The Koch Hall: What could you buy for less than 1/1,000th of your net worth?


David Koch of Koch Industries, whose net worth is reportedly $17.5 billion, got his name on a permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History—the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins—for a contribution of $15 million. How does this compare with the millions of dollars he and his brother Charles have spent funding global warming denialist groups and radical right-wing political activities, including the millions that bankroll their Americans for Prosperity operation? 

We’re glad the Smithsonian was able to mount this exhibit. From what we’ve read about it so far, it looks fascinating, and we intend to get there soon to enjoy it.

But we have to note that, for a contribution of less than 1/1000th of his personal fortune, Mr. Koch gets an image of public-spirited interest in science education on human evolution – which also serves to greenwash an agenda driven more by ideology and corporate interest, in which the role of his fortune has not been so high-profile, nor so benign.

See March 18 CSW posts here (“Koch Industries multibillionaire Koch brothers bankroll attacks on climate change science and policy”) and here (“Americans for Prosperity: Distorting climate change science and economics in well-funded campaign”).

Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room says ((“David Koch Bought Smithsonian Greenwashing for the Equivalent of $86”) that percentage (0.000857) is roughly comparable to what it would cost an American with the median middle-class family’s net worth to buy a scorpion sculpture and a woolly mammoth puzzle at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History gift shop.

While the words “pollution” and “global warming” don’t appear in the exhibit, according to a related Wonk Room post by Johnson, the exhibit has this:

“The question ahead is how well our sources of resilience as a species will succeed as our alterations to the landscape, atmosphere, and water sources interact with the tendency of Earth’s environment to shift all on its own. This is an experiment just now unfolding, one that has never been tried before. The intensity of environmental change seems likely to create entirely new survival challenges for the lone hominin species on the planet, and many other organisms as well.”

Leaving us with the question: knowing this, are we of the “lone hominin species” sufficiently evolved to act consciously, as a hominin community, for the common good, to regulate and limit our impact on the planet to within a level that is sustainable for ourselves and other species?  Not without having a big fight involving some very wealthy and powerful hominins, apparently.

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