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Should museums have ties to fossil fuel companies?

By Tim Sandle     Apr 4, 2015 in Environment
A group of science researchers have demanded that U.S. science and natural history museums sever all financial relationships with fossil fuel companies.
In an open letter signed by dozens of climate researchers and biologists, leading scientists write that natural history museums and similar institutions in the U.S. should stop taking donations and accepting sponsorships from “the fossil fuel industry and funders of climate science obfuscation.”
The letter goes on to argue that the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History are compromising their integrity through their associations with “special interests who obfuscate climate science, fight environmental regulation, oppose clean energy legislation, and seek to ease limits on industrial pollution."
The letter does not describe any fossil fuel companies by name. However, the letter names David Koch, an oil and manufacturing magnate. Koch donates large sums of money to the political campaigns of conservative politicians and organizations who are prepared to argue that humans are not contributing to climate change. Koch Industries is the second-largest privately held company in the U.S. Koch himself is said by Forbes to the fourth richest person in the U.S.
In relation to museums, Koch is a trustee on the Smithsonian and he is one of the AMNH’s board of directors. In addition, Koch regularly donates money and sponsors exhibits.
In addition to the letter, a website called contains a petition urging the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the AMNH to remove David Koch from their boards. There are around 168,000 signatures to date.
Neither museum has responded to the letter or petition, other than to indicate that they will not be changing their policies regarding sponsorship or donations.
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