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Sir Mark Rylance signs XR letter on University of Cambridge links to Schlumberger





Sir Mark Rylance, the Oscar-winning actor and theatre director, has signed the letter pleading for a cessation of all the links between the University of Cambridge and fossil fuel services company Schlumberger.

Schlumberger has been targeted by Extinction Rebellion Cambridge on numerous occasions. Picture: Jeremy Peters
Schlumberger has been targeted by Extinction Rebellion Cambridge on numerous occasions. Picture: Jeremy Peters

The letter, which now has more than 1,400 signatories including Sir Mark and Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, will be delivered to the university’s Old Schools administrative centre tomorrow (July 16) morning.

“The devastating effects of climate change are already with us human beings and also with the many other living beings with whom we share this blessed planet,” says Sir Mark in a comment published today by Extinction Rebellion (XR) Cambridge. “Many have perished or are perishing as I write. Hunger alone kills more human beings in a year than the whole of the covid pandemic. Where do people imagine we are going if we don't change? It is incredible to me that an institution renowned for higher intelligence and learning should still be connected with the cruel senseless business of carbon extraction.

“I urge all conscious students and staff to rise up and demand change. I certainly would not send a child of mine to an institution that behaved this brutally towards the common good of all living creatures. Certainly not.”

The action comes at a tipping point in the history of climate change: the Met Office has today issued the first-ever Red Extreme heat warning for exceptional heat the in UK. On Monday and Tuesday, the Met Office has forecast temperatures of 40°C in the centre of the country, including in Cambridge.

Sir Mark Rylance after he was knighted by the Duke of Cambridge in a 2027 investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Picture: PA Wire
Sir Mark Rylance after he was knighted by the Duke of Cambridge in a 2027 investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Picture: PA Wire

“This is the first time we have forecast 40°C in the UK,” a Met Office spokesperson said. “The current record high temperature in the UK is 38.7°C, which was reached at Cambridge Botanic Garden on July 25 in 2019.”

Scientists have consistently said that the intensity of every heatwave in 2022 – including in India, the US and Australia – can now be linked to climate breakdown. Climate attribution scientist at the Met Office, Dr Nikos Christidis, said “In a recent study we found that the likelihood of extremely hot days in the UK has been increasing and will continue to do so during the course of the century, with the most extreme temperatures expected to be observed in the southeast of England.

“Climate change has already influenced the likelihood of temperature extremes in the UK. The chances of seeing 40°C days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence.”

An XR Cambridge spokesperson said: “XR Cambridge is delighted to have so many signatories to our open letter. We set an ambitious target of 1,000 and we smashed that. Just another demonstration of the depth of feeling around the world that the insidious relationship between the University of Cambridge and Schlumberger has to end now.

“In June, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, stated that ‘fossil fuel companies have humanity by the throat’. Indeed, Schlumberger seems to have the university by the throat and that has to stop. Until that happens we will continue to expose the hypocrisy of the university’s inadequate policies addressing the climate and ecological emergency by continuing direct action until they fulfil the demands of our Schlumberger Out! campaign.”

Schlumberger has been targeted by Extinction Rebellion Cambridge on numerous occasions. Picture: Jeremy Peters
Schlumberger has been targeted by Extinction Rebellion Cambridge on numerous occasions. Picture: Jeremy Peters

Chloe, who was part of the group who delivered the letter, said: “We’ve collected so many signatures to our open letter, 1,400! Every one of those signatures represents someone having a conversation or reading about the Schlumberger Out! Campaign. When members of the public find out about about the university’s extensive links with Schlumberger, they are shocked. They can’t understand why such an august and scientifically informed institution, which claims to be taking effective action on the climate emergency, is collaborating with a fossil fuel firm.

“Doesn’t the university realise the reputational damage they are doing to themselves by continuing this ecocidal relationship?”

The letter can be read in precis form in this week’s edition of the Cambridge Independent, and here. Tomorrow (July 16) at 10.30am, XR Cambridge and XR Youth Cambridge will be marching to the University of Cambridge’s administrative centre ‘Old Schools’, arriving around 11.15am, to deliver the open letter calling on the university to cut ties with Schlumberger.



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