Enough Air Pollution: Extinction Rebellion UK stage die-in at the Science Museum - Extinction Rebellion UK

Enough Air Pollution: Extinction Rebellion UK stage die-in at the Science Museum

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  • 11am today: the Science Museum’s Making the Modern World gallery was transformed into the stage for a die-in to draw attention to illegal levels of air-pollution in the UK.
  • Children taking part in the protest wore bespoke pollution masks made by crass artist Gee Vaucher, 3D – Massive Attack, Fashion Designer Bella Freud, artist and sculptor Gavin Turk and Turner Prize Winning artist Jeremy Deller.
  • The museum was chosen in response to the Science Museum Group’s active promotion of cultural sponsorship by fossil fuel companies and acceptance of oil sponsorship for its children’s gallery, Wonderlab.
  • This Saturday: Enough is Enough: Together We March – multiple groups concerned about the climate and ecological emergency will come together to say enough harm, enough innaction, enough division. 

From 11am today, Extinction Rebellion UK turned the Making the Modern World gallery at the Science Museum in London into the scene of a die-in to highlight the effects of air pollution on our and our children’s health. The Science Museum Group accepts sponsorships from fossil fuel companies, with it’s children’s gallery Wonderlab sponsored by Norwegian energy company Equinor. 

Wearing masks that read “Enough is Enough on Air Pollution,” and holding banners with facts demonstrating the links between air-pollution and serious health conditions, the diverse group which includes children as young as two, lay down in silence for 20 minutes. Once the die-in was concluded the silence was broken with speeches from parents, concerned about their children’s future.

Children taking part in the protest wore bespoke pollution masks made by crass artist Gee Vaucher, 3D – Massive Attack, Fashion Designer Bella Freud, artist and sculptor Gavin Turk and Turner Prize Winning artist Jeremy Deller. The masks were donated by the artists to Extinction Rebellion UK and will be auctioned later this year. The proceeds will be split between Extinction Rebellion and other groups working directly to end the harm caused to children by air pollution.

In 2015, Margaret Chan, former Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO), stated that WHO estimates that over 7 million people die from air pollution each year, making it the largest single environmental risk to health globally. Four and a half million of these deaths are due to outdoor air pollution. [1]

Each year in the UK, around 40,000 premature deaths are attributable to long term exposure to outdoor air pollution [2]. This is more than 100 deaths per day from cardiovascular problems, strokes and respiratory disease. There are around 9,400 excess deaths a year in London due to long term exposure to air pollution (from combined effect of PM2.5 particulates and nitrogen dioxide (NO2)). [3] Other health effects of long term exposure to air pollution include an increased risk of dementia and cognitive impairment, diabetes, and low birth weight and poor lung development in children.

The British government has repeatedly failed to tackle illegal levels of air pollution, and in May 2017 the UK was referred to the European Court of Justice over failure to take effective action. [4]

The families protesting today call on the government to start taking action now to reduce pollution levels in the UK. They demand that public and private institutions like the Science Museum declare a climate emergency, cut ties with the fossil fuel industry and tell the truth to the public about the climate and ecological emergency we are facing.


Juliana Westcott, mother of two from Lewisham, said: “I want my children, two and four years old, to be able to grow up in this amazing city without this meaning that I am putting their health at risk. We don’t want to leave the city – our lives are here in London – but it breaks my heart to know that when I go back home today, their lungs will be full with so much pollution from what was just supposed to be a fun family day out in a museum.”

Miranda Irwin, mother of two and teacher, said: “Air pollution is a social justice issue. It’s silently poisoning our children and the poorest and most vulnerable in our society have no choice but to live and breathe in the worst affected areas.”

Dr Terry Matthews, a member of Doctors for Extinction Rebellion, said: “Breathing illegal toxic air from fossil fuel combustion causes deaths and hospital admissions from heart attacks, strokes and asthma. Air pollution also increases the risk of dementia, impaired brain function and depression; and miscarriage and infertility. Child development is delayed and child lung development can be reduced by around one tenth. 

“As we are surrounded by families today, my heart goes out to the most vulnerable who will suffer for many years to come from our failure to act on air pollution.”

Notes to editors

[1] WHO Director-General addresses event on climate change and health https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2015/climate-change-paris/en/

[2] Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution

[3] Understanding Health Impacts of Air Pollution in London https://data.gov.uk/dataset/52b7f9ec-f7fa-46ea-ab88-dc30e0752061/understanding-health-impacts-of-air-pollution-in-london

[4] UK taken to Europe’s highest court over air pollution https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/17/uk-taken-to-europes-highest-court-over-air-pollution

About Extinction Rebellion

Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and abrupt, runaway climate change. Societal collapse and mass death are seen as inevitable by scientists and other credible voices, with human extinction also a possibility, if rapid action is not taken.

Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.

Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:

  1. Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
  2. Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
  3. Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

What Emergency? | Extinction Rebellion in Numbers |This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook 

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About Rising Up!

Extinction Rebellion emerged from the Rising Up! network, which promotes a fundamental change of our political and economic system to one which maximises well-being and minimises harm. Change needs to be nurtured in a culture of reverence, gratitude and inclusion while the tools of civil disobedience and direct action are used to express our collective power.

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