Cambridge climate campaigners use indirect and direct action as heatwaves loom
Multiple approaches including meditation and direct action have been used by environmental activists in the last few days in a bid to raise awareness of – and bring change to – the city’s continuing links to fossil fuel companies.
Silent Rebellion is an antidote to noise. You might think their quiet message would be drowned out at Strawberry Fair, but meditators – and meditation – help reduce the pressure on revellers to ‘have a good time’ and that helps everyone relax and… have a better experience. Which is having a good time in common argot.
On Monday, Extinction Rebellion Cambridge began a week-long vigil to protest against the presence of the Schlumberger Cambridge Research facility on Madingley Road, and outside the University of Cambridge’s Senate House, calling on the university to cut its ties to the fossil fuel giant.
The protests against Schlumberger have been a staple of the climate campaign group and no doubt irritate a lot of people who don’t like to be inconvenienced or embarrassed into a discussion on why Cambridge continues to be a safe haven for fossil fuel investments both cultural and financial.
“Named professorships like the BP Professorship of Chemistry, Shell Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Schlumberger Professorship of Complex Physical Systems allow fossil fuel companies to portray themselves as respectable and academically necessary,” said Cambridge Carbon Zero Society author in a 2019 report which highlighted concerns about the ‘marketisation of the British education system’. “Awards and prizes such as the ExxonMobil Prize and BP Chemistry Prizes are relatively cheap attempts by fossil fuel companies to greenwash and funnel students into fossil fuel jobs on graduation.”
More recently, Schlumberger has had something of a reprieve as governments scramble around for sources of fuel that don’t involve Russia, a pariah state following the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. With the usual sources of oil less available, Schlumberger’s repertoire – its expertise includes deep-sea drilling, tar sands extraction, fracking and re-fracking – is more in demand than ever, much to the alarm of environmentalists
The revival in fortunes for the oil industry has happened just as global temperature edges towards unbearable. In India and Pakistan this year temperatures have hit 50C (122F), while this week more than 100 million Americans have been advised to stay indoors amid record-breaking heat and humidity.
As the summer heat starts to kick in and the global temperatures continue their inexorable rise, multiple facets of climate activism have been mobilised to try and persuade more people to put the climate issue at the forefront of their thinking.
On Wednesday a protest was held at Botanic Gardens, highlighting the fact that the UK’s highest-ever temperature – 38.725 degrees Celsius or 101.705 Fahrenheit – was recorded at the site in 2019.
Chloe Thomas, who protested outside the Schlumberger building on Madingley Road, said: “I am terrified that my young grandchildren will die on a barren and broken planet.
“The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s speech on the launch of the latest UN IPCC report on the climate emergency made it very plain that fossil fuels are the major driver of this catastrophe and those engaged in increasing their production are ‘truly dangerous radicals’ engaged in ‘moral and economic madness’.
“That is what Schlumberger does and the university has extensive links with them and still invests in fossil fuels. They are both culpable in the destruction of this planet. We need to get Schlumberger out of Cambridge.”
A spokesperson for Schlumberger said: “The Schlumberger Cambridge Research centre is heavily involved in supporting the company’s commitment to net zero emissions, with many projects in new energy activities.”
The University of Cambridge was approached for comment.
A spokesperson for XR Cambridge said: “We will be back every day this week, with a mass gathering at Senate House on Friday, 6 to 7pm.”