Tuesday 21 February 2012

Gleick and the Coiney Heartland

Over on Moneta-L, Reid Goldsborough has seen through the ACCG ploy of diverting attention from the problems inherent in no-questions-asked trade in dugup coins:
The entire line of your thought is pitting archeology against numismatics so as to blame -- I'd use the word scapegoat -- archeology for numismatics' current political problems.
This ACCG attack on archaeology, archaeologists and what they do is rather reminiscent of the situation concerning the current anti-scientific campaign of the so-called "Heartland Institute" in the United States. Last week confidential documents were leaked (by Peter Gleick, a water scientist) detailing its plans to discredit the teaching of science to school children.
Gleick apologised on Monday for using a false name to obtain materials from Heartland, a Chicago-based think tank with a core mission of dismissing climate change. "My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts – often anonymous, well-funded and co-ordinated – to attack climate science," Gleick wrote in a piece for Huffington Post. The admission – nearly a week after Heartland's financial plans and donors' list was put online – looked set to further inflame the climate wars, in which a network of fossil fuel interests, rightwing think tanks and politicians have been working to block action on climate change.
Gleick claims that he received one of the documents anonymously and attempted to obtain other documents to determine their authenticity and whether the first really did represent the think tank's climate strategy.
"At the beginning of 2012, I received an anonymous document in the mail describing what appeared to be details of the Heartland Institute's climate programme strategy. It contained information about their funders and the Institute's apparent efforts to muddy public understanding about climate science and policy. [...]" Gleick's admission was seen by some as crossing a new line in the increasingly vitriolic debate between scientists, campaigners, businesses and politicians who want action on climate change and a small but well-funded group of those who deny the existence of man-made climate change.

Sadly, the deniers seem to be succeeding in distracting attention away from the information obtained to the manner in which Gleick, a well regarded water scientist, had used to obtain them.

[Some commentators] suggested that Heartland had got what it deserved – given its support for efforts to discredit science. "Heartland has been subverting well-understood science for years," wrote Scott Mandia, co-founder of the climate science rapid response team. "They also subvert the education of our school children by trying to 'teach the controversy' where none exists." He went on: "Peter Gleick, a scientist who is also a journalist just used the same tricks that any investigative reporter uses to uncover the truth. He is the hero and Heartland remains the villain. He will have many people lining up to support him."

[...] Those actions may have undercut an entire career, the journalist Andrew Revkin wrote. "Gleick's use of deception in pursuit of his cause after years of calling out climate deception has destroyed his credibility and harmed others," he wrote. "The broader tragedy is that his decision to go to such extremes in his fight with Heartland has greatly set back any prospects of the country having the "rational public debate" that he wrote — correctly — is so desperately needed."

Kert Davies, the research director of Greenpeace USA, said it would be unfortunate if the row over Gleick and his methods to obtain the documents distracted from Heartland's work to block climate action. "There are a lot of people involved with Heartland's multimillion dollar climate denial machine who want to change the subject to anything else."

All of this so reminiscent of the position we find ourselves in debating the no-questions-asked antiquity trade with US collectors, dealers and lobbyists working for trade associations. They are a small but, since the antiquities trade in the US alone is worth millions, a well-funded group of those who deny the existence of the erosive effects of no-questions-asked acquisition of artefacts on http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifthe world's archaeological record. A network of antiquities trade interests, rightwing groups and politicians have been working to block US and global action on the illicit antiquities trade, and part of it is the attempt by certain fraction of them to discredit archaeology. Like anthropogenic climate change in the US, it seems there is no prospect of any kind of proper public debate with these people, and in my opinion, it's not even worth trying. These people too one day will expose themselves for what they are and what they represent.

Source: Suzanne Goldenberg, 'Climate scientist Peter Gleick admits he leaked Heartland Institute documents', Guardian, 21 February 2012

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