Climate Change-Denier David Koch Is Off Museum of Natural History Board

Did environmental activists force the billionaire off the board?

David Koch at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, in the wing that bears his name. Photo: courtesy the Wichita Eagle.
David Koch at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, in the wing that bears his name. Photo: courtesy the Wichita Eagle.

After 23 years, philanthropist, energy magnate, and known climate change–denier David H. Koch has stepped down from the board of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, reports the New York Times. His perceived influence over the museum had been widely criticized by scientists and environmentalists, who questioned the institution’s ability to maintain its integrity while accepting money from the owner of oil manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries.

In March of 2015, the Natural History Museum, a mobile institution founded by arts collective Not an Alternative, published an open letter calling on the AMNH and the Smithsonian Institution‘s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, to cut ties with the billionaire. (Koch remains an Advisory Board member at the latter museum.) The initial signatories included 39 scientists who were soon joined by 120 other scientists and government officials. Their sentiments were echoed by a petition of over 550,000 people.

According to museum spokesperson Anne Canty, Koch stepped down from the board at its December 9 meeting, as his annual term was ending. Koch first joined the board in 1992, and has reportedly donated $23 million to the museum, which has named its dinosaur wing after him.

David Koch and his wife Julie Koch attend the American Museum of Natural History's 2010 Museum Gala at the American Museum of Natural History on November 18, 2010 in New York City. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.

David Koch and his wife Julie Koch attend the American Museum of Natural History’s 2010 Museum Gala at the American Museum of Natural History on November 18, 2010 in New York City.
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.

“We are thrilled that David Koch, a climate denier and top funder of climate science disinformation campaigns (to the tune of $79 million) is no longer in a leadership position at a venerable science museum like the American Museum of Natural History,” the Natural History Museum wrote on its blog. “With this conflict of interest removed, we hope that the AMNH will consider our invitation to demonstrate its leadership by divesting financial holdings from fossil fuels.”

Cristyne Nicholas, Koch’s New York spokesperson, also denied that petitions to end his involvement at the institution had influenced Koch. “He was not swayed by that at all and it absolutely did not factor into his decision,” she told the Times. Instead, Koch is cutting down the number of boards that he is on—currently about 20 nationwide—to focus on cancer research.

Koch also lends his name to the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s $65 million David H. Koch Plaza in New York. Protesters crashed the latter’s unveiling in 2014, leading to the arrest of the NYC Light Brigade.

 


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