Climate activism

Scientists protest against gas drilling in the Wadden Sea

Photo: Pixabay

Is the Dutch government really going to issue a new licence for gas extraction in the Wadden Sea? Protest groups and researchers have been sounding the alarm for months, as have the climate activists of Scientist Rebellion, who now took to protesting in front of the ministries of Economic Affairs and Nature. They say that drilling for fossil fuels in previously untapped areas is “a crime against humanity” due to its ecological damage.

Guus Dix, assistant professor at the University of Twente, is one of the organisers of the protest. He is also involved with Extinction Rebellion. “This gas isn’t going to keep us warm this winter since we won’t be able to start extracting it for years.”

Why are you calling on scientists to join the environmental movement?
“All the knowledge we have about climate change and ecology was produced by scientists. We know that a significant part of the planet will become uninhabitable if we continue on our current trajectory. Scientists have spent the last three or four decades trying to draw attention to the fact that the climate is deteriorating — to very little, if any, effect. Carbon emissions only keep rising.”

Should scientists get more involved in activism?
“Scientists used to think that their sole role was to provide good information. It was up to other parties to do something with it. That’s the traditional division of roles. But that model is basically bankrupt. It’s been scientifically proven that just providing knowledge does little or nothing to address the problems we’re facing. More and more scientists now believe that they have a civic duty to effect change.”

So, you think they should be going to more climate marches?
“Climate marches are very important but we need to do much more. The biggest march here in the Netherlands had 40,000 people on the streets. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said 'thank you, I hear what you’re saying' and then did nothing else. We must show that we are willing to commit acts of civil disobedience.”

Are you planning on driving a caravan of tractors to The Hague?
“We don’t have tractors, but I'm afraid that nothing is going to change without some kind of confrontation\. We must be prepared to break laws and suffer the consequences.”

Do actions like that really help?
“Pension fund ABP is pulling out of fossil fuels partly thanks to the activists who entered their headquarters every few weeks and refused to leave until their demands were met. They had to be taken away by the police every single time.”

Have you participated in such protests yourself?
“Yes, two weeks ago we blocked a railway track in Amsterdam to stop a coal train. That’s civil disobedience: making sure that train can’t pass until law enforcement takes you away. It disrupts the routine.”

But this time you are holding a "regular" demonstration. How many people do you expect will come?
“That’s always hard to predict, but I hope to see between 30 and 50 people.”