Laurie David, a producer of Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, has written a great article buried deep on the Washington Post website about the influence of Big Oil in American schools.

Writes David: “At hundreds of screenings this year of An Inconvenient Truth, the first thing many viewers said after the lights came up was that every student in every school in the United States needed to see this movie”.

So the film’s producers offered 50,000 DVDs free to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. “It seemed like a no-brainer”, writes David, “The teachers had a different idea: Thanks but no thanks, they said”.

In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other “special interests” might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn’t want to offer “political” endorsement of the film; and they saw “little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members” in accepting the free DVDs.

There was one more curious argument in the e-mail says David: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.” One of those supporters is Exxon that has given $42 million to key organizations that influence the way children learn in the past year.

David is outraged: “It’s bad enough when a company tries to sell junk science to a bunch of grown-ups. But, like a tobacco company using cartoons to peddle cigarettes, Exxon Mobil is going after our kids, too. And it has been doing so for longer than you may think.

NSTA says it has received $6 million from the company since 1996, mostly for the association’s “Building a Presence for Science” program, an electronic networking initiative intended to “bring standards-based teaching and learning” into schools, according to the NSTA Web site. Exxon Mobil has a representative on the group’s corporate advisory board. And in 2003, NSTA gave the company an award for its commitment to science education”.

“So much for special interests and implicit endorsements”, writes David. So much indeed.


  • I don’t think Al Gore is a very creditable “expert” on the subject of global warming. It would be more appropiate to identify him as an advocate of a position which is based on junk science. I would not like my children or grandchildren exposed to his position without hearing from an advocate from the opposite position.

    As for ExxonMobil corrupting the classroom, would you be happier to ban corporate support from public education? Before you do, you might want look into just what is done and access its value to students.

  • Al Gore is not an expert, nor does he claim to be. But he is a witness. A witness looks to see what is happening in the world, and tries to make sense of it. His film is the result of this effort. Millions of other people are trying to do the same as Al, and are reaching the same conclusion. They prefer to judge the truth of the matter by weighing up the evidence on both sides, and overwhelmingly, and increasingly urgently, the evidence is on the side of truth of the problem of global warming, and increasingly on the real problems that this will land us and our children in if we don’t deal with this now. If others refuse to understand the nature of this evidence, then they will be left behind, if a large company like Exxon Mobile refuse to understand this evidence, they too will be left behind while their competitors reap the rewards of looking to the future. Like the dinosuars of old, like car makers such as Ford and GM, if they can’t and won’t adapt, they will fall by the wayside, and will only be known about in history books and the fossil record. You have been warned!

  • The latest research shows that we are changing the chemistry of the air and ocean so much that we risk a mass extinction of 95% of the land and sea creatures on the planet, including ourselves (see the october scientific American and books at the library on the Permian Extinction).

    Global warming will raise sea levels 300 feet, forcing 3 billion people to move. The rate of melting of the greenland ice cap has been doubling every year for several years. Google exponential math to understand why that is terrifying.

    But since people believe whatever they hell they want to believe, and don’t read books or science journals, or understand why science is such a powerful philosophy towards understanding reality, even though they drive cars, own computers, and live past 32 (women) and 40 (men) due to scientific understanding of disease, there’s really no hope of changing people’s minds.

  • As a engineer who has spent his career in pursuit of science, I can happily tell you the movie is generally offsensive to scientific principles.

    There isn’t enough ice in the world to raise the sea level 300 feet across the entire globe (especially after factoring the lower density for ice than sea water), for example.

    I am confident that enough NSTA staff are sufficiently fluent in science to personally reject many of the movie’s claims; notwithstanding that, no organization can afford to have special interest groups attempting to force their agenda, no matter how passionate their feelings on the matter.

    XOM is certainly not handing any organization a teaching curriculum, nor has it been my experience that teachers are inclined to give in to external corporate influences – quite the opposite in fact.

    We should be thankful XOM is willing to supplement educational funds. Al Gore is more than welcome to lead an organization of like-minded people to do the same, provided he does not try to force a curriculum.

  • I have two engineers in my family who work for “XOM” and I’m sure they would share the bias of Mr. Moorman. And I don’t remember the movie aserting that oceans would rise anything like 300 feet; it was more a matter of inches, I recall.
    What I do remember is an emphasis on the potential collapse of the ocean’s currents’ thermo “conveyor belt” and the dire consequences of another Ice Age from continued melting of the Ice Caps.
    I feel compelled now to see the movie again and to finally sell my stock in “XOM” because they are part of the problem and not even flirting with a solution. By the way, “XOM” is the stock market symbol for Exxon which also suggests another bias on Mr. Moorman’s part. I would not be surprised if he were an employee of that company.
    Exxon is getting what it pays money for (besides tax and PR advantages) by the NSTA’s ‘prior restraint’ of letting classroom teachers even receive the offering of free material they could present just about anyway they chose (or not).
    I sure wish we’d had more films in my school’s science courses; especially any as well presented as is Mr. Gore’s.

  • As reported earlier this year by the Guardian
    “The website, using data found in the company’s official documents, lists 124 organisations that have taken money from the company or work closely with those that have. These organisations take a consistent line on climate change: that the science is contradictory, the scientists are split, environmentalists are charlatans, liars or lunatics, and if governments took action to prevent global warming, they would be endangering the global economy for no good reason. The findings these organisations dislike are labelled “junk science”. The findings they welcome are labelled “sound science”.”

    Any of these words sound familiar from the comments above?

  • Is it not true that even evangelicals in the USA recognize the undeniable fact that global warming is like a meteorite coming towards Earth, if we pretend it isn’t there – its impact will be same.

    Recognize the truth and it will set us free.

    Act now and our children can live on our Earth without fear.

    Act later and even if 10% of scientists have got the stats right, as in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and hundreds of scientific independent testimonies – our children will pay the price.

    Let’s not just pray together, let’s take action! I am off-setting my personal CO2, I suggest companies, churches, friends and family do the same.

    Just ‘Google’ – ‘offset my CO2’

    John Ford

  • I am not a scientist but think that the main lesson of the movie is that it is time to translate the discussion for non scientists, make the climate change question accessible and wake up the interest of the worldwide population. That is the only way we can make changes happen for good. Opening up the discussion to scientific-related issues for all people is already a great achievement, and I respect Al Gore for that, despite the (inevitable?) political connotations of the movie.
    In response to the first comment posted in this page: kids are exposed to many other positions. So, why are teachers so afraid of giving children and youth the opportunity to open their eyes to the big issues of their generation? to get them interested in the impacts of science at the global level and get involved in the discussion-and solutions? Obviusly there must be some other reasons than just science teaching.

  • To at least appreciate that another view might have validity I would suggest the following two references:
    1. Senate floor speech of September 25,2006 by
    Senator James Imhof, Chairman Senate Enviornment
    and Public Works Committee
    2. The book TRASHING THE PLANET by Dixie Lee Ray

    The speech by Sen. Imhof are the observations by a “witness”. His memory is a tad longer than some. Dixie Lee Ray was an early critic of some of the junk science used to ‘prove’ global warming.

    The Atlantic Conveyor Belt hypothesis needs further work but is troubling. It would be nice if everyone could cool down a bit. Right now it sounds too much like “chicken little”; really guys and girls the sky is not falling and the oceans are not going to rise 300 feet.

  • In response to the last post, it is interesting to note a little background information on Senator Inhofe. Some quotes from wiki:

    “Inhofe is one of the most politically conservative members of either house of Congress; among other political stances, he strongly opposes abortion and gay rights.”

    “In 2006, Inhofe was one of only nine senators to vote against Senator John McCain’s amendment to the 2006 appropriations bill banning torture on individuals in U.S. Government custody.”

    “In a 2006 interview with the Tulsa World newspaper, Inhofe compared environmentalists to Nazis. He said, “It kind of reminds… I could use the Third Reich, the Big Lie… You say something over and over and over and over again, and people will believe it, and that’s their [the environmentalists’] strategy…”

    That’s a nice view for a US senator to have. So anyone that has an opposing view, oh you know what, that reminds me… Nazi Germany. Right.

    And finally…

    “Only Texas senator John Cornyn received more campaign donations from the oil and gas industry in the 2004 election cycle. The contributions Inhofe has received from the energy and natural resource sector since taking office have exceeded one million dollars.”

    Here is 2004:

    The fact that people with conflicting views can come together and rationally debate a course of action is a cornerstone of democracy. What bothers me is ignorance. The vast majority of leading scientists in the field agree that global warming is increasingly a concern. It is not happening tomorrow but scientific data suggests that things are changing at an alarming rate. It is a problem that should be addressed.

    If we have anything to do with global warming, we owe it to ourselves and our environment to investigate a change of course. The only ones to benefit by not acknowledging a problem are the energy companies.

    The sky is not falling but the ozone IS being depleted.

  • Whether you dislike Imhof or not really is not material. I’m sure his staff probably put his speech together for him or at the very least researched the material for him. The last reponse does not address the speech by Imhof but attacks him and oil companies. You suggest Imhof is a terrible person, he may very well be,I don’t know him and I don’t care to judge him. But your comments do not address his speech or any of the material it contains.

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