance.

Like Dana, most who don’t cough up the $1100 fee for the conference or are members of the press are shut out of the process. In fact, the public would have little to no knowledge of ALEC or its inner workings if it wasn’t for a number of leaked documents including ones that recently show that the group has a strange relationship with North Carolina, that its power may be on the decline and willfully misled the press and the public about the nature of the activities they participated in. They may in fact be in some trouble with the IRS for violations regarding these activities.


The Bad News
Currently ALEC is a 501(c)(3), a charitable organization which officially is not allowed to lobby, hence their issues with the IRS. To curtail this rule and continue lobbying to kill gun control, environmental protections and your right to unionize and even vote, ALEC is working on becoming a 501(c)(4).  This to-be-formed association, called the Jeffersonian Project, would be officially allowed to accept sizable donations without any disclosure. This group would be allowed to create attack ads, technically even lobbying activities as long as their primary role is education. As you may recall from the satirical efforts of the Colbert Report, corporate entities would prefer to donate to a (c)(4) because of the anonymity involved and for a strange loophole that allows anonymous donations to a (c)(4) that can then be funneled to a PAC like ALEC without disclosure of the original donors. If ALEC is allowed to create this organization, there would be literally no real way of knowing who was directly involved in the funding of their activities.




ALEC has big plans for 2014. So far these leaked documents and their own words have suggested efforts to do away with the minimum wage, push fracked natural gas as motor fuel, removing the bottom %75 from low income medical care, go after renewable  energy, and even call a constitutional convention of the states to try and "rail in" the activities of the federal government. Above all else there is the goal of regaining their lost membership and the revenue they create.

If any of these come to pass, the doors will be opening that will be hard to close and each of those doors lead to a very scary place. 


The Good News
The good news is that ALEC looks like it is on the decline and there are things that you, as a consumer and public citizen can do to kill ALEC and organizations that trample on our protections and our rights in the name of corporate gain.


One of the biggest successes that bit ALEC in the end was their wide-spread support and pushing of “Stand Your Ground” legislation. After the Trayvon Martin slaying ALEC felt a huge backlash to their organization. Much to ALEC’s chagrin groups like Amazon, Visa, Coca-cola, GE, and even WallMart wanted to disassociate themselves from this group for fear of seeming too “evil.” According to leaked documents this translated to a loss of about 400 state legislators and 60 corporation members in the last two years and about one third of their proceeds. (BTW, Ted Cruz, probably not the BEST strategy to tell your beloved ALEC to “stand [their] ground” as an organization, COULD be a triggering phrase.)


Another sign that this break away may be continuing is that Google actually dropped out of a panel discussion (the driverless car panel mentioned earlier) yesterday which some may take as a sign that they are rethinking this union. Groups like Forecast the Facts and their associated coalition have been working on applying pressure to Google.

While some may try to teach that "this just how big business needs to operate" it really doesn't need to be. We live in a world where each person has the power to call their representatives, even find out if they belong to ALEC, and voice their opinion. You can write an email to the head of Google to tell him your opinion. You can call out all the companies involved and all the legislators involved. You can create petitions to these companies and the government.


The more you get involved in the process and those involved, the better things can get. 





Friday, November 29, 2013

Please Don't Put Your Phone In a Blender

Throw away your phones

It is black friday, a day where consumerism and spending is mushed and kicked onward by the media and corporate entities. Everyone wants us to buy more, spend more and keep our economy going. All this at breakneck speeds. For our current model of the economy to be considered a “success” by those who apparently decide those things, we have to have continuous high scaled growth. This means a lot of buying. . Recently, an add device has resurfaced across products trying to convince consumers to purposefully lose, destroy and replace their older phone models or computers with the latest shiny toy to hit the shelves.


This advertisement hits to the center of this consumer-driving dialogue and is trying to be cute and clever about it. From an environmental perspective, this commercial’s message, and a similar version they held last year, is disgusting. It makes sense, companies want money and to make money you have to buy their newer models, but that doesn’t make it any less repugnant. We are all aware that it takes work, material and energy to create the products we use and love. We all recognize, to some small degree, that when we dispose of our products they either turn into waste or emissions and take a toll on our environment or cost significant energy to recycle and I am not even going to get into the impacts of us all using these things the way we do.

The problem

The problem is that we are far too separated from these elements to recognize that our consumer habits are destroying lives and our planet. Commercials, like the one shown, that use this marketing gimmick of “just destroy your old one so you can get a new one” ignore all of the facts we know about the ills of consumption and waste. They throw that all away and refocus the attention on the “new, shiny” product that you just have to buy.

These commercials would have us forget that the factories where these machines are made are still having problems with suicides even though they have been working on countermeasures for at least 3 years. They would have us ignore the fact that these factories, the energy used to produce these products and the chemicals used in their production destroy the air and the local environment of countries like China.

We must remember that each phone we throw away and the production of each new one both have incredibly devastating impacts, especially if one starts thinking in the scale of global use and production. To make smartphones work, the current technology is reliant on rare earth metals. They aren’t as rare as their name would imply but currently China has cornered the market. When countries find them at the bottom of the ocean they race to exploit the resources, trying to compete with China. Many times destroying the fragile eco-system.



When these metals are mined and processed, they have huge environmental effects and can lead to some scary things if disposed of improperly.

It is disgusting that a commercial would promote the practices they show in these commercials. It don’t matter that there is a disclaimer at the bottom, the practice is presented and encourages a concept of obsolescence. When dealing with a company that has already been known to pre-program obsolescence just to make more money off of their customers, this is all very shady and frightening.

Some may point out that, in the current system, if you want a properly working phone that you can use to get a foot up on the competition out there, you better get one with the best bells and whistles. That may be true in the current system where you can only purchase prepackaged phones, but on the horizon of the new economy is a new vision.

A phone worth keeping 

Modular phones exist on the premise of being able to personalize the components on your own phone. Want a better camera? Better Video-Card? simply switch it out. It is a method that is hoping to answer the question of how to lower the costs of phones for the consumer while upping their value. It also might hold the answer to more sustainable future for consumer electronics.


They are a response to obsolescence through modular upgrading, allowing the consumer to keep up with the trends without having to toss a whole phone in order to do it. Phonebloks, Motorola's modular and open source phone project, was the brainchild of Google's Motorola and created by created by Dave Hakkens to forge a "phone worth keeping."

An interesting development with "homebuilt" parts recently arose. The concept has the potential to become even more individualized the more that personal 3D printers continue to gain in popularity. Once the sustainability of 3D material egg is cracked, the process will get even greener and advances in plastics are making that fast approach.

This black friday, keep in mind three things; 
  1. You don't HAVE to go out and shop.
  2. Doing your research on what your impacts are helps you pick the best product. 
  3. Don't let your behaviors be affected by commercials that teach you to act like mindless animals.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Vilification of the Green Market - The Experiment

This is part 1 of an ongoing series covering an experiment I have done for the past year in building a sustainable portfolio and the lessons learned as a result. 

The Experiment

For the past year I have been running an experiment. It is an attempt to build a real green portfolio, one where one could find Solar and sustainable tech. Off of my meager funds, I attempted to create such a fund that would actually make money. I wasn't investing heavily, honestly I didn't have much to invest so my experiment couldn't be pricey.



My stepfather and father are both intimately familiar with the workings of the stock market, one of my uncles works on the building, selling and saving of businesses and another uncle who made six figures at 45. I have spoken with each of them in-depth about my goal and each had a different opinion. After thinking about it for far too long, a particularly interesting holiday family gathering conversation made me take the plunge and I bought my first piece of stock.

I had made myself a couple of rules:

Only invest in companies that you think would build a better future. 
This concept is fairly straight forward for the humanitarian but a little contrary to most investment strategies on the stock market. The floor cares about profits, growth and value. As I have learned from really concentrating on the stock market for the past year, those that decide the price and affect the price are very quick to judge and jump to wild conclusions.

Try to think in the long term. 
Many market strategies for investment go from quarter to quarter or sooner. I wanted to avoid that so I decided to try and find companies that followed my first rule but would not only make a profit but possibly become pivotal to the economy of the future.

This can have many definitions. To me it includes markets such as solar, geothermal, wind and ocean in the energy production sector and companies that solved energy storage problems.

Research the market. 
From watching the Daily Show and reading Blogs, I decided to avoid any and all financial advisers and researched the market with my own intuition. Once learning as much as I could about the company, its customers and the market, I would make a rational decision to buy or watch it.

Right around my birthday in November, I had heard about this company on NPR who had an interesting business model for Solar panelling. I found Solar City so interesting that not only did my research set me off on my appreciation of Elon Musk.

This led me a few months later, at the encouragement of a dear friend of mine, to purchase Tesla (TSLA) since it was on the rise and in the news at the time. I started picking up a few shares over the next months till I had a Bio-Med company doing cancer research, a fuel-cell producer and supplier, a green energy REIT and a few others.

As of this morning, my portfolio has gone up by 119.47%. Of all of my investments, only one has a negative movement worth a total of $6.20.

I know that this was unusual, and based on a lot of luck in my access to information but it opens the concept of making money by buying the stocks of the companies you want to be around in the future and either selling or not purchasing those that may rise in price, but have a net loss to society. I see oil and coal based companies in this queue unless they make a serious lateral movement into serious green production and an almost total abandonment of business as usual. The future of our economy and our relationship to it needs to be realigned to be more efficient and more sustainable.

To extend the experiment I also put together a fake portfolio of stocks that grab my eye who do work in the Green space. Through out this series I will be posting updates to that list and eventually having a link that all can view.

This experiment and what I have learned in the process reinforced my belief that there is an alternative to how we are currently running things. Through out the past year of paying closer attention to the stock market and the news surrounding it, I have also learned some very interesting things. Including the fact that pretty much no one who is writing about the market, knows what they are talking about.

But more on that in part 2.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

SXSW Eco 2013 - Part 3

The second day of SXSW Eco was a grueling pace of amazing speakers, amazing panels and far too many things to do. The very first panel section on my official SXSW Eco scheduler was packed with 5 different panels and presentations that I felt pulled to. In the end I chose "Who Wins Water," a discussion on the future of water, the lack of fresh water and the impacts of retooling the water design. The issue of water is one that many Americans take for granted because, in most instances, water is "free" or a municipally supported right. The United Nations has, for years now, declared and supported the fact that water and clean sanitation is a basic human right.



This panel was so interesting that I could hardly keep myself from retweeting the entirety of the discussion. This was especially true with Peter Glick who, after researching him is now a personal hero. Not only was he spot on with water issues but he even infiltrated and exposed aspects of the Heartland Institute, who I wrote about earlier in the month. The panel was really great at linking the human and the economic impacts of water and drought.

After the session I had to run to the amazing press room that the staff had set up to prepare for my Online Ocean Symposium hangout. The conversation went well and there will be a highlight reel coming but for now, here is the conversation.


After the hangout and a quick vegetarian bite at a local cantina I headed to a discussion between Bloomberg and VP of Next Generation Climate Action Kate Gordon. Next Gen is an organization trying to create political and personal action on the climate including supporting the green economy and fighting against projects like XL Keystone pipeline. Founded by Billionaire Tom Steyer who has been making some fantastic moves on the effort and some fantastic videos. Kate Gordon went into detail about their project "Risky Business" which tries to educate on the long term detriments of a bad-climate business model.


My next stop was the panel discussion and live broadcast from ClimateDesk.org. The discussion, titled "Beyond Extreme Weather: Has the Media Failed Us in Reporting Climate Change?" went into the over all coverage of climate issues, comparing it to other stories at the same time of publication and wording of the articles for adoption. The panel was filled to the brim with great experts and reporters in their field including a previous Hangout guest Kate Sheppard and moderated by the ever wonderful Chris Mooney.

While this conversation was interesting, educational and, in the end impact, the last question that the panel asked bothered me a little bit. An audience member asked "how do you measure the success of your stories." Every single panelist talked to the point of what I call passive impacts. Things like; readers, shares, comments, likes were highlighted as the "end-all-be-all" when these are all very low impact actions. I can not tell you how many articles I have read over the past week. I can tell you how many made me actually call a Senator or go to an event. I wondered if those metrics were considered; how much action and change occurred.

After the panel discussion, most of the action of the convention went to an awards ceremony with a mediocre MC and a far too crowded drink line. Deciding to try and keep to my favorite parts of these conferences, the conversations, I headed to a side event at a local bar. This event showed off an urban farming technique called a "living wall."

While an open bar, delicious foods and fantastic fresh garnishes were all distracting, the conversations were even more amazing. In the end, I was lucky enough to make some fantastic contacts and even had the privilege of riding to my hotel on the back of a motorcycle, driven by a hardcore urban farmer and all around awesome person Paige Hill of Urban Patchwork.

Monday, October 7, 2013

South By Southwest Eco - Part 2

Today was a fantastic opener for my second year at SXSW Eco. After a brief press breakfast with some introductions and TWO different selections of pork-based breakfast sandwiches (of which I chose the fruit) the day began in the bustling Austin Convention center.

This was a new venue and a new field. Obviously bigger than the previous year, this growing festival was alive with energy and excitement. A bustling crowd, or "a sprawling metropolis" as model/eco activist Summer Rayne Oaks Tweeted, had already begun to surround the introductory event. 

After a modest and pre-recorded "hello" from Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary UNFCCC, came one of the first keynote speakers, Ron Finley


This guy blew my mind. I hate to admit it, but when he asked, "how many of you don't know who I am?" I sheepishly raised my hand. His story is amazing; starting an urban garden movement out of getting in trouble for planting one. The very real manner in which he spoke, the passion in his tired voice and how he tied our lost connection to food to our failing school systems to our food deserts. All of it resonated. 

When it ended I was slightly disappointed that I didn't have a chance to chat with him but off I ran to catch the Ocean Conservation through Social Innovation panel which hosted my good friend and Ocean mentor Charlotte Vick and Anna Clark, who apparently worked on the shark fin ban in the Texas legislature at the same time I worked on it remotely. The highlight of this chat was to see first hand footage of Infinite Scuba, a video game that teaches you how to dive, how to deal with "narc"ing and even explore sunken treasures. At my first chance I am going to play the heck out of that game.

Making Carbon Visible in Cities was another mind-blowing panel. Not only did it play to my sustainable cities and Gov 2.0 loves but it tickled my data nerd-dom. I was introduced to a depository of emission data and a company whose sole purpose is to turn that data into digestible, powerful and engaging visualizations


Later on I was also able to catch IBM's efforts in crisis mapping through big data with David Barnes, who is a very enthusiastic speaker, and caught a fairly interesting panel on cities' mitigation and abatement strategies.  The end lesson being we need more data and more accurate data. Like always, there were far too many panels to check out and could only get a few highlights through Twitter

One of the best parts of the evening was being able to go to this first day after party meet up drinking margaritas in the hot Texas air and talking shop with tons of interesting people from interesting backgrounds including chatting a reporter from the Guardian, a blogger from Forecast the Facts and a communications professional from the National Parks Conservation Association about why Google is playing for VERY conservative Senators

Tomorrow I have my hangout to look forward to and I apparently picked 4 different panels to go to at the same time so, again, decisions.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

South By South West Eco 2013 - Part 1

You may recall that last year I was lucky enough to attend SXSW Eco and fall in love with the convention. From the interesting panels to the throngs of data and climate wonks that filled the convention with a bustling hum of excitement. The discussions and interactions that filled the three day conference were invigorating and incredible.

This year the 3000+ attendees are swarming Austin, Texas for hack-athons, thought experiments, and intense discussions all surrounding solving serious problems we are facing. These problems center in the domains of climate change, energy, and running smart cities.

Big data is king here and so is open discussion. The attendees are diverse, from different stakeholder groups. It is not just environmentalists who are going to be in attendance or city employees or policy wonks. There is also going to be large contingents representing industries such as energy, automotive and waste management.

This year, like last, I am representing an ocean contingent which is much more active and in-depth than the previous year. Unlike in 2012 where there where arguably few events focusing on ocean issues and topics, this year there are bundles covering everything from plastic in the gyres to “Ocean Conservation through Social Innovation.”

Another change from last year is that I am officially a member of the press this year. Able to conduct interviews without feeling awkward or pushy. As a result of this new found authority, the Symposium will also be holding a Google Hangout from the event on the 8th. Tomorrow morning, a special breakfast for press.

Stay tuned for coverage and analysis of this younger baby SXSW just breaking its third year. Who knows, might even run into Shepard Fairey. You can also check out the landing page we made for the festival. 


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Climate Enemy watch list - Koch, Forbes, and the Heartland Institute

War has been declared. A war against science for profit. This war has been going on for a while but the most recent battle-cry has sounded. This fight, depending on who wins, has the potential to destroy our planet and leave it useless for future generations and the main cause is greed. Those so-called scientists who are in the minority 2-3% are selling out their scientific soul for profit and notoriety.


Earlier this month, Greenpeace released an epic 60 page report detailing this war on science since the 90s. This report is well written and dives into the various players, “scientists” and those who are being attacked. This is a poignant and timely report since it coincides with the latest IPCC’s pending report on the climate and, in turn, the opposition’’s most recent coordinated attack.




As a little bit of background, the IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is an international intergovernmental scientific group consisting of thousands of volunteers to contribute scientific findings, reviews and summary reports for international policy makers on the climate. Think of it as an international body of scientists trying to save the planet by informing world leaders about the climate and how it is changing. The panel’s main purpose is to learn and inform about climate change, whether it is man-made and how to mitigate and adapt to it.


The work of the IPCC is so important that the last report it filed in 2007 “led to the IPCC being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with Al Gore.” You can see an amazing 90 second synopsis from BBC here.


This body, and the resulting Kyoto Protocol, are threats to certain industries that contribute to anthropogenic (man-made or influenced) climate change. Think Oil, Gas, Energy, massive polluters and the like. Since the 1990’s leaders and think-tanks in these industries have been waging an all out war that perpetuates today against our hope for the future. As stated in the Greenpeace report;


"The individuals, organizations and corporate interests who comprise the ‘climate denial machine’ have caused harm and have slowed our response time. As a result, we will all ultimately pay a much higher cost as we deal with the impacts, both economic and ecological."




So, who are these key players? In this post I am going to break it down into 3 main groups, publications, and think-tanks that are part of this cabal and are representing a larger field. These groups are; the Koch Brothers, Forbes Magazine and the Heartland Institute. Three specific and linked cogs of many in a giant machine.


The Koch Brothers

Anyone who has been paying attention has heard about the Koch brothers and their practices. As a refresher the two oil barons are worth a combined $44 Billion and over the past 20+ years have plunged their oil-ridden hands into innumerable climate-denial pies. 

The piece above is from 2011 and echos the most recent attack on climate science.


If there is a think tank, foundation, college or campaign out there that is trying to squash the efforts to abate climate change or change our reliance on oil, you can bet that the Koch brothers have had at least some money in the game.


Why are the Koch Brothers investing so heavily in killing climate change science? To protect their self interest and to protect their industry. They make billions on exploiting the fossil fuels that contribute to greenhouse gasses. They want to keep the general public ignorant to the scientific facts and the logical steps needed to survive to protect their own business future. The Koch brothers are thinking of short term gains at the cost of our 100 year survivability.


News about their ties to various groups and funds rises almost daily. Most recently a story broke about Freedom Partners, a conservative group that has around $250 million in its coffers to shape the national policy discourse. There have also been issues with the Tea Party and various universities across the country. They even have had their minions trying to open the doors for logging and mining interests in public lands through a northern California oyster farm dispute.





It is not just think tanks and third party groups that are wrapped around these billionaires fingers, it is also politicians. We can remember the ties to the Mitt Romney campaign and their big push to control both republican and libertarian institutions in the past. Their effective reach is mind boggling.


Utilizing this far reaching political net to fuel their interests, the Koch brothers have been pushing politicians directly to effect action against climate change science and mitigation. Since 2008 they have been, in secret, pushing the politicians in their pockets to sign an “anti-climate tax pledge” starting a year after the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency could regulate greenhouse gasses as a form of pollution. It isn’t that hard to find a direct link from this pledge and failed climate legislation in our corporate subsidized congress.


The real factor here to take into account are the paid, in pocket “experts” and “scientists” that are directly and indirectly funded by the Koch brothers and their interests.



FORBES

The self described “Capitalist Tool,” Forbes magazine is a publication geared towards America’s business leaders. It's purpose is to comment on news, politics and innovations to better educate on the financial and business impacts of these elements.

Industry, the various stock markets and business in general does not like uncertainty. When there is uncertainty markets tend to fluctuate and the general consensus is that "the status quo is good." It would make sense for those in certain markets, such as the Koch brothers in the oil industry to try and push the "everything is fine" and "business as usual" story to keep their industry making money. 

For a publication like Forbes, it would make sense to try and accurately depict the industry and its future. When it comes to climate change a publication whose role it was to inform the business elite one would expect it to act in logical manner. Such a publication would trust in the prevailing science, try to inform its readers of practices that would limit the speculated impacts and suggest investment in industry that would supply the demands of abatement and adaptation. Forbes is not acting logically in this situation and there is a simple reason.


Forbes, has through out its history published articles fighting against climate science. This last year they have upped their game. So far they have tried to call into question the fact that there is a scientific consensus that it is in fact happening and tried the "name calling" game using terms like "alarmist" and "hysteria" or using misleading headlines and "facts."


Most recently they published a tiny article calling into question the concern of sea level rise. To try and shut down the facts, this piece uses an "expert" in the field to one-by-one shut down facts about our ocean, our climate. This "expert" is indeed a scientist, specifically in the field of atmospheric physicist and is known for his work in space research, atmospheric pollution, rocket and satellite technology.




Fred Singer, over his professional life, has spoken out extensively on climate issues trying to prove that the climate is not changing, but if it is, it is not caused by humans. If you read the Greenpeace report that I mentioned earlier Singer should be familiar to you. He was one of the many "experts" who have been in the anti-climate change camp highlighted in the piece. He is the founder of the Science & Environmental Policy Project and is an emeritus professor of environmental science at University of Virginia and was a professor at George Mason University for a while. Funny thing about University of Virginia and George Mason University is that both have been linked to the Koch Brothers.  


As you can see, this expert in the field that Forbes pulls to speak on the climate and the IPCC has some questionable connections. In fact, according to leaked documents, Singer has been receiving $5,000 a month from the Heartland Institute (to be talked about later). You can see for yourself just a few of the "facts" Singer has tried to assert since 2008 debunked here.


Singer represents just one of a few “opposition scientists, those that live in the 2-3% of scientists out there that are not in the consensus that climate change is happening. There is actually a response group to the IPCC, the so called Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change made of climate change denial scientists like Singer, with close ties to the Heartland Institute.


So why would a seemingly reputable publication like Forbes brandish junk scientists and “experts” who are paid to say what the Koch brothers want? Simply put it is because the President and Chief Executive Officer of Forbes Inc. Steve Forbes is on the Board of trustees of the Heritage Foundation.




The Heritage Foundation, a “research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense,” received a little over $4.5 million from the Koch brothers through various funds from 1997 to 2011 alone.  

The publication repeatedly lauds the brothers and has even written some very interesting "puff pieces" about them.




THE HEARTLAND INSTITUTE

Heartland Institute is another think tank whose mission, like the Heritage Foundation or the Cato Intitute, is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. During the next few months, and any subsequent time that the IPCC will provide the public with climate findings, various “experts” will come out of the woodwork to give comment or comment on posts from the “climate change skeptic” camp.


It should come as no surprise that there are huge ties between the Koch brothers and the Heartland Institute but there are also connections between this institution and other polluters, like Exxon and the XL Group (XL Pipeline).


This institution is part of this giant network of think tanks who are actively trying to convince the citizens of the United States, and even the world, that climate change isn’t happening, is not related to humans and, is nothing to worry about. They actively plan to fund vocal climate skeptics and coordinate with other groups who work on the same issues and, according to the Christian Science Monitor;


The documents also reveal a communications strategy aimed at "keep[ing] opposing voices out" of publications such as Forbes Magazine, where the audience is "reliably anti-climate."


The Heartland Institute, and their compatriots, are gearing up to spread their message of denying the base science through publications like Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and their own blogs to try and give credence to their claims.


To jog your memories, the Heartland Institute is the organization that was behind such amazingly horrific campaigns as the billboards trying to link a belief in climate change.



SO WHAT NOW?


So we have a system where billionaires are trying to protect their interest by buying elected officials, creating and supporting dummy foundations and organizations who fund their own “experts” to comment in publications they own. This is the echo-chamber that is mentioned in the video at the beginning.


This should come as no surprise. This cabal has been trying to do this for decades, before the Kyoto Protocols were even enacted. It even extends worldwide. Back in 2009 a British organization was under fire for their donations and for trying to push the story that the climate change was a “computer model error” a story that deniers still try to circulate.


The most recent portion of the IPCC's report is coming out soon and it is important to pay attention to their findings. While it is also important to listening to difffereng opinions and alternative views, remember to do your homework. The purpose of this piece is to put certain things in perspective before the larger organizations start picking up on the tripe that the Koch brothers and their allies fling against the IPCC and their findings. Try to consider the source.

Also don't forget to educate yourself. You can start with this discussion session I hosted on the Online Ocean Symposium last month.