If by any remote chance you have not heard of them, Koch Industries is a major funder of many right wing agendas including climate change Denial (The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science) and a core driver of the Tea Party movement.
Of course it is unlikely that you haven’t heard of them, which begs the question of what the point of this post is? I want to suggest that it is not enough to simply know about them, what are we going to do about it?
Head Heart Hands is a little mnemonic that educators use to remind us of the balance of knowing, feeling and doing. Within the climate change science community there is a tremendous amount of ‘knowing’. I suspect there is just as much, albeit largely unacknowledged ‘feeling’, but ‘doing’ seems to be limited in scope (although not quantity).
As science oriented people our ‘doing’ rather tends to be oriented towards generating more ‘knowing.’ All well and good as far as it goes, but when and where does the knowing lead to actually doing something about the problem?
My sense is that there are two assumptions in play. One would be related to the tendency of the science community to see it’s primary role as knowledge generators/propagators as its’ only role. Sometimes this is rationalization, sometimes it is pragmatic, sometimes it’s simply a failure of imagination.
I will acknowledge the argument that academics must remain passive in order to maintain their social role as neutral arbiter of truth. Right. That’s worked real well for us. Whatever else may be happening, the honesty and integrity of the scientific community has not been called into question.
So how about we abandon the pretense? Science must remain neutral, but scientists and the scientifically literate are human beings and citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities which those imply.
Secondly, I think there is an assumption that if we just put the knowledge out there someone else will do something with it. In evolutionary/ecological terms we use an r strategy, pumping out lots of information and hoping that some of it “survives to reproduce” (as it were). Well sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t, so maybe we could put a little extra energy into articulating what it is we are hoping will be done and how.
That being said, I am not suggesting that we abandon or significantly alter our role within the broader community. The knowledge generation/propagation role is vital and the folks doing it make the greatest contribution by doing what they do well.
What I am saying is that we need to acknowledge the feeling and doing components as also vital and tweak what we do to incorporate them. Too often climate science sites report on this or that industry, politician or media outlet as part of the climate denial machine, and that’s it. The fact(s) is presented and we move on, which clearly hasn’t worked.
I would like to use the Koch Industries story as an example of the sort of tweaking we can be doing that would help.
Head: What is going on?
It starts with knowledge, and to be effective we have to have the facts. In that respect the climate science community has been and continues to be largely great.
We do not necessarily always communicate the knowledge effectively, but that is a discussion that is ongoing within the community so I will not dwell on it now.
Koch Industries, the facts (a sampling):
The Center for American Progress Action Fund recently published a 31 page report on Koch Industries (press release) . Greenpeace just recently released their Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial 2011 Update.
Well worth watching Rachel Maddow takes on denial-funding Koch Industries (the embed didn’t work) which includes a short interview with James Hoggan of DeSmogBlog.
- Koch Watch
- The Koch brothers: all the influence money can buy
- The tentacles of the Kochtopus: What you need to know about the financiers of the Radical Right
- Koch Industries’ Lobbying Curtain Lifted By Center For Public Integrity
- Koch Industries’ “Web of Influence”
- You Thought the Koch Brothers Were Bad? Turns Out They’re Even Worse Than You Thought
- What’s the worst thing the Koch brothers have done?
- Koch Industries Deserves to Win the Snake Oil Award
- Koch-funded group mounts cut-and-paste attack on regional climate initiatives
- Koch Industries: The 100-Million ton Carbon Gorilla
- The Contango Game: How Koch Industries Manipulates The Oil Market For Profit
- Thought Control: Right-Wing Koch Brothers Caught Telling Thousands of Employees How To Vote
- FDR Speaks Out Against the Koch Brothers in 1936
- The Machinery of Climate Anti-Science
- Plutotocracy Rising, be very, very pi$$ed off
- (see also links & information in comments by Sailrick here and here)
Heart: Why does it matter?
Within the context of our work I guess a good articulation of the heart perspective would be to answer the question “why does it matter?” If you felt the answer is self-evident in 99% of the cases I want to suggest that you are wrong.
Of course most of the time it relates to some manner in which we are even more screwed by climate change than we had thought, whether because things are proceeding much faster and/or more forcefully than we anticipated and/or “the system” is so deeply flawed that a near scientific certainty is being declared non-existent by a legislative assembly.
Even in many nations not crippled by dysfunctional legislatures the levels and kinds of actions being contemplated do not come close to addressing the problem. As for the “solutions” actually being implemented, they are so inadequate as to not warrant mention except as a start.
The “why it matters” is not simply the horrific consequences of climate change, but also what it revels about how profoundly dysfunctional our civic processes are. The lives of hundreds of millions are being sacrificed to enrich a handful of privileged people and our system is letting it happen; aiding it even.
That broken system is not going to fix the problem it created, and therein is another aspect that we need to at least acknowledge when we describe the malfunctioning of the system. It is not for me to say how, but we as a community need to acknowledge that as part of the issue, and further note that we need fundamental changes even we do not know quite what those should be.
The system is not working, and more of the same will not fix it.
Hands: what should be done?
We regularly note that media corporation X or Y is nothing more than a PR firm for climate Denial, where are the links to organizations and groups working to change that corporation?
Or that politician X is incompetent and quite possibly corrupt, so why not out right say that he or she needs to be removed, with links to relevant goups?
Or acknowledge the failure of the system as a whole and point people to organizations working to change it.
It’s not for me to say what others should recommend, but I will say that we each need to think through what we believe needs to be done and start talking about it. Not just about climate change itself, but the failure of our civic institutions to respond rationally.
As for Koch Industries, there are many articles about Koch in the climate science community, but hardly any links to organizations working to combat Koch’s influence, nor to potential allies working on Koch’s influence on health care, labour, etc. How about every post about Koch makes an explicit call to:
- World of Koch! Boycotting these products to send a message!
- Boycott Koch Industries
- Want to Boycott the Koch Brothers’ Products? Here’s Where to Start
- Primer: Toward A Koch Industries Boycott
- First Koch Boycott
- Boycott Koch Industries – Avoid These Brands
- Are You Funding Koch Climate Denial?.. No? You might want to look at your toilet paper
- and many more
Not to say this should dominate anyone’s work, but it needs to be part of it, it needs to be mentioned and discussed. Be it boycotts or other, we need to make “doing” an integral part of how we think and talk about climate change, and we need to talk about what we personally are doing.
As blog readers we can add suggestions for action to comment threads, or at least pose the question “So what do we do about it?” As internet users we can use our social media to share sites that talk about taking action. Knowing is necessary, but not enough. Feeling is necessary, but not enough.
If we, the most knowledgeable and presumably the most motivated aren’t taking action, how can we expect anyone else to? and if we don’t tell them what we are doing, what example do we give?
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
It is worth knowing and abiding by whether you comment on this blog or not.
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