Environmental Literacy Council

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

The Environmental Literacy Council (ELC) -- which claimed to be "dedicated to helping citizens, especially young people, participate wisely...independent, non-profit...gives teachers the tools to help students develop environmental literacy" -- was created by former Cheney speechwriter Jeffrey Salmon[1] (the 1991-2001 George C. Marshall Institute executive director),[2] and was run from or next to Marshall Institute offices since its inception.

According to the Marshall Institute's Mark Herlong, the ELC was disbanded in mid-2009.[3]

Its predecessor, the Marshall Institute's Independent Commission on Environmental Education (ICEE), had issued an April 1997 report[4] about the need for a group like the Environmental Literacy Council and then disbanded; the ELC promptly formed, at the same address and with all the ICEE personnel.

The enviroliteracy.org domain, first registered in December 1997, still uses a Marshall Institute address and email as contact information.[5]

Its writings on climate change have reflected this sponsorship.


According to Media Transparency, the ELC has received funding from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, Earhart Foundation, Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation. [1]

From 2001-2003, the group was also funded by the National Science Foundation (in a joint grant with the National Science Teachers Association)[6], and also the National Endowment for the Humanities[7], and the Department of Education.[8]

In 2004, 2006 and 2008, the Council received funding from the Richard Lounsbery Foundation of $50k, $25k and $25k, respectively. [9]

Climate change

The ELC put out a report titled Global Climate Change: Resources for Environmental Literacy[10]; it emphasized complexity and uncertainty, and misrepresented the work of at least one scientist. Here are some excerpts:

Note that the module itself takes no stand on the extent of global warming or what society ought to do about it. It is very important that students learn to draw their own conclusions based on an understanding of the relevant science, as well as on social, economic, and personal considerations. --- If Global Warming Is Actually Happening, What Are the Likely Consequences? --- Currently, most models predict that by the year 2100 average surface temperature will increase by 1.4°C(sic) (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] 2001). --- Some scientists believe that there is a repeating 1,500-year solar irradiance cycle that is responsible for cyclic periods of warming and the Little Ice Age. They claim that this cycle, rather than human activity, is responsible for current global warming (Haigh 2001). --- Many have argued that the analogy of our climate system to a greenhouse is misleading. --- Scientists use complicated computer models to predict climate change. --- It is likely that, with changing climate, a global change in the agricultural pattern will occur.

Dr. Joanna Haigh, who the report cited as suggesting a 1,500-year solar irradiance cycle was responsible for the current global warming, objected to this characterization:[11]

I assume that the paper referenced is "Climate Variability and the Influence of the Sun" which I published in Science (vol.294, p.2109, 2001) ... Nowhere... did it refer to current global warming, or suggest that the Sun is responsible for it, and to extend the conclusions in this way is disingenuous.


Council members

The current (accessed December 2009) members are:[12]

  • Roger A. Sedjo, Board Chairman, is Senior Fellow and Director of the Forest Economics and Policy Program, Resources for the Future, in Washington, D.C.
  • Kathleen Berry, Council President, is Science Chairperson (retired), Canon-McMillan High School, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.
  • Gail Charnley, Principal, HealthRisk Strategies. Dr. Charnley was the Executive Director of the Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management and of the National Academy of Sciences' Toxicology and Risk Assessment Program.
  • Nicholas N. Eberstadt is Visiting Fellow, Center for Population Studies, Harvard University, and holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy, American Enterprise Institute.
  • Michael H. Glantz is Senior Scientist, Environmental and Societal Impacts Group at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
  • Eric P. Loewen, Chief Consulting Engineer, Advanced Plants, General Electric Nuclear Technology Group. Dr. Loewen served as the 2005 American Nuclear Society (ANS) science and technology advisor to Congress and was recognized in Esquire magazine's December 2005 annual "Genius Issue" as one of America's Best & Brightest in science. His communication expertise was also recognized by the 2003 Department of Energy "Outstanding Mentor Award" and the ANS 2003 "Public Communicator Award."
  • Thomas G. Moore is Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and former member of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors.
  • John Opie is a lecturer at the University of Chicago and was the founding editor of the international quarterly Environmental Review.
  • Leonard A. Shabman, Resident Scholar, Energy and Natural Resources Division, Resources for the Future, is currently serving as the Arthur Maass-Gilbert White visiting scholar at the Institute for Water Resources at Fort Belvoir.
  • Herman H. (Hank) Shugart, Jr., Corcoran Professor and Director, Global Environmental Change Program, University of Virginia Department of Environmental Sciences, Charlottesville
  • Robert L. Sproull, Emeritus President and Professor of Physics, University of Rochester;
  • M. Jane Teta is Principal Epidemiologist, Exponent Health Group, Connecticut and Adjunct Associate Professor of Epidemiology, University of Massachusetts. Dr. Teta has served on the scientific advisory boards of the ATSDR, the EPA, and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.
  • Alvin W. Trivelpiece is Emeritus Director, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Dr. Trivelpiece was formerly Executive Officer, Association for the Advancement of Science, and publisher of Science, the Association's journal.
  • Ann K. Vidaver is Chief Scientist, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Professor and Head of the Department of Plant Pathology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Director of the Center for Biotechnology.


Arrived after 2004
Present in 2004

Those who were reportedly members as of January 2004 but are no longer listed in December 2009, and their positions at that time, are:

  • Daniel B. Botkin, ecologist, retired from University of California at Santa Barbara
  • John F. Disinger, Professor Emeritus of Natural Resources, The Ohio State University, and past president of the North American Association for Environmental Education.
  • George M. Gray, Director, Program on Food Safety and Agriculture, Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, and Lecturer on Risk Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health.
  • Daniel S. Simberloff, the Nancy Gore Hunger Professor of Environmental Science, University of Tennessee, and recently Visiting Professor, Tel Aviv University.
  • Kathleen B. deBettencourt, Executive Director of the Council.
  • Stanford S. Penner, Professor (Emeritus) of Engineering Physics, Director (Emeritus) of the Center for Energy and Combustion Research at the University of California, San Diego, and Editor-in-Chief, Encyclopedia of Energy.
  • F. James Rutherford, Chief Education Officer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and former Director of Project 2061.
  • The late Frederick Seitz, past President of the National Academy of Sciences, past President of the American Physical Society, and President Emeritus, Rockefeller University.
Earliest members

In 1999 the enviroliteracy.org website listed these 15 councilmembers: Robert L. Sproull, Kathleen Berry, John F. Disinger, Nicholas N. Eberstadt, Michael H. Glantz, George M. Gray, Thomas G. Moore, Stanford S. Penner, F. James Rutherford, Roger A. Sedjo, Frederick Seitz, Daniel S. Simberloff, M. Jane Teta, Alvin W. Trivelpiece, and Kathleen B. deBettencourt.

Note that among the 15 councilmembers is the entire 10-member panel of its predecessor group ICEE : Robert L. Sproull, John F. Disinger, Nicholas Eberstadt, Michael Glantz, Thomas G. Moore, George M. Gray, Stanford S. Penner, Roger Sedjo, Frederick Seitz, Daniel Simberloff.

Contact information

1625 K Street NW, #1020
Washington, DC 20006
website: http://www.enviroliteracy.org

Note that the Environmental Literacy Council (1625 K St #1020) is on the same floor as the George C. Marshall Institute office (1625 K St #1050), until the Marshall Institute's Jan. 2010 move to Arlington. Before 1625 K St, the Marshall Institute was at 1730 K Street Suite #905[14] - as were the ELC and its predecessor, the Independent Commission on Environmental Education.

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles


  1. WWS Alliance Signing Ceremony - 12 June, COEX Intercontinental Seoul Hotel. ICSTI WorldWideScience (2008-06). Retrieved on 2009-12-30.
  2. Dr. Jeffrey Salmon. The Marshall Institute. Retrieved on 2010-01-05. “Dr. Jeffrey Salmon was Executive Director of the George C. Marshall Institute from 1991-2001....was also Senior Fellow and member of the executive committee of the Environmental Literacy Council, a group he founded in 1997.”
  3. Phone call to GCMI May 4, 2010. (As of spring 2010 the ELC wasn't at the K St. address on its website, and its phone number has been disconnected. )
  4. Independent Commission on Environmental Education, Are We Building Environmental Literacy?: A Report of the Independent Commission on Environmental Education, Marshall Institute, April 15, 1997.
  5. enviroliteracy.org Whois. Who.is. Retrieved on 2010-01-05. “Domain Name: enviroliteracy.org...Creation Date: 1997-12-11 05:00:00 ...Organization: Environmental Literacy Council; Address 1: 1730 K St. NW. ... Email: Email Masking Image(debett)@MARSHALL.ORG”
  6. Council Highlights. The Environmental Literacy Council (2003-04-21). Retrieved on 2010-01-06. “April 21, 2003, Washington, DC -- The Environmental Literacy Council (ELC) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have received a $638,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop resources to help middle level and high school science educators teach important environmental issues through science.”
  7. Council Highlights. The Environmental Literacy Council (2003-04-21). Retrieved on 2010-01-06. “April 21, 2003, Washington, DC -- The National Endowment for the Humanities(NEH) has awarded a two-year grant of $175,000 to the Environmental Literacy Council in collaboration with the National Humanities Center, to produce a series of environmental history teaching guides for history teachers.”
  8. Council Highlights. The Environmental Literacy Council (2001-10-03). Retrieved on 2010-01-06. “Oct. 3, 2001, Washington, DC -- The Environmental Literacy Council has received a $358,125 grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). The grant supports the development of a peer-reviewed online lab, investigation, and research archive for high school environmental science teachers.”
  9. http://rlounsbery.org/doc/lounsbery_ann_report_FINAL.pdf
  10. | Global Climate Change: Resources for Environmental Literacy(pdf)
  11. Media:Email_JDHaigh_2010-01-07.pdf
  12. Council Members. Environmental Literacy Council. Retrieved on 2009-12-27.
  13. Scholars - Kenneth P. Green. AEI. Retrieved on 2009-12-31. “Executive Director, Environmental Literacy Council, 2005-2006”
  14. marshall.org. Who.is. Retrieved on 2010-01-05. “Administrative Contact Information: Name: George C. Marshall Institute; Organization: George C. Marshall Institute; Address 1: 1730 K Street NW; Address 2: Suite 905; City: Washington; State: DC; Zip: 20006; Country: US; Phone: +1.20229696; Email: Email Masking Image@marshall.org;”

External resources

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