Thursday, at the annual Sustainable Denver Summit Colorado, members of the youth-led climate action group, Sunrise Movement, circulated a fake letter appearing to be on official Denver city letterhead as part of a disinformation action.
“This is a tactic that we used to show an alternate future and alternate reality that we have the power to make true.”
— Morgan Anker on KGNU’s Morning Magazine
The letter included a fabricated apology from the city for allowing the oil company Suncor to sponsor the Summit as well false climate emergency declaration from the Mayor’s and Governor’s offices. KGNU’s Hannah Leigh Myers asked Morgan Anker, Communications Director for Sunrise Colorado, about the letter.
Listen to the full interview from the Friday, December 6th Morning Magazine below:
“The tactic was very much inspired by the group the Yes Men. They are famous for different actions impersonating fossil fuel executives and corporations to actually hold them accountable for the damage they cause to people and the planet. So we really wanted to mirror their tactics and show our leaders the steps that they could actually take action to make this reality that we’re putting forward true,” said Anker.
Colorado Sunrise Movement admitted their “time-sensitive, limited untruth” on Twitter, as well as in their conversation with KGNU.
Update: It’s true, we admit we wrote the letter…But we hope it models the leadership that Coloradans deserve. Now it’s in @MayorHancock and @GovofCO’s hands to follow through on this bold action. #WhichSideAreYouOn
— Sunrise Colorado 🌅 (@SunriseMvmtCO) December 5, 2019
Earlier in the week, KGNU and other news outlets received a press release from Sunrise Movement Colorado including the same false claims in the letter.
On the Morning Magazine, Anker wanted to make clear Sunrise Movement has “100% faith in journalism and the idea of truth” but she added, “this is just a step we need to take to get people awake and aware of what we’re doing and sometimes you do have to toe the line a little bit.”
Sunrise Movement Colorado’s fabricated letter and press release is drawing mixed reactions with some members of the press and public criticizing the group for sowing mistrust in the climate justice movement and feeding into the fake news problem. Others are applauding the youth climate action group for taking bold action and shaking up an establishment accustom to ‘greenwashing’ or the practice misleading the public to believe a product, company or entity is environmentally friendly.
It’s the Colorado Sunrise Movement’s position that they are, “building off the untruths that greenwashing always puts forward and that fossil fuel executives have fed to our nation since the 70s when they knew that climate change was real, it was happening, and was happening because of their mission.”
Akers say they knew their disinformation campaign would be upsetting to some but, “what any good movement is going to do is it’s going to polarize people. You can’t really move forward until you garner strong opinions from both the public and leadership.”