IMAGINE THE IMPOSSIBLE: XR Scientists, Youth, Families and Communities lead in an occupation of the Science Museum and blockade of Cromwell Road
August 29, 2021 by Extinction Rebellion
At 6pm on Sunday August 29 around 100 people from Extinction Rebellion, including members of XR Youth, XR Scientists, XR Families and XR Communities occupied the science museum with the aim of preventing this iconic institution from opening its doors on the August Bank Holiday Monday. Inside the museum the group held a banner inside the Museum reading ‘IMAGINE A FOSSIL FUEL FREE MUSEUM’.
Members of Extinction Rebellion also blocked the road near the Museum on Cromwell Road with banners reading ‘STOP THE HARM’, ‘NO MORE FOSSIL FUELS’, ‘LISTEN TO THE SCIENCE’ and ‘THIS IS AN INTERVENTION’.
Before the occupation, from 2pm talks, games and educational activities outside the Museum encouraged young people and adults alike to imagine the impossible. “Our museums should be leading the way in helping the public engage with how we face the climate and ecological crisis and adapt to fossil fuel free economy but if they won’t do it, we will,” said Mary Southhall from XR Families.
The science is clear, with some changes to our climate now inevitable and irreversible, humanity has now been given an unequivocal ‘code red’ warning by the IPCC. In their latest report, Unicef has warned that a billion children are now exposed to a deadly combination of climate and environmental crises. 
Just as governments need to take immediate, rapid and large-scale actions to avoid the worst impacts, museums are expected to educate the public. However, some of the U.K. most revered museums are still accepting money from fossil fuel companies, who exploit this opportunity to obfuscate the truth and to present themselves as being part of the solution while continuing to fuel the crisis.    This is why the position of our most prestigious museums is no longer sustainable. The Science Museum has gone yet one step further, not only allowing Shell to sponsor their latest climate change exhibition but also signing a Shell gagging order.  
Despite several letters, petitions and protests from groups – including youth climate group UKSCNS, Shell Out and Culture Unstained – the management of the Science Museum remains entrenched in its position.     
Ali Rowe, a former child and adolescent mental health nurse from campaign group PsychDeclares, said: “In the tradition of those museums that have helped to perpetuate colonialism and white supremacy, the Science Museum is positioning itself on the wrong side of history. Why is the Science Museum facilitating the work of the perpetrators of the climate crisis, rather than denouncing the delaying tactics of the oil industry? So while Unicef reminds us that ‘the climate crisis is a child rights crisis’, on the bank holiday weekend, Extinction Rebellion took the protest to the Science Museum. Our museums should educate and foster the dreams of our children, but instead, they are failing them by being complicit in serious ongoing climate crimes.”
Inside and outside the Museum, parents and grandparents, educators, healthcare professionals, and scientists stepped forward to speak to the public about the climate crisis, as the Museum should be doing.
Ted Murphy, age 11, said: “I like going to the science museum because it helps me learn about the world, but Shell who sponsor the science museum’s exhibition on climate change are destroying the planet. They are trying to make people believe they want to solve the problem, when actually it’s their fault. I don’t want to go to a museum that isn’t telling me the truth about Shell and the climate emergency.”
Conservation scientist and member of XR Scientists, Dr Charlie Gardner, who joined the occupation of the Science Museum on Sunday, said: “At a time when we need to be shutting down fossil fuel industries as quickly as we possibly can, it’s shocking to see great cultural institutions like the Science Museum still accepting money from oil companies and helping to shore up their reputations.
“Oil companies are driving the climate crisis and have spent decades trying to prevent climate action, partly by trying to cast doubt on the science – they are very much at the heart of the problem, yet their cosy relationships with museums and similar institutions allows them to paint themselves as part of the solution. As a scientist, I feel betrayed that the Science Museum would partner with an industry that has invested so heavily in an anti-science agenda.”
The action comes as part of the Impossible Rebellion, which began on August 23rd and is making a demand for an immediate halt to all new investment in fossil fuels.
Notes to editors
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 increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.
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:
- Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
- Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.
- In the UK, come to one of our events, join the Rebellion Network and let us know how you can help out.
- Start a group where you are: in the UK or around the world.
- Find your local group.
- Check out the International XR website, with links to the French, German, Italian and UK websites.
- While you’re at it, support our fundraiser!