Secret Tape Exposes Fracking Industry Playing Dirty
Right-wing public relations consultant/astroturf king Richard Berman probably wasn't very happy when he saw yesterday's New York Times. Like the now infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Berman's success depends in large part on anonymity. He is known for his use of what's called "astroturf" groups—organizations that appear to be community or citizen advocacy groups with names like "Center for Consumer Freedom" but are really shell groups for untraceable corporate donations—to attack labor unions, environmental laws, attempts to regulate the food industry and anti-smoking measures. Lately, he's been a conduit for fossil fuel interests with his Big Green Radicals campaign, based on the mockery and personal destruction of those who advocate for the environment.
Photo credit: Oil Change International
But one industry executive had enough. The anonymous executive leaked a tape to the New York Times of a June event in Colorado Springs at which Berman and Jack Hubbard, a vice president at Berman & Company, were soliciting money from oil and gas executives for the Big Green Radicals effort, telling them that they needed to exploit fear, greed and anger, and to stoke resentment against environmentally-minded celebrities. The executive told the New York Times the presentation left a bad taste in his mouth.
Last spring, that campaign placed billboards in a pair of states where the explosive growth of fracking has raised community opposition and demands for more regulation or banning the process altogether—Pennsylvania and Colorado. They mocked celebrities who had records of environmental advocacy such as Lady Gaga, Yoko Ono and Robert Redford. "Demands green living. Flies on private jets," said the Redford Billboard." "Would you take energy advice from a woman who wears a meat dress?" said the Lady Gaga billboard. The head-scratching billboard featuring Yoko Ono said, "Would you take energy advice from a woman who broke up the Beatles?"
At the secretly taped presentation, Berman and Hubbard laid out their strategy of playing dirty, saying "You can win ugly or lose pretty."
Winning ugly is what he specializes in. The BigGreenRadicals website attacks big environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch and the Natural Resources Defense Council, saying these organizations "have morphed into multi-million dollar lobbying machines that use questionable tactics to scare the American public and policymakers into supporting unnecessary and unreasonable policies."
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
Even Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. chimed in on this one:
Rick Berman: The Oil Reich's Minister of Propaganda & public information #HOWDOTHESEPEOPLELIVEWITHTHEMSELVES? http://t.co/0iixpjotOM
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) October 31, 2014
And Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement:
"You know climate deniers and big polluters are desperate when they turn to the tired old tactics of the tobacco industry to try and save themselves. Whether it's cigarettes or dirty fuels, toxic products are on their way out, and their proponents are left scraping the bottom of the barrel. Its not going to work—dirty tricks won’t save dirty fuels."
Berman told the executives at the June meeting that he had researched the personal histories of board members of these groups, looking for information that could be used to embarrass and discredit them. He emphasized to them how they could operate anonymously through his company, shoveling six-figure donations to his front groups without their involvement being revealed.
“People always ask me one question all the time: ‘How do I know that I won’t be found out as a supporter of what you’re doing?’" Berman said. “We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us.”
They're starting to learn, and that probably won't work to Berman's benefit.
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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