The Silver Lining

The Heartland Institute’s recent stunt of mailing unsolicited packets of propaganda to thousands of teachers across the nation continues to win further bad publicity for the climate-change-denying think tank. (Self-inflicted damage is something of a Heartland specialty: remember its 2013 billboard comparing “believers” in global warming to the Unabomber? As the Los Angeles Times (May 9, 2012) noted, it cost Heartland the support not only of allies who reject the scientific consensus on climate change but also of a number of wealthy corporate sponsors.) But Schadenfreude isn’t the only consequence. The stunt also seems to have invigorated a lot of educators, scientists, parents, environmentalists, and even legislators to speak up and speak out on the need to support climate education.

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    Der Nasenbohrer. Carsten Eggers. Via Wikimedia Commons

    The Heartland Institute is trying to fool teachers. NCSE is fighting back. You can help us.

     

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    Greenland melting? Public officials lying? Endangered species dying? Who you gonna call to document—and raise hell—about these and other environmental outrages?

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    I’d like to invite you to take a moment to peruse the NCSE staff directory. One thing you’ll notice (after you note what an interesting bunch we are) is that there aren’t very many of us.

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    A Global Warming Primer coverI’d like to invite you to take a moment to peruse the NCSE staff directory. One thing you’ll notice (after you note what an interesting bunch we are) is that there aren’t very many of us.

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    The school year is officially underway! And the members of NCSE’s teacher network, NCSEteach, have just received their October newsletter, packed with resources, and event announcements related to teaching evolution and climate change. Why these topics? National teacher surveys show that many science teachers are reluctant to teach evolution and climate change because these topics are perceived as socially divisive. We want to make sure that teachers get the support they need to teach these topics with confidence.

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    When I first started at NCSE four years ago, our climate change program was fresh and new, only recently launched by my colleague Mark McCaffrey. The program was conceived on the basis of the thirty years of experience NCSE had working in the socially contentious area of evolution.

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    Back when the FDA was testing ads to discourage kids from smoking, they tried arguments based on science: smoking will give you cancer; smoking will give you emphysema; smoking will hurt your unborn child. They tried appealing to kids’ social anxieties: smoking will make your teeth yellow; smoking will give you bad breath. None of these arguments worked very well. What worked was telling kids that the tobacco companies were lying to them, tricking them into smoking so that they could make money off them for the rest of their lives. The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy, by climate scientist Michael Mann and cartoonist Tom Toles, serves the same purpose. It makes it quite clear that the “debate” about climate change has nothing to do with science and everything to do with wishful thinking, exploited by vested economic and political interests. Only when that false debate is put behind us will a productive discussion about what to do about climate change finally begin, returning scientific evidence to its rightful place as a powerful tool, not a punching bag.

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    Sure, the Olympics have the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But do they have the thrill of discovery (Neanderthal fashion, dinosaur armageddon)? And how about the agony of denial (Ark Encounter X 3, and even some flat-earthers)? No, no they don't. That's OK. As a reader of NCSE's blog, you get both.

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