The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
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.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.