Last week the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program published a report on Big Oil’s big lies, going through the industry’s top 10 tactics, the reality of carbon pollution’s out-sized impact on BIPOC and low-income communities, and then 10 tactics for climate justice advocates to fight back.
In some ways, the report is bookended by attacks on, and defense of, democratic foundations — with the industry’s efforts to “undermine democracy” through voter suppression efforts and political campaign donations at the top, and support for campaign finance reform concluding the report. By shifting towards more justice-focused narratives, as they recommend, advocates can counter the industry’s denial of unique harms, and attempts to co-opt community leaders, and long-term undermining of the basic democratic mechanisms necessary to win in the long run.
While the NAACP provides plenty of compelling examples of the industry’s deceptive behavior, including how one of its own local branches was cut off from Peabody Coal’s recurring annual donations after they “went down and talked bad about coal to the EPA,” there are always more to find, particular when it comes to the industry’s efforts to make people believe they’re friends.
For example, Dharna Noor at Earther writes, you could watch Six Degrees, a show all about how fossil fuels are intrinsic to everything good in the world. And that’s straight from the show’s presenter, Mike Rowe, who — at the very end of the first episode admits that it’s “sponsored by the oil and natural gas industry. Why? Because oil and natural gas connects everything.” Oh does it now? Because the carbon pollution it emits goes into our shared atmosphere where it’s causing a global climate crisis? Not per the show, which is sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute and makes little effort to hide its purpose as an advertisement.
If you recognize Mike Rowe’s star power, it’s likely due to his past work, narrating multiple Discovery Channel shows including the ultra-he-man Deadliest Catch, and hosting Dirty Jobs, essentially a one-man Fear Factor in which Rowe performed all sorts of “thankless and sometimes gross professions,” Noor summarizes, “including a roadkill collector, sewer inspector, and ‘avian vomitologist,’ which is exactly what it sounds like.”
But that star turn somehow turned the former opera singer into “the stereotypical conception of a good ol’ rugged American dude,” which he then capitalized on with a nonprofit called mikeroweWORKS to promote vocational training for the sorts of working-class jobs he exploited for gross-out entertainment on TV. While it sounds nice enough, Noor writes, “the foundation is premised on the idea that the reason people are struggling to find good-paying work in these sectors is because of a skills gap for those in blue-collar fields—a thoroughly debunked myth pushed by industry leaders to make workers feel underqualified for positions, which research suggests helped companies to put more conditions on their job listings and offer lower rates of pay.”
...Wait a second, a nonprofit that claims to be out to help the working class but is actually sabotaging them for the benefit of the wealthy? Something’s starting to smell bad here, and it’s not the avian vomit…
If you’re a frequent Fox viewer, you may also recognize Rowe, because he also has “a parallel media career as a pundit, frequently appearing on Fox News to openly speak out against regulating oil and gas extraction,” Noor notes.
Defends the oil industry and has a shady nonprofit, what are the odds there’s dirty energy money in this Dirty Jobs star’s nonprofit?
If you guessed “100%,” you’d be correct! According to a document that was on Guidestar and may or may not have been meant to be made public, Rowe’s nonprofit got over a million dollars from none other than the Koch Foundation and Companies.
Mike Rowe got famous for doing the disgusting and dirty jobs, but this is the one that he should really be ashamed of.