Science Museum occupied overnight by young people and scientists protesting Shell sponsorship
Youth strike organisers UKSCN London and Scientists for Extinction Rebellion vow to stay 24 hours in Science Museum in protest at Shell sponsorship
24-hour livestream features speakers from around the world
Protest marks significant escalation in opposition to oil giant’s sponsorship of museum’s flagship climate exhibition
For more information, or to interview a young person or scientist currently occupying the museum, call 07858913920 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To watch the livestream, go to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQdMw1hYavXW1jpJ44OLKlA and follow @ukscn_london on Twitter for latest updates. Photos are being uploaded here: https://350org.widencollective.com/c/vhkhkbg3
More than 20 young people and scientists from UKSCN London and Scientists for Extinction Rebellion have announced they plan to occupy the Science Museum overnight, in protest at oil firm Shell’s sponsorship of its climate exhibition ‘Our Future Planet’. They have been protesting in the museum since 1pm when they set up in front of the Shell-sponsored exhibition and began a 24-hour livestream which will feature nearly 40 speakers. At 5.30pm the group moved into the iconic main hall of the museum, unfurled two massive banners with the words “Drop Shell Sponsorship” and “Stop Taking Oil Money” from a balcony above and informed museum security that they would stay throughout the night.
The young people and scientists have joined forces to “reclaim” the Science Museum from Shell sponsorship. The 24-hour livestream - a direct response to the museum’s own series of ‘climate talks’ - is instead featuring a diverse array of speakers including frontline activists from around the world, international climate campaigners and scientists, as well as contributors to the exhibition who are unhappy that they were not informed about Shell’s involvement. The full lineup can be found here. Over the course of the overnight occupation, the group will make and display new placards that protest the inclusion of placards within the Shell-sponsored exhibition from the London youth strikes in March 2019 that were put on display without the strike organisers’ knowledge or consent.
The group have smuggled sleeping bags, supplies and even a composting toilet into the museum, where they are now setting up camp. They’ve issued a call for people to join them in protest at the museum at 1pm tomorrow when they will process from the museum as their occupation ends.
Izzy Warren, a 17 year old member of UKSCN London said:
“We’ve tried to engage with the museum through letters, petitions and boycotts and they’ve repeatedly ignored us, choosing instead to continue to justify Shell’s involvement, even in light of a damning Dutch court ruling regarding Shell’s commitment to decarbonisation which said the oil company must slash their emissions if they are to be aligned with the Paris Agreement. This occupation is our way of saying that we won’t stand by and let the Science Museum greenwash Shell’s reputation.”
Abi Perrin, a microbiologist and member of XR Scientists, said:
“The Science Museum is doing important work in communicating the climate and ecological crises, but this is undermined by its partnership with Shell, a company whose activities have already had a devastating impact on our climate, ecosystems and communities. Rather than cleaning up their mess, Shell continue to pour the vast majority of their extensive resources into fossil fuels, which the science is clear will have disastrous consequences.”
Willow Coningham, 16, who has been hosting the livestream and did work experience in the museum during year 10, said:
“I adore the Science Museum - ever since I was a child I have seen it as a beacon of learning and inspiration, and through volunteering there I have seen the positive impact it has on so many children. To me, the Science Museum has always represented the future in cutting-edge innovation and invention, yet in accepting Shell sponsorship they betray that vision and betray the very children they exist to inspire and educate.”
The protesters are targeting Shell’s sponsorship of the Science Museum’s new exhibition on climate change and carbon capture, ‘Our Future Planet’, which they believe is giving the company the opportunity to present itself as embracing climate solutions, when in reality it plans to continue extracting oil and gas way beyond safe climate limits. The International Energy Agency recently said that no investment in new oil and gas is possible if global heating is to stay below 1.5C, the goal set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.
The action follows an open letter from UKSCN London to the Science Museum demanding that it drops Shell sponsorship, which was signed by 200 young activists, scientists, organisations and frontline groups and the launch of a boycott of the exhibition, which has already logged over 5800 boycott pledges. Both UKSCN and Scientists for XR held protests in the opening week of the exhibition, with the scientists locking themselves to the Shell-sponsored exhibit for several hours. A petition started by BP or not BP? and signed by over 57,000 people was also handed in to the Science Museum.
Shell is facing intense scrutiny over its current business plans, which allow it to continue exploring for and extracting oil and gas when the science says that to hit the Paris target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C there needs to be no new oil and gas exploration, and existing production needs to be nearly halved over the next decade. Instead, Shell is relying on tree planting and unproven future technology such as carbon capture and storage as a ‘get out of jail free’ card to keep polluting. In the last month it has faced both a significant shareholder rebellion over the weakness of its climate plans, and a landmark ruling from a Dutch Court that the firm must curb its emissions much further.
The museum Director Ian Blatchford responded in an internal message to staff by defending its partnership with Shell and lashing out at its critics. Pressure is now on the museum to end all its oil sponsorship deals: not only is Shell the sponsor of the current climate exhibition, but Equinor sponsors the children’s gallery and BP sponsors STEM education work. Even before the Shell sponsorship was announced, several speakers had pulled out of the museum’s series of ‘Climate Talks’ over its oil company links.