Health professionals occupy road with ‘die-in’ and issue demands to Oil & Money summit delegates
October 19, 2023 by Extinction Rebellion
Over 60 health professionals joined hundreds of protesters this morning outside the Energy Intelligence forum risking arrest by holding a ‘die-in’ and ‘climate inquest’ in the middle of the road outside the conference centre. The recently rebranded ‘Oil and Money’ conference is the largest annual gathering of oil companies and their backers.
The Health for Extinction Rebellion members also delivered an open letter to the conference organisers and delegates, calling them out for their central role in the climate crisis, and demanding immediate mitigating actions. “We wish to make it clear that we understand and condemn the continuing deliberate complicity of the energy sector in this humanitarian disaster,” they wrote.
The physicians, surgeons, GPs, nurses, physiotherapists and psychologists traveled from across the UK for today’s action. 14 of them lay themselves, shrouded, in military hospital style. Other health professionals circled amongst them, tending their ‘fallen’ colleagues, and laying headstones indicating the climate health impact each represented. A mock inquest was then held, in which health-workers gave testimony on the deaths already caused by the planetary emergency. These included among others, the 6 million deaths every year resulting from air pollution (Fuller, 2020), the 5 million deaths globally each year from extreme temperatures (Zhoa. 2021), and the 43,000 who died from the climate-change associated drought and famine in Somalia last year (WHO/Unicef, 2021).
At the conference, leaders from companies such as Equinor (the company responsible for developing the proposed UK Rosebank oil-field), Shell and Total will be schmoozing together and planning yet more fossil fuel extraction, while telling the world they are committed to a green energy transition.
New extraction goes against the explicit warning of the International Energy Agency (IEA, 2021) and the United Nations (UN news, 2022), yet politicians, lawyers and financiers continue to support a fossil fuel industry that has known for decades that fossil fuels cause deadly global warming (Scientific American, 2015). To emphasize this complicity, health workers today also held ‘Cigarette-style’ Health warnings, and a Banner reading ‘Fossil Fuels Kill’. The action sought to draw a direct parallel with the Tobacco industry which was complicit in 100,000’s if not millions of deaths, by knowingly misleading the public around the health impacts of smoking.
Despite the bleak reality of the climate crisis, the action also emphasized the numerous potential benefits for human health of climate action (The Health Foundation, 2023), and the need to galvanize mass support for the appropriate action needed to safeguard a healthy future.
This is the latest in a series of actions by Health for Extinction Rebellion highlighting the health impacts of the financial and political decisions that are driving the climate and ecological emergency.
Quotes from participating Health workers:
“During the August heatwave of 2022 my father suffered a heart attack and died the following week. He had chronic physical health problems and like many of the most vulnerable in our society could not manage the extreme heat that climate change is bringing to us. This is not a problem of the future. It is a health catastrophe that we are living through right now”. Dr Jethro Purkis Specialty Doctor Bristol
“Governments and companies that continue to finance and license new coal, oil and gas are doing so at the expense of their citizens. Fossil fuels are the drivers of deadly climate change and air pollution in our communities. This is an industry that has delayed and denied climate change for decades in the name of greed, putting profit above all else, and from a health and a moral perspective it’s beyond time to shut it down” Dr Juliette Brown, Consultant Psychiatrist
“I am here demonstrating for my pregnant patients, for the new mums and for their babies that I see on a daily basis, I am also here for my own children to say that the fossil fuel companies are destroying any chance of our children being able to live any sort of “normal” future. That the burning of fossil fuels have caused irreversible damage to our planet and that we need companies to stop all new fossil fuel exploration and to start being world leaders in green energy. It is possible, we just need them to start putting the planet and people before profit”. Charlotte Francis. Perinatal Pelvic Health Specialist Physiotherapist
“I am a retired GP and to my last breath I will endeavour to spread the scientific truths which the powers-that-be try so desperately to conceal from the public. I will always denounce the greed and self-interest borne of their grotesque worship of money which has clearly eaten away at their consciences, even their very humanity, to the extent that they are apparently unable to relate to the enormous suffering already in the southern hemisphere, let alone envisage the horrors ahead if they continue their love-affair with Fossil Fuels”. Dr Valerie Davies, Retired General Practitioner
Ali Rowe – 07901 916489
Dr Hilary Neve – 07970 558096
Dr Juliette Brown – 07535 530546
Previous protests by HXR: https://healthforxr.com/news/
Fuller R, Landrigan J et al, 2022. Pollution and health: A progress update. In: The Lancet 6/6, pp 535-547. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(22)00090-0
Hall, S, 2015. Exxon Knew about Climate Change almost 40 years ago. In: Scientific American 26(10)
IEA, 2021. Net zero by 2050: A roadmap for the international energy sector. Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050, License: CC BY 4.0
The Health Foundation, 2023. Health and climate change: complex problems with co-benefits.Published online 10 (01). Available at: https://www.health.org.uk/publications/long-reads/health-and-climate-change-complex-problems-with-co-benefits [Accessed 11-10-2023]
UN News, 2022. Climate change: More fossil fuel investment, just ‘delusional’, warns Guterres. Published June, 2022. Available online: https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/06/1120372, [Accessed 11-10-2023]
WHO/UNICEF, 2022. From insight to action: examining mortality in Somalia. Joint report published 2022 by WHO and Unicef. Available Online: https://reliefweb.int/report/somalia/insight-action-examining-mortality-somalia [Accessed 11-10-23]
Zhao Q, Guo Y et al, 2021. Global, regional, and national burden of mortality associated with non-optimal ambient temperatures from 2000 to 2019: a three-stage modelling study. In: The Lancet Planetary Health 5/7 pp 415-425. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00081-4