SDF: Michael Jackson’s Earth Song Calls Out Apathy (Climate Denial)

Editor’s Note: It’s Science Ditty Friday. Every Friday REALscience compiles a song (generally with an accompanying video) to kick your weekend off with a musical start. Have a favorite science song? Send it to ditty@realscience.us.

Michael Jackson’s operatic opus Earth Song was described as overblown and whiny by US music critics when it debuted just before Christmas in 1995. However, it took Europe by storm becoming the all time best-selling single in the UK and topping music charts across Europe. 15 years later the dramatic video played behind Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Smokey Robinson, Celine Dion, and Usher as they sang the bluesy Gospel-operata at the Grammy Awards in tribute to Jackson, who died in July 2009.

The song touches on themes of war, poverty, animals and the environment and in retrospect foretells a very possible future in which humans have destroyed our fragile planet. The simple melody and lyrics call upon us all to help role back that apocalyptic vision of the future to preserve rain forests, animals, endangered ecosystems, water supplies and fresh air.

In one line Jackson says, “What about apathy” as a possibility as to how we find ourselves in this barren future. As smokestacks belch carbon dioxide into the air it could just as well be denial as apathy that makes that future real.

The Heartland InstituteThis week, libertarian think tank the Heartland Institute found itself trying to explain its funding of anti-science campaigns to propel the manufactured debate about climate change. DeSmog Blog broke the story and Climate Rocks is tracking all the media coverage. We’ll be following the story, which already has the catchy moniker of Denialgate.

This climate scandal is poetically named in a response to Climategate, the manufactured controversy partly funded by the Heartland Institute in 2009, which claimed that scientists manipulated climate data after a computer hacker stole private internal emails and posted them online.

Denialgate puts forth the idea that some scientists — including a few climate scientists — are actively working to discredit the almost unanimous majority of of the climate community who adamantly say that the globe is warming and mankind is to blame. In a 2010 study 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human-caused global warming is changing the Earth’s climate.

The set of documents given to DeSmog Blog and others by a Heartland insider (who goes by the handle Heartland Insider) includes budget plans and outlines of the group’s anti-science climate strategy. The scientists on the Heartland payroll who probably know better go beyond climate skeptics. We call them deniers.

Generally they deny there is a problem with the climate changing. They wax lyrically about increased carbon dioxide as a boon for plants and increasing the crop harvest for farmers. They talk about warmer climate causing fewer cold-related deaths. While both of those statements are true to a certain extent they deny the complexity of the climate system and even settled science.

S. Fred Singer, Climate Denier, PhD

S. Fred Singer, Climate Denier, PhD

At the heart of the Heartland Institute brouhaha are a few scientists, Craig Idso, Fred Singer and Robert Carter.

Dr. Singer is a scientist. He is an atmospheric physicist with a PhD in Physics from Princeton. Prior to that he obtained a BEE in Electrical Engineering from Ohio State University in 1943, and an MA in Physics from Princeton in 1944. Currently he is emeritus professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia.

Robert M. Carter, Climate Denier, PhD

Robert M. Carter, Climate Denier, PhD

Dr. Carter is an adjunct research fellow in the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University in Australia. He was Professor and Head of School of Earth Sciences, James Cook University. Before that he studied geology and obtained a PhD in Paleontology.

Craig Idso, Climate Denier, PhD

Craig Idso, Climate Denier, PhD

Dr. Idso is a PhD but not a climate scientist. He holds a BS in Geography from Arizona State University, MS in Agronomy from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and a PhD in Geography from Arizona State University.

Internal Heartland Institute documents show the three scientists were paid to deny climate change. Carter receives $1,667 per month, while Singer gets $5,000 per month, plus expenses and Idso rakes in $11,600 per month to rail against the rest of the climate science community.

Singer and Dennis Avery co-authored the anti-global warming book Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years where he reverses his position that global warming doesn’t exist at all and is a manufactured scientific phenomenon. In the popular anti-science book he adopts the belief that global warming is just part of a natural cycle and that human activity couldn’t possibly influence such a big system.

Avery studied agricultural economics at Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin and now directs the Center for Global Food Issues at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington D.C. Not a scientist himself, he is a leading proponent of global cooling — the idea that based on natural cycles the Earth’s temperature will drop in the next 20-30 years. He points to the ocean for the evidence but ignores regular fluctuations of El Nino and La Nina conditions.

Unlike Climategate, Denialgate erupted from leaked documents not stolen emails. But in the race to clean up its mess the Heartland Institute is ready to sue anyone who posts the leaked documents online. The think tank claims fraud and wrongdoing in the dissemination of the internal documents and even claims that one is completely fake.

In a prepared statement the organization says, “The stolen documents were obtained by an unknown person who fraudulently assumed the identity of a Heartland board member and persuaded a staff member here to ‘re-send’ board materials to a new email address. Identity theft and computer fraud are criminal offenses subject to imprisonment. We intend to find this person and see him or her put in prison for these crimes.”

Street Artist Banksy Captures Global Warming Denial in Poznan, Poland, Courtesy of Paul Nine-O, 2009.

Street Artist Banksy Captures Global Warming Denial, from Poznan, Poland, Courtesy of Paul Nine-O, 2009.

But the climate denial genie is already out of the bottle. After the story broke on Valentine’s Day the billionare brothers Charles and David Koch found themselves being scrutinized as they were tied to the Heartland Institute. Apparently, a leaked budget document said the brothers gave the Heartland Institute $200,000 in 2011. But within hours DeSmog Blog reported, “Apparently even the Koch brothers think the Heartland Institute’s climate denial program is too toxic to fund. On Wednesday, Koch confirmed that it did not cut a check for the $200K mentioned in the strategy memo after all.”

Instead a spokesman for the brothers says, “The Charles Koch Foundation provided $25,000 to the Heartland Institute in 2011 for research in healthcare, not climate change, and this was the first and only donation the Foundation made to the institute in more than a decade. The Foundation has made no further commitments of funding to Heartland.” Greenpeace confirmed that the Charles Koch Foundation hasn’t donated to the Heartland Institute any other times since 1999.

Microsoft and General Motors both appeared among companies that donated to the Heartland Institute. Microsoft quickly responded to allegations that it was funding junk science. In a statement the company says that it donated software licenses for the non-profit to use as an in-kind donation. And General Motors has given the institute $30,000 since 2010 for its school-privatization publication School Reform News even though the right-wing think tank has accused “Government Motors” of “corporate welfare-sucking” and told people to “never again buy a GM car or truck.”

Screenshot of Heartland Institute 2012 Budget Plan, Featuring Anthony Watts Weather Station Project

Screenshot of Heartland Institute 2012 Budget Plan, Featuring Anthony Watts Weather Station Project

The most popular anti-science blog even got its own line item in the Heartland Institute budget. Anthony Watts, a former TV weatherman who writes Watts Up With That confirms he is receiving $88,000 for a weather station project. On his blog he says, “Heartland simply helped me find a donor for funding a special project having to do with presenting some new NOAA surface data in a public friendly graphical form, something NOAA themselves is not doing, but should be. I approached them in the fall of 2011 asking for help, on this project not the other way around.”

Regardless of what this latest climate controversy conjures for you it is clear that apathy as Michael Jackson calls it or denial as the Heartland Institute internal documents are showing is preventing us from solving the big social problems that stand before us, including addressing the global warming reality.

The Heartland Institute Documents Provided by “Heartland Insider”:
Name File Size
(1-15-2012) 2012 Fundraising Plan.pdf 89.87 KB
(1-15-2012) 2012 Heartland Budget (2).pdf 124.62 KB
2 Agenda for January 17 Meeting.pdf 7.4 KB
2010_IRS_Form_990 (2).pdf 2.7 MB
2012 Climate Strategy (3).pdf (***Heartland Institute claims this document is fabricated) 96.56 KB
Binder1 (2).pdf 55.36 KB
Board Directory 01-18-12.pdf 11.28 KB
Board Meeting Package January 17.pdf 6.84 KB

Earth Song

by: Michael Jackson

What about sunrise
What about rain
What about all the things
That you said we were to gain…
What about killing fields
Is there a time
What about all the things
That you said was yours and mine…
Did you ever stop to notice
All the blood we’ve shed before
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores?

Aaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaah
Aaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaah

What have we done to the world
Look what we’ve done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son…
What about flowering fields
Is there a time
What about all the dreams
That you said was yours and mine…
Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war
Did you ever stop to notice
The crying Earth the weeping shores

Aaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaah
Aaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaah

I used to dream
I used to glance beyond the stars
Now I don’t know where we are
Although I know we’ve drifted far

Aaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaah
Aaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaah
Aaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaah
Aaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaah

Hey, what about yesterday
(What about us)
What about the seas
(What about us)
The heavens are falling down
(What about us)
I can’t even breathe
(What about us)
What about the bleeding Earth
(What about us)
Can’t we feel its wounds
(What about us)
What about nature’s worth
(ooo, ooo)
It’s our planet’s womb
(What about us)
What about animals
(What about it)
We’ve turned kingdoms to dust
(What about us)
What about elephants
(What about us)
Have we lost their trust
(What about us)
What about crying whales
(What about us)
We’re ravaging the seas
(What about us)
What about forest trails
(ooo, ooo)
Burnt despite our pleas
(What about us)
What about the holy land
(What about it)
Torn apart by creed
(What about us)
What about the common man
(What about us)
Can’t we set him free
(What about us)
What about children dying
(What about us)
Can’t you hear them cry
(What about us)
Where did we go wrong
(ooo, ooo)
Someone tell me why
(What about us)
What about babies
(What about it)
What about the days
(What about us)
What about all their joy
(What about us)
What about the man
(What about us)
What about the crying man
(What about us)
What about Abraham
(What was us)
What about death again
(ooo, ooo)
Do we give a damn

Aaaaaaaaah Aaaaaaaaah

Written, composed and lead and background vocals by Michael Jackson
Produced by Michael Jackson and David Foster
Co-Produced by Bill Bottrell
Choir performance by the Andrae Crouch Choir
Keyboards: David Paich
Bass guitar: Guy Pratt
Synthesizer programming: Steve Porcaro
Co-performance by London Philharmonic Orchestra (Orchestral Mix only)
Orchestral arrangement by James Horner (Orchestral Mix only)

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