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An Inconvenient Truth

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According to a recent Washington Post editorial, producers of Al Gore's documentary on global warming "An Inconvenient Truth" wanted to give 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association for distribution to schools as an educational tool, but their offer was turned down.

In her editorial, Laurie David, one of the film's producers, says this decision was based largely on the NSTA's connection with the ExxonMobil Corp., which has given funds to the association. Ms. David writes that "through textbooks, classroom posters and teacher seminars, the oil industry, the coal industry and other corporate interests are exploiting shortfalls in education funding by using a small slice of their record profits to buy themselves a classroom soapbox."

In response to the editorial, NSTA Executive Director Gerald Wheeler released a statement countering Ms. David's characterization of the NSTA "as a willing corporate America partner that eagerly pushes corporate messages about the environment." The science group's policies prohibit it from endorsing any product and thus passing out a DVD, writes Mr. Wheeler.

What do you think? Did the NSTA make the right decision in choosing not to distribute "An Inconvenient Truth"?

47 Comments

>>Did the NSTA make the right decision in choosing not to distribute "An Inconvenient Truth"?

Only if they're afraid of a generation of politically and environmentally responsible citizens.

NSTA would not be violating their own policy by distributing "An Inconvenient Truth." All kinds of films are distributed for use in classrooms, some, on controversial topics. Endorsement depends on how the film is used. In fact, most scientists seem to agree with Gore's documentary. So is NSTA avoiding the issue because Gore was a politician? NSTA should stay out of politics by distributing the film! Students are very concerned about the environment--and the new generation will inherit the mess from this one.

What is the basis for saying "most scientists seem to agree with Gores's documentary?" Is there evidence that "most scientists" have even seen the movie? Is there really any concensus? Please give cites for these sorts of statements.

Bill,
The website for the movie has some citations: http://www.climatecrisis.net/thescience/.
Also, a few months ago 20/20 (as I recall) did a special called "Last Days On Earth?" on what scientists percieve as the top threats to the planet's safety. They surveyed scientists, and the number one answer was climate change.

However, it is my experience that people generally believe whatever they prefer, and dismiss whatever dislike, regardless of citations. As you identify yourself as a researcher, I would urge you to do the research. Identify scientists with relevant experience, and ask them.

HMMM! NSTA is a willing enough partner when it comes to accepting generous donations from oil/gas/coal and to the distribution of their industry-friendly curriculum packets, but NSTA takes a principled stand against the distribution of a documentary raising alarms about global warming; an issue on which virtually all scientists agree.

Congratulations on the right decision. The NSTA should not distribute fiction. This movie had little scientific basis and lots of conjecture. Let's work on getting real science into the schools and leave mythology out of it.

I agree with Bill, above, most of the statements seem subjective. And... I have a true statement to make...considering Al Gore's anti-American statements he has made all across the globe, putting down our country and president during a time of war, I really don't think any of his publications should be promoted to our children without a disclaimer. He has been pretty much an embarrassment to our country, in my opinion, considering he held the office of VP once..he does not display much presidential behavior.

How sad that the NSTA would take upon itself the role of censor of what our young people may view. Even those who disagree with the premise of the film must admit that "An Incovenient Truth" presents a thesis. I was taught that in scholarly circles, those who disagreed with a thesis would present an antithesis, based on logic, empirical data and an honest desire to discern the truth. Scholars in FREE societies do not contribute to the squelching of debate. I invite the NSTA to give us a well reasoned, empirically substantiated sugguestion other than global warming to the fact that it was 70 degrees on December 1, 2006 in New York City.
When the press caves into pressure to control what information is disseminated to the perople it is terribly dangerous. When the scholars sell out, it is hard to keep hope. They have stupidly joined Pilate in his "What is the truth?". To their disgrace, along with him, they don't care.

How sad that the NSTA would take upon itself the role of censor of what our young people may view. Even those who disagree with the premise of the film must admit that "An Incovenient Truth" presents a thesis. I was taught that in scholarly circles, those who disagreed with a thesis would present an antithesis, based on logic, empirical data and an honest desire to discern the truth. Scholars in FREE societies do not contribute to the squelching of debate. I invite the NSTA to give us a well-reasoned, empirically substantiated reason, other than global warming, for the fact that it was 70 degrees on December 1, 2006 in New York City.
When the press caves into pressure to control what information is disseminated to the people it is terribly dangerous. When the scholars sell out, it is hard to keep hope. They have stupidly joined Pilate in his "What is the truth?". To their disgrace, along with him, they don't care.

I believe the NSTA was wrong in not distributing the video. Many teachers are in need of as many resources as possible due to lack of appropriate funding. After reading lots of literature on both sides of the global warming debate, I am still personally unsure of what to believe, but it is up to the teacher to provide all relevant sides of any issue. Regardless of how big a threat global warming may be, it is also important to teach students to be stewards of the environment and to stimulate thinking about the relationship between humans and the environment. Hopefully the producers of the video wil find another means of distributing it to science teachers.

What's the question? You mean NSTA could have distributed 50,000 copies of this challenging documentary about global warming to science students in needy inner-city schools, for free. And they turned it down because of fear of getting EXXON angry? Shame! Shame!

Do we not want students to see the "big picture"? Shame on NSTA for declining the offer. Let the students decide if the commentary or information is subjective. Or a teacher can use the film as an example of subjective or objective information. Do we not want our students to be critical thinkers? I would like to have a DVD to have my students view it. Thank you.

You're not a "censor" if you refuse to implicity or explictly endorse a product. Furthermore, lists of science teachers are readily available for rental from a variety of reputable list rental firms. So the documentary's producers could readily send free copies of the DVD to scienced teachers, if they wished to do so. But if the NSTA caves on this one, expect them to look forward to a parade of other groups pressuring them to distribute THEIR materials. I'm sure this consideration is the real reason the NSTA decided not to promote these DVDs (which is what they are being bullied to do).

What they are really after is the blessing of the NSTA, not access to science teachers. That is a huge thing for the NSTA to give up, and insulting them in the press when they decline is just plain childish.

And FYI, oil corporations are huge donors to many if not most major environmental action groups. I don't see anywhere here complaining about that. Here's a link for verification, since people above were asking for research background:

http://volokh.com/posts/chain_1120142220.shtml

I am in no way associated with the above site, BTW. Just checked Google for "environmental" donors "oil companies" and this is one link that popped up.

According to Webster's:
cen·sor –noun 1. an official who examines books, plays, news reports, motion pictures, radio and television programs, letters, cablegrams, etc., for the purpose of suppressing parts deemed objectionable on moral, political, military, or other grounds.

The role played by NSTA was most definitely that of censor. They were given an opportunity to disseminate a well prepared and well thought-out thesis statement. They chose not to do so --- even though they were certainly free to add a disclaimer of alliance with that side of the debate. Nobody asked for a blessing.

Saying that an oil company's donations to environmental causes absolves it of guilt or responsibility for the environmental mess is analogous to accepting the anti-smoking campaigns sponsored by some of our largest purveyors of addictive, life-depleating and potentially lethal, legal drugs for something other than the red herrings they are. If we buy that, we are selling our environment and our health for bucks. There are words for people who make such compromises, selling themselves for money. People who agree to not speak out against an act or an issue and accept money for doing so are accepting "hush money." If the contributions to the NSTA from the major oil companies are contingent upon even an implicit acquiescence to their continued rape of this planet, they need to muster the integrity to either refuse those funds or make such bribes for silence very public in such a way that pressure would be placed on the donors to come clean.

I couldn't agree more with Roger Lakins. There is much publicly documented "synergy" between the fossil fuel energy corporations and public education/propaganda. Witness the "Coal is Wonderful" (or some such name) propaganda campaign in which young children are touting the value of coal as "the energy source of the future."

This is shilling for industry of the highest order, and we need Mr. Gore's work shown much more widely in order to counter this industry propaganda.

As a student of geology, I am not alarmed by fluctuations in global temperatures. Major global climate changes have been a part of earth history since before the dawn of man. NSTA is wise to distinguish between science and propaganda.

Alas, NSTA's response does not pass the "smell test." Perhaps the policy has a legitimate purpose, but the inconvenient truth is that in this case it appears at odds with the organization's primary mission: supporting the teaching and learning of science. As a science educator, I would have appreciated the opportunity to receive such materials.

The Association should have absolutely accepted the offer to distribute the free DVDs to schools. The important thing here is that the message regarding Global Warming and what can be done about it gets out. The children of today and other living creatures deserve a world to live in tomorrow. Shame on NSTA.

NSTA's response "smells" very much like a commonly justification for inaction: "If we do this for Al Gore's film, we'll have to do this for any other films that past and perhaps future political candidates offer us. So we won't." Methinks the rejection of the offer had nothing to do with the educational value of the film.

I used the term "smells" in the sentence above. Perhaps I should have used the term "stinks."

Perhaps the NSTA needs to solicit support from a different corporate sponsor; one that considers both proven scientific research and supports education for what it is: an ongoing quest for knowledge that will improve our lives.
I see this documentary as an amazing opportunity for discussions on the secondary level

As I read some of the above responses, I am amazed at how quickly people are willing to believe Gore's "truth" which is no truth at all. First of all-you will not get accurate data from extrapolation-and since we have only been weather tracking trends for a little over 100 years, that is the only way "scientists" can come up with their theories-and make no mistake-they are just theories.
Anyone who knows anything about science knows that the ocean lets off more greenhouse gasses than anything humans could do-and as for a 1 degree rise in temperature over a 100 year period-
that is sooooo inconsequential.
I think it is rather arrogant for us to think that humans would have such an impact on God's creation-who really are the ignorant ones???
The truth about this whole global warming campaign is not about science-it is about the redistribution of wealth-namely ours-the United Nations is looking to "spread the wealth"-is is about greed.

I am dismayed that more people haven't paid attention to what Gerry actually told the production company- he said that yes, we'll be happy to make this available to our members but we don't want to DIRECTLY distribute the DVDs to members without asking them if they WANT them. He offered to sell the mailing list, put a link on the main site, add the information about free DVDs to the newsletter, etc. but THEY refused. This tells me that they really don't want to distribute it- they want someone else to pay shipping and be able to say that "50,000 teachers use it in the classroom" which would also be bunk. I've also heard many stories about teachers who contacted the company directly and they wouldn't give the teachers copies. What does THAT tell you?
That aside, the arguments I keep hearing about whether GW is real or not also disturbs me. Shouldn't we be presenting both sides of this debate and helping students do their own research (and PLEASE don't go down that "Creationist" road- there's NO comparison)?

>> I think it is rather arrogant for us to think
>> that humans would have such an impact on God's
>> creation

This argument blows me away. We *HAVE* enough impact to destroy forests, eradicate diseases, fly to the moon, create lakes where none exited, and (one of my personal favorites) reverse the flow of a river while turning a fresh-water lake into a salt-water lake (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Peigneur). The only way to deny our impact on God's creation is to glue our eyes (and minds) shut! God's gift to us is not braun or armor, bears and cockroaches beat us in a heartbeat in those arenas. It's our BRAINS. What's arrogant is to refuse to use that gift.

Oops -
I left of an important word.
What's arrogant is to refuse to use that gift
RESPONSIBLY.

As a biologist, I have been concerned that for YEARS we have seen less and less emphasis on environemental problems in our textbooks. Now this, from NSTA-a resounding "No!" to distributing a free film on environmental problems. Amazing-and just when Science magazine has just published findings of over a hundred gigatons of Greenland's ice shield have melted-not to return in the winter freeze. Whatever happened to the "BSCS Green" version of biology?

On reading the comments against distributing the DVD, it is readily apparent that the majority have not watched the DVD or read the response on NSTA's (nsta.org) website today. I suggest to future comment makers to do both.

NSTA never had a choice.

Let's be real for a moment. Schools were designed to be factories for consumers, and the power industries need consumers. An Inconvenient Truth may or may not be great science, or may or may not have many scientists agreeing with the premise, but it certainly does make one irrefutable point loud and clear. Consumption driven by the oil-gas-coal industry = Global Warming.

And any compelling and far-reaching anti-consumer message with a Vice President's voice will never be heard in an American classroom. That's why I bought the DVD for all my kids and grandchildren for Christmas.

Oh my gosh! Have we just lost a chance to try to further indoctrinate our children into liberal politics? NSTA made the right choice to stay out of this.

NSTA gave Ms. David several other ways to distribute the film. An open invitation was offered for her to present at the National Conference on Science education in St.Louis at the end of March. I think that the 50,000 copies could easily be properly distributed at the conference. Many other options were also offered to Ms. David.
It can only be hoped that NSTA is not using its rules to cover for its corporate sponsors. I choose to take the high road on this issue.

I believe Al Gore lost most, if not all, of his credibility during the 2000 election when he became the inventor of "fuzzy math." The movie may have a foundation of basic science that can be agreed on, but many of it's statements and certainly it's predictions are very controversial. Predictions are never a certainty. NSTA was right to refuse the DVDs.

All we teachers need is an email address or form to fill out saying we want a DVD. The NSTA wsa correct in not distributing the DVD. They gave the producer/distributor a better avenue for reaching many more people. What could be better than a "movie distribution company" distributing a DVD.

I agree that there are things in God's creation-after all he gave us dominion over the earth-to be good stewards of it.And yes we can have impact on areas where we are not good stewards. To say, however, that what we do will have such massive impact, that our lives as we know it are doomed, is arrogant. There are certain aspects of the earth's creation that we do not impact to the degree that the civilization as we know it is doomed-and that is in the area of global warming.


When I first read the "Post" article, I was concerned that maybe NSTA was out of line. Then I read the NSTA response and found that they had actually tried to be of help without going against their policies. This information was conspicuously missing from the "Post" article. If this is the type of journalism that one of the "producers" portrays, how can we even give credence to the DVD? This topic is too great a concern for all of us to have it politicized. To those who are mad at NSTA I have to ask: have you read both articles? Please do so. I think you will find the professionalism of their response far above the "Post" article.

>> To say, however, that what we do will have
>> such massive impact, that our lives as we know
>> it are doomed, is arrogant

I never said we were doomed, although I can see the implication from "An inconvenient truth". But think about it - we doomed as many as 140,000 Japanese people in Hiroshima, but since then we've taken more responsibililty with that WMD. Hitler doomed 6 million Jews (which was less than his desired goal), but the rest of the world took responsibility by stepping in. We do need to accept responsibility for the stewardship we were granted, and responsibility requires ACTIVE faith, not blind faith. Gore's point is not the doom, there's no point in advertising that. His point is that it's time to take responsibility.

I was trying to find the story about the man on his roof in a flood, who refused God's efforts to save him and then asked God why he failed to save him. I didn't find the 'nicest' version of the story, but I did find one with some interesting commentary: http://www.eco-justice.org/E-020719.asp.

Of course your point is not about God saving us from our own mess, your point seems to be more about denying the magnitude of our mess, rather like calling the flood a puddle. In that case, I do think we are doomed.

I have seen the movie in question and I have not seen or heard a more scientifically oriented presentation. The proof is right in front of our face, and the NSTA has been blind sided by big oil. I for one would like a free copy to show my students. I can't believe the NSTA would prevent someone from getting the message out to save ourselves from ourselves. Al Gore did an excellent job... no politics just evidence that things are going wrong. When we have THE NEXT ice age how will the NSTA magazines get delivered with the survival labs and activities for teachers?

I am a high school science teacher and showed this DVD to all my 10th grade biology classes. I bought it with my own money. Students were very motivated after seeing it and it also helped them understand more about current day ecology issues. The NSTA goofed on this one and should distribute those DVDs, otherwise maybe its time to boycott the NSTA.....

Look. From my point of view (I'm a teen) I want every bit of info. on what is going on and I want everyone's side of it so that I can make a choice. That is what this country is about: freedom, but this country does not even give us a chance to look at the data and make a choice. This deal NSTA has given us is not good enough. They are purposely with-holding info. form us and it is wrong and they know it. I do not agree with their reasoning. We are the future even if they don't like it and I will not stand by and allow people to destroy the world that I am going to have to live in. I hope that they realize soon enough that what they are doing is wrong...

(a) "Gore's anti-American statements" AND (b) "it's arrogant to think humans would have such an impact on God's creation". I AM SHAKING MY HEAD IN DISBELIEF AT READING SUCH COMMENTS AT A SITE LIKE THIS. (a) Have we become so accustomed to Bush/Cheney/Rove/ anti-science and make-them-believe-what-you-want-them-to that someone trying to read the evidence appears "anti-American"? (b) It's not at all arrogant to think humans are having an impact. They have and are, and in big, obvious ways. Please, can we use our senses?

While argumentative, it's probable safe to say that non-science and life-science teachers are more accepting of the catastrophic AGW hypothesis as espoused by former VP Gore. Since I'm not in that group, I can can safely take a more critical view of the film and applaud the NSTA decision for both procedural as well as content reasons.

However, I am an untenured teacher of the Physical Sciences and Mathematics; and given the blatant political overtones (and hysteria) of this subject, I choose to remain anonymous.

edit previous: line 1, "probably" and line 4, "can"

It's interesting for me to read all your ideas and I'd like to share a personal experience/frustration regarding "An Inconvenient Truth".

My child's 8th grade science teacher just finished showing the movie in the classroom and asked the students "to form their opinions." However, when my child questioned whether there would be discussion on other point of views on global warming, the teacher abruptly said "Get your head out of the sand!" He then showed another video clip attacking Bush's administration on GW. After which, some students asked "Isn't this a GLOBAL problem? What are other countries doing about it?" (A legitimate question.) The teacher then became irritated and called them a bunch of "arrogant americans."

My child and others who had the desire to look at the GW problem objectively were humiliated by a teacher who obviously had his own agenda. Other kids in the class told me (I also work at the school) that they simply wrote a response that the teacher expected so they wouldn't get into trouble. Is this what we want to teach our children?

I'm disappointed that a teacher would use this movie to inflict his/her personal agenda on impressionable students, and am afraid it's happening in more than one classroom.

More than disappointing, it's frightening. Perhaps that teacher should get and show a copy of the following:
http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=9005566792811497638

It offers a balancing perspective on the origins, science, and even the outrageous effects on the 3rd world, that the AGW movement has. Hopefully, this special will get an airing in this country.

For the record, neither film has any place in a science class. Now as for a class studying modern mass media, political influence and propaganda -- using both films; hmmm?

Yes, they made a great choice because it would just be a waste of money to have it shown to students at school. Students are at a stage where they are trying to be rebellious and won't care for watching it. They are not fully matured to understand completely what the film is about. Well, they would understand the topic of global warming because you are taught that at school, but they would not care for watching it.

Perhaps some should wake up to the urgency of this problem. For those who are non-believers (Barry), there is more than a plethora of information at your hands. If you in fact choose to ignore it, then you had better hope your grandchildren really care about you, and even take a liking to your ignorance, because future generations will have to deal with the effects of this problem. If not dealt with now, these effects will be even greater.
Shame on the NSTA for declining valuable information to maintain relations with the oil companies. Shouldn't it be up to the students who will be recieving the information? Perhaps they are cutious of this issue that's recently been getting vast amounts of attention, and how date the NSTA deprive them of that. That decision shouldn't have been made for them in the first place.
Those who say that they didn't have a choice in order to thrive. That, to me, just shows weakness.

Dare*
Excuse me.

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