In a world where news can spread as rapidly as a flame to a fuse (don’t mention the Eurovision song contest, bah!), you’d be forgiven for not knowing what the recent protests outside the Science Museum are about. So in case you missed this one, let’s get up to speed.

What brings scientists to protest outside of a museum? Hey, to warrant hundreds of people among scientists to stage a months worth of protest outside one of our great national treasures, you know it’s got to be a pretty big deal. 

To better answer that question, it is worth raising this question first: 

What is a museum, or more to the point, what is the purpose of a museum? A museum is an institution devoted to the care, study and display of objects and discoveries of importance, lasting interest or value … In other words, a museum is a building that is fundamentally designed to celebrate the power of our collective knowledge.

Universally free, though it hasn’t always been that way, these sanctuaries of knowledge are some of the greatest levellers in society. Since free admission was reintroduced in 2001, they have helped to educate, embolden and inspire young people from all backgrounds and communities. They are symbols of truth and equality.

This is why a decision by the Science Museum to run an exhibition on the climate crisis which is funded by Shell has been largely received as an act of complete negligence and corruption.

What makes Shell so bad? Today we live amongst the biggest corporations the world has ever seen, many of whom are causing irreparable destruction to the planet and people (predominantly from developing nations).

Let’s put it this way, if Santa had an extra naughty list of big corporations then Shell would be right up there vying for that top spot along with Coca-Cola and Nestle. 

These are just some of the things that the anglo-dutch firm Shell has to answer for:

  1. Shell is the fourth most polluting company in the world.
  1. Shell knew about the dire threat of the climate crisis over 30 years ago but went on to fund climate denial think tanks and lobbyists fighting against necessary climate action and continued to double down on fossil fuel production.
  1. Shell has been responsible for for the appalling abuses of human rights and are accused of being complicit of the murder of nine activists from the Ogoni people who were fighting against the operating practices of Shell in the Niger Delta.
  1. Shell is breaching international climate obligations by investing billions of dollars each year in fossil fuel production. Over 90% of their capital was invested in fossil fuels between 2018 – 2020 which is contributing to driving the planet over the precipice.
  1. Shell has always avoided cleaning up its pollution. Despite decades of continual legal action, Shell has largely refused to even acknowledge the damage it has caused let alone clean up after itself.
  1. Shell’s actions are already on trial due to its willful failure to respond to the climate crisis.

Recently in London we have seen the Southbank Center, the BFI, the National Theatre and the Natural History Museum all give Shell the boot, so we ask the Science Museum: does this sound like a company you want to get into bed with? 

Really? …

So what about Shell’s new scheme to help you to ‘drive carbon neutral’, isn’t this a positive step forward? Sadly, this is an extremely damaging scam. Scams like this are deliberately creating a smoke screen to hide the facts from the general public. It is called ‘green-washing’ and frankly it is nothing more than a lie.
The fact of the matter is, it is impossible to drive a petrol or diesel car carbon neutral.
Here’s why:

  • As you know, driving internal combustion motors like petrol, diesel, gas and even hybrid vehicles all release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is produced when the fuel is burnt within the engine carbon is emitted from the exhaust. 
  • Extracting these fuels is a carbon heavy process and often requires enormous machines to drill the earth. This is followed by another process to clean and refine the fuel so that it is suitable for our vehicles.
  • The fuel is then transported to your local fuel station over extremely long distances from locations all over the world. This produces vast amounts of carbon.
  • Simply planting trees is not a valid form of carbon offsetting. Biologists agree that it takes at least 15 years for a newly planted forest to begin having a true carbon negative effect, let alone enough to absorb the carbon produced from your last purchase from Shell.
  • Carbon is not absorbed by a tree like water is absorbed by a sponge. It requires an environment of strong biodiversity around it to help it maintain good health. This includes insects, pollinators, animals, birds, moss, mushrooms and everything else in between. All these elements function together like one big natural engine. Take just one of these elements away and the whole ecosystem is knocked off kilter. How far do you think you would get if your engine was missing its spark plugs?

Shell regrettably has some 30 years experience in green-washing so as you’d expect, they have gotten pretty good at it.
The promise of ‘driving carbon neutral’ is ‘not fit for purpose’ and with the right legal action, we believe we could see Shell reimbursing its customers in the not too distant future. 

What makes Shell an abuser of human rights? Ok this is a pretty big list, but let’s touch on some of the better documented events on Shells blood and oil stained record. 
Shell operates in pretty much every corner of the planet and has an unequivocal record at pissing off local communities around the globe and particularly in developing nations which lack workers protection and high environmental standards in favour for foriegn investment.
For example, the Ogoni people in Nigeria have faced the devastating effects of the presence of Shell since the 1950’s. Rights to clean water, food and air have been denied in favour of Shell’s corporate interests which has earnt it billions. Over 4,000 Ogoni lives have been lost since 1993 due to state-sponsored terrorism which Shell helped to fund.

Some of the pictures in this blog are of the working conditions of the Ogoni people.

These practices are repeated around the world, from refusing to clean up its oil spills off the coast of Argentina to the poor working conditions endured by many North African and Asian country workers.

So what is this landmark case against Shell I have been reading about in the news recently? This is a true step in the right direction and a huge sigh of relief to know that no matter how big or scary these giants may seem, they can be held accountable for their actions. 

In the Netherlands, seven human rights and environmental organisations along with 17,000 Dutch citizens filed a case against Shell over its wilful failure to comply with international agreed climate commitments. Now, thanks to the efforts from these brave individuals, Shell has been ordered to cut its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030. 
Though the struggle isn’t over yet, this is some much needed good news at a time when our future on this planet has been looking pretty bleak.

Does this mean that all big oil companies will start behaving all of a sudden? Not a cat’s chance in hell! What we can expect now is a series of court battles with some of the biggest polluters on the planet. In fact, US energy giants Exxon and Chevron are already coming under fire for their failures to protect the future generations. 

Don’t forget that only 100 companies are responsible for 71% of the entire planet’s carbon emissions.

If you take one point from this blog post for consideration, please take this: 

You have to remember that these court cases have been filed by ordinary people from the general public and not by our representative governments. 
What the hell are they waiting for? Governments have a duty of care over its citizens and they should be using every tool they have to safeguard our future… but they are not.

This is why it is absolutely vital that we support the scientific community during these protests. We need our governments to fight for us NOW and double down on their efforts to secure a safe planet for the future generations, our children… because the one thing we may not have is the time to do this without them.
Let’s introduce proper legislation that protects people and the planet and secures a safe future for humanity and we can start right now by making Ecocide international law.

To conclude, it really is a bizarre move from the science museum and should be addressed immediately, but until then you can expect to see us standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of us.

Avoid the ‘Our Future Planet’ exhibition at the science museum like the plague, or better still join the protests and take a stand against the heinous beast that is Shell.

If you agree that Shell should not be sponsoring an exhibition about our future planet, please write to Sir Ian Blatchford and tell him so:

Sir lan Blatchford
Science Museum
Exhibition Road

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