This is the story of the Rockefeller family‘s involvement in the science of climate change since the 1950s. In my book, I show how they have operated to mobilise support among academics, politicians, activists, clergy, and in the business world, for the theory that man is guilty of causing climate change. It might seem contradictory given their roots in the oil industry but it follows a thoroughly calculated plan. So why did the heirs to Standard Oil attack the industry upon which their fortune was build and why have the Rockefellers funded and influenced the direction of climate research since the 1950s?
“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” (John D. Rockefeller)
In March 2016 their small foundation Rockefeller Family Fund, with much fanfare, announced that they would divest from all holdings in fossil energy, including the family’s old crown jewel Exxon. The Paris Agreement had given a clear signal. Fossil energy would have to stay in the ground for human beings and the ecosystem to survive the coming decades. At the same time they accused ExxonMobil for having misled the public and for having spread doubts about the theory of human-induced climate change. Exxon spokesman said that the charge was not surprising as the RFF funded a ”conspiracy” against them.
“The Rockefeller Family Fund is proud to announce its intent to divest from fossil fuels. While the global community works to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, it makes little sense—financially or ethically—to continue holding investments in these companies.”
Less than two years earlier, during the great Climate March in New York, the bigger foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, also announced that due to their fight against climate change they would start divesting from coal and oil sands. The Rockefeller family, who for ten years had tried to influence their old family company Exxon to change their position on climate change, now accused the company for having known and been trying to hide the seriousness of climate change from the public since the 1980s. At the same time, the company became subject of a real indictment of the state prosecutors in New York and California for having lied to the public and shareholders about the theory of man-made climate change. Behind the indictment was the Rockefeller-funded Climate Accountability Institute.
A very peculiar situation had arisen where the old oil barons attacked the very business upon which they had built their power and fortune. The oil industry, which had enabled the 20th century industrial development, the agricultural revolution, the pharmaceutical industry, and mass motoring, now joined causes with leftists and environmentalists, such as Naomi Klein (1970-), with her criticism of Big Business-led economic globalization, and climate activist Bill McKibben (1960-). Both members of the Rockefeller-funded 350.org which was responsible for arranging the major climate marches, the People’s Climate March 2014 and the Global Climate March 2015. The family that had made us dependent on oil was now taking a leading position in declaring the burning of fossil fuels immoral, destructive, and sinful, with Man as the sinner. So they had suddenly changed position on moral grounds?
Despite its eagerness to divest, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, however, would keep their shares in Exxon in order to be able to continue exerting pressure, while their largest foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, totally opposed any sale of investments in fossil energy. The latter had, by their actions, helped make the world dependent on oil. The family still had strong bonds to its old company.
The forceful accusations against the family’s crown jewel was part of a larger plan that had lasted for many decades. It was about consolidating power globally and creating a world with a more effective Global Governance and a new economic system. Smart Globalisation. A technocratic world where interdependent parts/nations would relinquish their independence to serve the larger community. It was the dream of a planetary institutional management, with touches of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. It was the dream of the Omega Point where the world (man – economy – ecology) would be coordinated in a technologically interconnected unit. A cybernetic World Organism.
“The age of nations is past. The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the earth.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
It was The Great Transition. The road to a sustainable Utopia.
The stated motive was to save the world from the great climate disaster. But behind the climate façade lurked a desire to control both the population and the natural resources. Old priorities for the family and their friends in the global Superclass. In line with Friedrich Hegel both thesis and antithesis were controlled in order to reach the desired synthesis.
“I am a great believer in planning – economic, social, political, military, total world planning.” (Nelson Rockefeller)
When the Rockefeller family is involved in something, you can be sure that it is very carefully planned. Their power has been built by the ability to work towards their targets over a long time horizon. The Rockefellers built their fortune on developing and controlling the oil industry in the United States. The company Standard Oil of Ohio was founded in 1870 in Cleveland, U.S.A., by the brothers John D. (1839-1937) and William Rockefeller (1841-1922). With renowned ruthlessness they created a monopoly of the refining and transportation of oil, the Standard Oil Trust, in the late 1800s.
John D. Rockefeller saw competition as sin and wanted to eliminate it. By shady practices, state by state fell in his hands and competing companies were either bought up or eliminated. In the end they had the entire United States at their feet. Their power was consolidated in 1882 in a nine man strong Board of Directors, with John. D. Rockefeller as Chairman. It was a cartel which was the first of its kind. The Board appointed directors and officers to all the subordinate companies. In this way, all the interdependent parts acted as a disciplined unit. The company controlled at most 90% of the market.
At first, the oil was used only for the manufacture of kerosene – a revolutionary product at that time, which effectively lit up homes across the world. Rockefeller had a flair for taking advantage of what people needed. By his aversion towards wasting resources, John D. found a use for the remaining waste product which others in the industry simply dumped – gasoline. By being so proactive, a fuel that was ready to power the nascent auto industry was developed. This also helped the Rockefellers survive the electrification of private homes. Gasoline sales exceeded kerosene sales from 1910. John D. also started expanding the business by investing in the mining industry and the Colorado Fuel and Iron company. Power and wealth was built on controlling natural resources.
In 1882, Rockefeller’s various financial operations began to be more coordinated and in 1885 the office was moved to 26 Broadway, New York. The family office then resided in the legendary 5600 Room at the Rockefeller Center for a very long period (1933-2015). This was Control Central of the empire. As an expression of his prosperity, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874-1960) had a private elevator built that would take him from his office straight down to the private vault in the basement.
“We decided to start again at 1 Rock,” (David Rockefeller Junior)
In 2015 a relocation of the family office was made to 1 Rockefeller Center (Time-Life Building). It was a symbolic act. Rockefeller’s like the number One.
Some even believe we [Rockefeller family] are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – One World, if you will.If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it. (David Rockefeller)
Today Rockefeller & Co. resides at 10 Rockefeller Plaza, where the family’s investments and philanthropic operations are managed. The Board of Directors of the parent company Rockefeller Financial Services Inc. today includes five family members. The British banker Lord Jacob Rothschild is also a board member and the two families are since 2012 joined in a strategic partnership.
John D. had learned the art of duping from his father, William Avery Rockefeller (1810-1906), a notorious fraudster and bigamist who went by the nickname “Devil Bill”, and given the strategic and mathematical thinking from his very orderly and deeply religious mother Eliza Davison ( 1813-1889). It was a combination turned out to be successful. John D., however would always feel hatred towards his father who had boasted that: ”I cheat my boys every chance I get. I want to make ’em sharp.” William was long an embarrassing family secret.
Standard Oil became first true multinational corporation and came to expand worldwide.
John D. Rockefeller felt that business logic/capitalism was based on “survival of the fittest” and that in the end the smartest company would emerge as lone victor at the top. To reach this goal, they needed to be the best on the market. Their products were developed and refined to perfection. It was also about being able to outmaneuver all competition and being a master at manipulation. This mindset has since guided the Rockefellers, whichever industry they have taken on.
1896, the same year as Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) became the first scientist who made calculations about how the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere influence the greenhouse effect, John D. Rockefeller Sr. retired from Standard Oil‘s direct operations and instead transferred the leadership of the company to his closest man, John Dustin Archbold (1848-1916). His son, John D. Jr., was also given also greater responsibilities.
Senior had new plans. He began, like steel magnate Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), to invest his money in community-changing business and philanthropy. Now there was enough capital to seriously reshape the world, and to, just as with Standard Oil, provide it with an efficient management. Within a few decades, the Rockefeller philanthropy would com in contact with and support the research field emerging from the theories of Svante Arrhenius.
Already in 1890 Rockefeller had founded the University of Chicago. A university that came to play a major role during the 1900s. The architecture imitated the Gothic style from Oxford, whose status was likely desired. Success soon followed. The investments paid off. To date, 89 Nobel Prize winners have been linked to the university.
Early on Rockefeller realised the benefits of having control over the production of knowledge and education. He exerted great influence over the University of Chicago. The financial advisor Frederick Gates (1853-1929) helped him build up the university and their philanthropic work. Gates was also behind the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in 1901 (which in 1965 became Rockefeller University) and the General Education Board in 1904.These institutions would emerge as major pillars of the Rockefeller empire. Early on they exercised influence over education, health and medicine in the United States. This would grow stronger.
University of Chicago would have a major impact on the development during the 20th century and become one of the world’s most distinguished universities. Here, several disciplines and schools that benefited Rockefeller’s power base were studied and developed, e.g. political theory, sociology and behaviourism. The Manhattan Project was also developed here. The University of Chicago’s Department of Meteorology, built up under the leadership of the Swedish Carl-Gustaf Rossby, would later emerge as an important base when the impact of carbon dioxide on the greenhouse effect began to be researched more thoroughly.
Soon, however, there were problems for Rockefeller Sr, which forced him to return to Standard Oil. The journalist and teacher Ida M. Tarbell (1857-1944) had in 1902 revealed the company’s business practices in the article series “The History of the Standard Oil Company”, which was widely distributed. Tarbell was very thorough and not prone to speculation or reveling in juicy details. Objectivity and respect guided her work. Her investigative journalism contributed to Standard Oil in 1906 being accused of conspiring to prevent trade.
In 1890 a competition law, Sherman Antirust Act, had been created for preventing monopolies and cartels. Rockefeller managed to prevent the company being split up after a court decision in 1892, by creating the holding company – Standard Oil of New Jersey (Exxon). Now, in 1911, however, justice had caught up with Rockefeller, resulting in the cartel being broken up into 34 smaller companies.
The damage to Rockefeller, however, was not that great, as he had prepared for the conviction well in advance. Instead of resulting in a loss, the breakup rather increased the value of his capital, while he retained control over all of the individual companies. John D. had 25% of the shares when the company was broken up and got the same percentage in all the new companies. The original value increased fivefold in a short time.
The most powerful of them all was Standard Oil of New Jersey (SOCONY), which had its headquarters in The Rockefeller Center. After many years the divided companies slowly began buying each other up. Today, the remains of Standard Oil is accumulated in the ExxonMobil and Chevron, while BP bought up the rest. These companies currently own the rights to the name Standard.
The same year that Standard Oil was split up, family also started its banking business through the acquisition in 1911 of the Equitable Trust Company. The bank soon gathered all accounts from the Standard Oil family, and quickly grew to the eighth-largest bank in the U.S. By the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, they also, along with a number of other private bankers (including J.P. Morgan), gained control of the U.S. central bank. The architect behind this Act was Nelson Aldrich, whose daughter Abby (1874-1948) was married to John D. Rockefeller Junior.
In 1929 the Equitable Trust Company was merged with Chase Manhattan and from then on came to constitute the bastion and financial tool for the Rockefeller clan. It was from the outset closely linked with the Standard Oil Company and especially Exxon. This contributed to making it into one of the world’s most powerful banks. The Board of Chase had several representatives from the oil companies. The brother-in-law of John D. Rockefeller Jr., Winthrop Aldrich, became Chairman of the bank that Junior’s son David Rockefeller (1915-) came to lead between 1960 and 1981. In 2000, Chase merged with Rothschild’s bank J.P. Morgan and became even more influential.
The Rockefeller Foundation – Media and Propaganda
In order to improve his tarnished reputation as a ruthless industrialist, and also escape taxation, John D. Rockefeller Sr. created the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913. It was a development of the General Education Board, and had begun to be developed in 1907, based on the ideas of Frederick Gates. Before the breakup of the Standard Oil cartel Rockefeller had prepared meticulously. Now the world was ready for their philanthropic mission.
The press agent Ivy Lee was recruited to further clean the dirty image that had swelled to serious proportions by the Ludlow massaker in 1914. Hatred towards the super-capitalists was now at its peak. After a few years of effective P.R. campaigns, however, the picture of the family started to change and they became known as generous philanthropists. The ageing John D. was seen liberally handing out dimes to children and the needy in contemporary propaganda clips. Several major nationwide newspapers, including Time Magazine and Newsweek, were purchased in the following years by Rockefeller and his banking colleague, J.P. Morgan, to be used as their own propaganda channels. John D. Rockefeller wanted to prevent any major newspaper ever again writing anything negative about him.
The Rockefeller Foundation invested large sums in supporting the study of propaganda techniques and how people could be affected both by the media and politically. Researchers included Harold Laswell (1902-1978) from the University of Chicago. Laswell thought that people needed to be prepared very slowly for new ideas and events. Propagandists would introduce and cultivate them through long-term and well-developed campaign strategies. Symbols could be created with built-in emotional responses. The symbols could then be used to create large-scale mass action. Laswell felt that propaganda techniques should be given as tools for a scientific technocratic elite.
The Rockefeller Foundation gave substantial grants for studying and developing psychological warfare and management strategies. These were soon adopted on a large scale in order to benefit their own long-term goals.
The idea was to run the Rockefeller Foundation with the same efficiency as Standard Oil. The best minds were recruited for the board. The first year, John D. Rockefeller transferred $100 million.A huge sum at that time! The Foundation’s capital was built on shares in the family’s oil companies. By 1929, $300 million in share capital from Standard Oil had been transferred by John D. Sr.
John D. Rockefeller Jr. was the foundation’s first President before he moved on to the position of Chairman (from 1917 to 1939) while Senior cut back on his commitments. In 1952, Junior’s eldest son, John D. Rockefeller III was elected Chairman and stayed in that position until 1971. In addition, family members such as John D. Rockefeller IV (1937-) and David Rockefeller’s daughter Peggy Dulany (1947-) has been board members. Direct influence was reinforced again when David Rockefeller, Jr. (1941-) became Chairman in 2010. The Foundation’s management has close ties to the political and economic elite of the U.S.
The Rockefeller Foundation became another pillar of the empire. Through RF the family could support the activities and development they wanted and at the same time appear to be good and generous philanthropists. However, they were very careful with what they supported and how the money was being handled. It became an invisible hand that almost imperceptibly influenced the course of events in the United States and the world. Initially, their efforts were focussed on health and medicine. They also engaged in China where they established the China Medical Board. Relations with the Chinese rulers were good, and after a break of a few decades, they were among the first to resume contact with the Communist regime in the 1970s. This later opened up for China’s role in the world economy after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
One of the main techniques of the Rockefeller Foundation for gaining influence has been by working with established agencies to address solvable problems, and to persuade authorities and other institutions to assume leadership of those issues in the longer term. Once RF has planted their seed, the tree grows on its own. This has been a successful strategy. Many international organisations have been established in this way.
The Foundation’s stated aim was to ”promote the well-being of mankind throughout the world”. Early on they began engaging in international affairs and created the International Health Division (the predecessor to the WHO). They also began training doctors and took control of modern medicine. This happened to result in financial gain through their investment in the pharmaceutical industry – a very profitable form of philanthropy.
Via their foundations, the Rockefeller family has a powerful tool. They have avoided the short-sightedness of politicians and business both, and have instead worked for long term gains. Step by step they have methodically built up support for the changes they have wanted to accomplish. They have embarked on virtually every area of human activity. Banking / finance, politics, media, education / knowledge production, energy, agriculture / food, health / medicine, religion, technology / futurism, population control and conservation. These were areas which much later would come to be united under that great question of planetary destiny – climate. A question which also begged a great solution – The Great Transformation. The road to a sustainable Utopia. Global Environmental Governance.
Already back in 1930, the Rockefeller Foundation funded the foundation of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. The following year was the Swedish meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby became Research Assistant. He had a stellar career and in 1940 was given the task of organising the new Department of Meteorology at the University of Chicago. Soon, interest would be directed at a colourless and life-giving gas and its possible impact on the earth’s temperature and the theory which 1896 was presented by Rossby’s mentor Svante Arrhenius …
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