On Wednesday, Sept. 15, the story broke that the University of Minnesota has canceled the premiere of the documentary Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story at the Bell Museum of Natural History Oct. 3, and on Twin Cities Public Television Oct. 5. This has created uproar as it appears the University is attempting to silence critical environmental education and science that is in the public interest. Funded primarily with public dollars, and featuring interviews with top scientists, the documentary details how excessive nutrient run-off from farm fields is the leading contributor to a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The film shows how conservation-minded farmers of all types are limiting or even eliminating runoff into our waters. But corporate ag interests, committed to the current system of mono-cropping corn and soybeans, are intolerant of any suggestion that changes are needed to improve water quality.
Who is calling the shots? The U of M’s vice president in charge of public relations, Karen Himle, made the decision to cancel the debut, despite a clear conflict of interest. Himle has a very tight connection to corporate ag interests. Her husband is John Himle, former director of the Agri-Growth Council, a corporate ag lobby group, and he is currently director of Himle Horner, a PR firm that does work for the Agri-Growth Council. Himle’s connections to corporate agriculture were documented in a Minnesota Daily article that ran last year. It appears that corporate-influenced public relations has trumped good science at a public institution.
Take Action! Demand that University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks let the public see the film as scheduled and that he takes action to see that this type of censorship never happens again.
Contact the office of President Bruininks at 612-626-1616 or firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him that you are concerned about a University vice-president for public relations inappropriately making a decision to prevent the showing of Troubled Waters and that this undermines your trust in the University.