From science to action: the first coordinated science rebellion in more than 25 countries

George V Bridge, Glasgow city centre. Scientific Rebellion carried ou a blockade that lasted more than 5 hours. Photo: Mar Sala.
George V Bridge, Glasgow city centre. Scientific Rebellion carried ou a blockade that lasted more than 5 hours. Photo: Mar Sala.

Our pre-doctoral researcher Javier de la Casa has written this article on the occasion of the first internationally coordinated action of peaceful civil disobedience, the week of 4-9 April, by members of the scientific community.

In recent years an image has become established in our collective imagination, the image of the burning house. This is a large house and it is inhabited by beings. Some of the creatures are curious and enjoy exploring the different spaces in the house. This is how they discover smoke in the kitchen and return to the living room frightened to discuss it with the other beings, who react in very different ways: some are sceptical, others despair and others join the exploring beings, full of inspiration. These beings go back and forth from the kitchen, each time reporting more and more seriously on the situation of the flames to the beings in the living room.

Faced with this, the beings in charge of managing the welfare of the rest decide to take action. They organise groups of fire-fighting beings who, with small glasses of water, barely manage to stop the fire. However, their action succeeds in calming the nerves in the living room and now these beings can go back to watching television in peace, and some of the scout beings even sit down to watch it. Again, the scout beings return to the kitchen and see that the situation is critical, there is no time left for ineffective solutions. What should these beings do now? As Albert Einstein would say: “Those who have the privilege to know, have the obligation to act”.

“The scientific community, like explorers, has to act in such a way that its discourse reflects the urgent situation we are in and clearly transmits that we have to act as we would in an emergency,” according to Javier de la Casa, pre-doctoral researcher at CREAF.

Science warns of the planet’s dangerous course

The situation has become more critical and evident and, over the years, the scientific community has been organizing itself in this regard.

We have known for a long time that our way of inhabiting the planet is unsustainable. A clear example of this is the Club of Rome’s report The Limits to Growth, led by Donella Meadows, in which the limits of economic growth began to be modelled as early as 1972. Since then, the situation has become more critical and evident (especially in certain vulnerable areas of the world) and over the years the scientific community has been organizing itself in this respect. 

For example, in 1992 the Union of Concerned Scientists published the report ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity‘, warning of the dangerous direction humanity was taking with respect to its vision of unlimited growth. This report was signed by 1700 renowned scientists. In 2017, this same organization published another report in BioScience ‘World Scientist’ Warning of a Climate Emergency‘, this time signed by around 17,000 scientists and scientists. This recent report has served as a basis for many local and state governments to declare a climate emergency in their territories.

Science rebels and takes action

Civil disobedience is a very useful tool to force negotiations both with the scientific community and the civil society.

The date of April 4, 2022 marks another step in the history of science in the face of the ecological crisis. With the release of the third chapter of the IPCC’s sixth report, the first internationally coordinated Science Rebellion begins in more than 25 countries. The scientific community’s “acceptable” ways of catalysing climate action have not been effective enough and it is time to go one step further. Those beings that smelled the smoke, which saw the flames, will have no capacity to alert the rest if they do not act accordingly. To this end Science Rebellion, under the slogan “The 1.5ºC commitment has failed, climate rebellion now”, seeks to engage the scientific community in non-violent civil disobedience actions and academic strikes during the week of April 4-9.

George V Bridge, Glasgow city center. Rebelión Científica carrying out a blockade that lasted more than 5 hours and in which Javier de la Casa (third from the left) participated. Photograph: Mar Sala.
George V Bridge, Glasgow city center. Rebelión Científica carrying out a blockade that lasted more than 5 hours and in which Javier de la Casa (second from the left) participated. Photograph: Mar Sala.

“The idea of this campaign is to break the loop of scientific appeals followed by inaction and empty promises. I myself was born the year loaded with promises, 1997,” Javier de la Casa.

The Kyoto Protocol was created in 1997, but where is that ambition 24 years later? 2021 has broken the historical emissions record, with a total of 36.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide. We need serious and real commitments. Civil disobedience is a very useful tool to force these negotiations with the scientific community and civil society.

In the words of the UN Secretary General himself, Antonio Gutierres, “Delay means death”. Much remains to be done, time is short. Let us be part of the change.

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