What is Scientist Rebellion?
‘It is a relatively young movement of academics – scientific as well as support staff – who share concerns about the climate and environmental crisis. The organization is expanding, and I have decided to take up the challenge at the UT. You can somewhat compare Scientist Rebellion with the more well-known Extinction Rebellion – of which I have also been a part for two years now. What makes Scientist Rebellion special is that we are not just saying that politics and corporations have failed, but that, in a way, science has as well. Scientists have stuck to their traditional role for too long: researching, reporting, and informing. But this way of working has led to few results. In the case of the climate crisis, it is as if a scientist is sitting in a burning house together with others and only concludes that the house is ablaze. Much more than that is needed.’
What approach do you choose?
‘The approach is best defined as peaceful civil disobedience. Think of, for example, the blocking of the entrance to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, or the demonstration in the head office of the Tax and Customs Administration last summer by Extinction Rebellion. I took part in multiple such demonstrations and have also already been arrested. But the keyword is peaceful. A hard confrontation leads to nothing. You should always be in dialogue. For example, last week we demonstrated together with four other climate groups within the UT.’
How did that go?
‘As a kick-off for Scientist Rebellion, good for sure. We have now grown to six members within a week. It was also good to get together with other clubs. We organized the demonstration together with SUSTAIN, the Vegan Student Association, Students for Future and University Rebellion. This way, we could introduce ourselves to the UT community in a friendly way. And above all, it is important that we work together as a climate coalition. Quite a few groups which focus on climate problems have emerged in recent years. But if we keep operating separately, we couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery. We want to urge the UT to take action. While the university says it wants to lead by example, I see it more as lagging by example.’
What do you think the UT should tackle?
‘We have formulated three demands that we believe the UT should take action on as soon as possible. First of all, we want a fossil-free university. The UT still has many ties with the fossil fuel industry. From professors with double appointments and joint research projects to presence at job fairs and sponsoring study associations. Those ties with companies that knowingly destroy the world should be cut. Secondly, we want a plant-based university. It is all happening in small steps, such as the announcement about vegetarian work lunches. If we had taken those small steps twenty years ago, fine. But there is not enough time for that now. Third, we want to quickly reduce the number of flights of academics: gross zero emissions by 2030. Over the past few decades, we have come to accept that flying to conferences so much is normal. There are concrete plans to reduce these flights, but such things quickly fail within committees and working groups. Sometimes I get the idea that the Executive Board does not want to see that we are in a huge climate crisis.’
Finally, can we expect ‘peaceful civil disobedience’ on campus anytime soon?
‘I certainly do not shy away from that. I am a conflict-averse person by nature. But if you really want substantial change, you have to block, sand down or disrupt something. Yes, also on campus. Although I think a good start is to, as a coalition, tour around the study associations to ask them about their ties to a company like Shell. The obviousness with which such a destructive company is associated with our academic institution – right down to the level of study associations – should simply no longer be possible. We will not just announce our civil disobedience actions, but the UT community will definitely notice that Scientist Rebellion is here.’