Scientists protest to call for political focus on climate crisis

The climate crisis calls for far-reaching measures, say leading scientists.
Ignas Heitkönig during the climate alarm earlier this month.

Scientists across the globe protest for the climate for a full four days. There is much expertise on climate change, they say, but barely any action is taken to halt it.

The protest, aptly named Scientist Rebellion, takes place from 25 till 28 March. During this time, scientists will protest in a variety of ways to campaign for the climate crisis. Some scientists go on a hunger strike for several days or operate with civic disobedience by addressing the climate protest during their lecture instead of offering the planned course or share information on the urgency of the issue through social media platforms.

In an open letter, the urgency is underscored. This letter has also been signed by WUR-scientists. The rate at which species are going extinct will cause entire ecosystems to collapse in the near future, with a catastrophic impact on humanity, the letter states. Moreover, heatwaves, drought and rising sea levels will cause enormous problems for food security. The protesters wonder how it is possible that governments keep putting off measures.

Several Wageningen researchers and teachers support the protest, including assistant professor Anthropology and Law Michiel Köhne, Forest Ecology and Management PhD student Johan de Jong and assistant professor Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Ignas Heitkönig. We interviewed Heitkönig on the second day of his hunger strike.

Why are you supporting this protest?

‘The climate crisis is not something that will happen in the distant future. We are already in the middle of it, but it is not approached with the urgency it merits. Every day, new studies are published on the loss of biodiversity and climate change. You could say that the exponential increase in the number of studies matches the exponential decline in biodiversity. It is scientifically unrefutable, but the knowledge we have is not translated into policies.’

Why is that?

‘It is a complete mystery to me. The constitution states that the government is responsible for keeping citizens safe. They are obligated to act but fail to do so. Or in tiny, gradual steps, which takes far too long. Over the past year, we have all seen that taking hard and unpopular action is indeed possible. We have witnessed that for a year now! However, apparently, this can be done if the threat is a virus, and not when the threat is the climate crisis.’

How are you protesting during these days?

‘I share information on the protest and on climate change on social media. Moreover, I have not eaten for two days now. I wouldn’t really call it a hunger strike, but I am not consuming any solid foods. I do drink tea and fruit juices. This evening I will resume eating after 48 hours. Actually, it is going surprisingly well. I’m not suffering terribly. I’m just doing my work, consulting with students, and it’s going a lot better than I expected, to be honest. I do hear my stomach rumble, but I don’t have to restrain myself from rushing to the fridge.’

Read more about the Scientist Rebellion protest. 

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