On 29th March 2023, Extinction Rebellion (XR) took to the halls of The Science Museum in London during the ‘Lates’ event to protest Adani Green Energy’s sponsorship of the new Energy Revolution gallery. Adani Green Energy is a smaller branch of the parent company Adani Group, an India-based multinational industrial conglomerate reported to be heavily involved with fossil fuel expansion in Australia and India.
Adani owns the Carmichael Coal Mine in Queensland, Australia and the Climate Council’s report on this mine found that if the Galilee Basin, where the mine is sited, were a country on its own, it would emit more than 1.3 times Australia’s current annual emissions from all sources and rank in the top 15 emitting countries in the world¹.
The beginning of the protest took place outside the IMAX theatre where a launch was being staged for a book co-written by the director of the museum Roger Highfield. Outside this event, XR began their own “unsanctioned”launch for the publication “The Science Museum Group: an unravelling tragedy” produced by the Fossil Free Science Museum Coalition.
This photo book tells the story of the struggle between Adani and those on the ground who are leading the resistance against what XR claims are Adani’s effects on Indigenous communities in South Asia and on the climate. Members of other groups from the coalition such as Culture Unstained, Scientists for Extinction Rebellion, and South Asia Solidarity Group were also present, highlighting what are claimed to be widespread impacts caused by Adani Group, both environmentally and socially.
While speaking to earth system scientist and activist Aaron Thierry at the event he demonstrated his frustration over the sponsorship. “I’m a climate scientist by training. I’ve studied climate impacts up in the Arctic, and I’m terrified about the scale and the urgency of the climate crisis. We’ve just had the IPCC report come out this week telling us very clearly that we have to leave all fossil fuels in the ground. We can’t be having new expansions of oil or gas, and yet this museum and its management think it’s fit to pair with a coal mining company as well as several different oil companies; it’s just completely unacceptable in this day and age”.
A collective frustration was tangible amongst the scientists present at the event, with one speaker giving an emotional speech about how the place that had once inspired her science career had become an epicentre of disappointment and outrage. Aaron later mentions that scientists have stated that if we continue burning fossil fuels at the current rates, the tropics will be uninhabitable in 50 years, yet while the museum still apparently associates with Adani.
The former director of The Science Museum, Prof.Chris Rapley, showed his disapproval by resigning from the Board of Trustees over the sponsorship. Not only this, but teachers and students are boycotting The Science Museum, with over 400 teachers and educators having signed an open letter to the museum.
The accounts given by those who spoke at the event reiterated not only the diverse impacts that this and similar sponsorships cause, but also the emotional and personal effects it has on indigenous communities.
It is sometimes easy to get carried away in the excitement and performativity of larger XR protests, such as the London 2018 marches, however these smaller, more intimate rebellions can often be just as powerful. Stories and experiences are shared and the multi-faceted nature of climate change can be more clearly communicated. I believe this Science Museum rebellion was an example of that. The public has spoken, it is now time for The Science Museum to listen.
¹ NEW REPORT: ADANI MONSTER MINE COULD DAMAGE CLIMATE, HEALTH, TOURISM. Climate Council. Available at: https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/carmichaelmediarelease/
Accessed on: 07/04/23
²Adani Group Due Diligence. Available at: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/800698/response/1939567/attach/html/2/Adani%20Group%20Due%20Diligence%2015122020.pdf.html
Accessed on: 07/04/23
Author: Maia Ingham-Jerry