PRESS RELEASE: WEDNESDAY 27TH OCTOBER 2021, 06.00
Youth climate activists occupy Science Museum overnight in protest at fossil fuel sponsors
Young climate activists continue overnight occupation of Science Museum after 12 hours
Group say it’s time to ‘reclaim museum’ from fossil fuel sponsors BP, Shell, Equinor and Adani
Pressure mounts on museum director, Ian Blatchford, ahead of COP26 Climate Summit, following controversial BBC interview
Indigenous leader condemns Blatchford’s comments and calls on museum to ‘respect the fundamental human rights of Indigenous peoples’
For more information, or to interview a young person currently occupying the museum, call 07858913920 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @ukscn_london on Twitter for latest updates. Photos are being uploaded here and a selection attached for use.
This morning, a group of 30 young climate activists, scientists and campaigners will leave the Science Museum after successfully occupying the building overnight in a protest against the museum’s controversial sponsorship deals with the oil and gas companies BP, Equinor and Shell. The museum has come under increased pressure after it announced last week that the coal giant Adani would sponsor its new ‘Energy Revolution’ gallery. It followed the news that former Science Museum director Professor Chris Rapley had resigned from the museum’s Advisory Board over its stance on oil sponsorship.
The occupation, organised by youth strikers UKSCN London, followed a similar protest in June which ended prematurely after the young activists were confronted by an excessive and disproportionate police response. This time, despite having items such as sleeping bags, foil blankets and leaflets confiscated by museum security as they entered, the group refused to leave as the museum closed on Tuesday. They successfully negotiated to remain overnight where they unfurled banners and hosted livestreams on social media. Alongside the occupation, a simultaneous vigil took place outside the museum, focused on remembering both the victims of the climate crisis and the activists and environmental defenders whose deaths the museum’s four fossil fuel sponsors are complicit in.
Izzy, 17, a member of UKSCN London, who participated in the occupation, said:
‘We chose to take this action today because the Science Museum has consistently refused to engage with any other tactics. We’ve tried petitions, letters, boycotts and protests, all of which have been met with silence. The Science Museum’s director is failing to do his job by sacrificing the museum's reputation and credibility for his own admiration of fossil fuel companies. He repeatedly emphasises the importance of engaging with the oil and coal industry while the legitimate concerns of young people, scientists and impacted communities have been ignored, diminished and sidelined. The director of a publicly funded museum shouldn’t be defending the coal industry and the Science Museum shouldn’t belong to the corporations causing the climate crisis; it is time for young people and scientists to reclaim this space from its destructive sponsors.’
On Tuesday’s edition of ‘Front Row’ on BBC Radio 4, Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford was asked how he responded to the criticism made by Adrian Burragubba, Indigenous spokesperson for the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council and senior cultural custodian of the land where Adani is building its Carmichael mine in Australia, that ‘...by putting this company on a pedestal, the Science Museum is complicit in Adani’s violation of our Human Rights and destruction of our ancestral lands.’ In response, Blatchford defended the coal company’s operations at the controversial Carmichael coal mine, and claimed we should also be “looking at other voices”. Blatchford said ‘there is certainly a great tendency for some campaigners to exaggerate very significantly those issues’, a statement that has been criticised by the StopAdani campaign on Twitter for unveiling ‘the despicable colonial arrogance behind the British @sciencemuseum's decision to platform such a destructive company. We must listen and stand with First Nations people.’
Adrian Burragubba, has issued this statement in response to Blatchford’s comments:
“The British Science Museum should be respecting the fundamental human rights of Indigenous peoples. Instead, director Ian Blatchford has dismissed us and chosen to support Adani, a company that is destroying our land and violating our rights. Every step of the way, Adani has used lies and deception to persecute my people, interfere in our decision making processes, and undermine our rights to self-determination. In 2014, the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council, a representative body made up of hundreds of people, said no to Adani digging a coal mine on our land. We have continued to oppose the Adani mine on our land in five Federal court cases. Adani has ignored our representatives, divided our people, and used money and influence to manufacture sham agreements. Adani influenced the Prime Minister of Australia to extinguish our native title rights, they bankrupted me personally for standing up for our rights, and made me a trespasser on my own land.
He went on to say:
“Adani’s coal mine has no Free, Prior and Informed consent from Wangan and Jagalingou people. We know the damage this mine will cause to our ancestral homelands and we continue to oppose it. Adani’s corporate behaviour is in clear violation of human rights, not only of Indigenous people in Australia, but Indigenous people all around the world. Adani works to shut Indigenous people up, to criminalise us, and bankrupt us. Adani is not a good corporate citizen. I certainly wouldn’t take money from them.”
The protest comes just days before COP26 Climate Summit takes place in Glasgow. It was revealed last week that fossil fuel companies have been barred from having any formal role at the summit, in a marked contrast to the Science Museum’s own stance. Despite their claims of going ‘net zero’, all four of the museum’s fossil fuel sponsors are continuing to invest in new fossil fuel exploration, despite the International Energy Agency making it clear that investment in coal, oil and gas must end this year in order to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
Since Shell's sponsorship of the 'Our Future Planet' exhibition was announced in April, the museum has received a huge backlash from climate activists, scientists and the wider public and it was revealed on Channel 4 that the museum had also signed a ‘gagging clause’ with Shell as part of the sponsorship agreement. There has been a series of protests led by UKSCN London and Scientists for XR, thousands joined a boycott of the exhibition and over 50,000 signed a petition. The youth strikers were particularly disappointed to see climate strike placards included in a fossil fuel-sponsored exhibition without the donors being informed of the sponsorship. In September, following a letter from UKSCN London and placard donors, the placards have been removed from display and replaced with a set of newspapers displaying climate-related headlines
Notes to editors
About UKSCN London:
UKSCN London is a radical youth-led organisation, in London, mobilising for climate justice. They aim to create a new generation of young activists who are educated about society and the change we need, in order to work with other movements to change the system we live in.
Members come from across the city and a range of backgrounds and experiences, but are united by a commitment to creating a world where everyone can live safely. UKSCN London are part of the UK Student Climate Network and national Youth Strike For Climate movement.