Dear Heartland Institute: NWF Won’t Back Down in Defending Environmental Education

A FedEx Overnight package from Chicago landed on my desk today. It did not contain late Valentine’s Day treats.

Inside, there was a cease-and-desist letter from the Heartland Institute focusing on a recent post I did for Wildlife Promise.

The letter “respectfully demand(ed)” that I remove links and references to documents obtained by ThinkProgress and DeSmogBlog that circulated widely last week and appeared to lay bare the inner workings of a think tank that has long sought to undermine climate science (just how does one respond to a ‘respectful demand,’ anyway? Magnanimous acquiescence?).

Among the documents I referenced: a memo indicating that Heartland was paying to develop a curriculum for K-12 schools intended to paint global warming as “a major scientific controversy” rather than the systematically-reached conclusion of decades of peer review and careful research.  This and other details were reported on by the New York Times, the Washington Post, many other major outlets and countless blogs, but NWF has reached out to several print journalists who say they have not received letters. What made us so special? (Wait; was this a Valentine of sorts?)

In any case, we didn’t want mainstream press to feel left out, so we sent it to them, too, and we posted it on our Media Center.

Since the original leak, Heartland has issued a statement claiming the strategy memo is a fake, but the budget documents—including the 2012 fundraising plan I quoted—have not been disputed, and therefore neither has the fact that part of their strategy is to push marginal ideas including a nonexistent “major controversy” about climate science.

In fact, the Associated Press reported that David Wojick, the proposed curriculum designer named in the documents, confirmed “the document was accurate about his project to put curriculum materials in schools that promote climate skepticism.”

The Heartland Institute and its funders are not waging the war on environmental literacy by themselves. We never said they were. But if, as they claim, the strategy memo “does not express Heartland’s goals, plans, or tactics,” why don’t they tell us what they are all about, and give us their word that secret climate agitprop directed at kids is not part of their M.O.? (you know, we’d even accept it in the form of a FedEx package).

Dear Heartland: we love your earth-friendly logo, but we have a difference of opinion. NWF won’t stop relaying information in the public domain, and we won’t back down in the broader fight on behalf of environmental education and true ‘sound science.’ Regardless of the veracity of any one document, we need to examine the tactics consistently used by the extreme right to keep solid science out of America’s K-12 classrooms. And right now, you’re the face of that problem.