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A gaggle of greater than 200 outstanding scientists and teachers revealed an open letter Thursday to the American Museum of Pure Historical past, urging one of many nation’s eminent cultural establishments to take away billionaire Trump donor Rebekah Mercer from its board.
The letter, signed by such local weather science luminaries as James Hansen, a former NASA scientist and professor at Columbia College, and Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard College, takes the museum to activity for accepting donations from the Mercer household, which has funded a number of teams concerned in local weather denialism and opposition to authorities motion on local weather change.
“A very powerful asset any museum has is its credibility,” the letter reads. “This may be broken by ties to donors and board members who’re publicly identified for investing in local weather science obfuscation and opposing environmental options.”
A duplicate of the Mercer Household Basis’s most up-to-date tax information shows that the household in 2016 gave a mixed $four million to teams that deny that local weather change is an issue, together with the Heartland Institute, the CO2 Coalition, and the Oregon Institute of Science and Drugs. (It gave $625,000 to the American Museum of Pure Historical past.) Arthur Robinson, the founding father of the the Oregon Institute, has infamously claimed that increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will benefit the planet. The information, which haven’t but been reported, have been obtained by the Local weather Investigations Middle, an environmental watchdog group, and given to BuzzFeed Information.
A press release launched by the museum in response to the letter stated “the Museum deeply respects the work and look at of scientists,” however added that it “doesn’t make appointment choices regarding employees or Trustees based mostly on political opinions.”
The Mercer household, secretive billionaires who’re amongst President Trump’s strongest donors, have additionally funded quite a lot of right-wing political causes, including the conservative activist group Undertaking Veritas, the Authorities Accountability Institute, a conservative analysis group; and Breitbart Information. Final 12 months, a BuzzFeed News exposé revealed the connections among the many Mercers, Breitbart, and white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
Rebekah Mercer and a spokesperson for the household didn’t reply to requests for remark.
The Mercer cash, and Rebekah Mercer’s seat on the American Museum of Pure Historical past’s board, has prompted dissent inside the establishment itself. In early 2017, a bunch of 20 museum workers started to debate how disturbed they have been that Mercer — who had funded local weather science denial teams and helped elect a president who would intestine the EPA — was on the AMNH board. In accordance with a supply, a smaller set of round 10 workers filed complaints with the museum’s human sources division.
The open letter is an element of a bigger effort organized by the Pure Historical past Museum, a nonprofit group that has no affiliation with the American Museum of Pure Historical past.
“Trusted science itself is required now greater than ever,” stated Beka Economopoulos, the manager director. “When you might have a local weather science denier in a management place at a science museum, it erodes the general public belief, and it leads guests to query the validity of the content material they’re seeing.”
The group has previously pressured museums, together with the American Museum of Pure Historical past, to chop ties with the Koch brothers, different main conservative funders and fossil gasoline pursuits.
Zahra Hirji contributed extra reporting to this story.