As scientists, we tend to operate under an unspoken assumption – that our job is to provide the world with factual information, and if we do so our leaders will use it to make wise decisions. But what if that assumption is wrong? For decades, conservation scientists like us have been telling the world that species and ecosystems are disappearing, and that their loss will have devastating impacts on humanity. Meanwhile, climate scientists have been warning that the continued burning of fossil fuels and destruction of natural carbon sinks, such as forests and peatlands, will lead to catastrophic planetary heating.
We have collectively written tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers, and shared our findings with policymakers and the public. And, on the face of it, we seem to have done a pretty good job: after all, we all know about the environmental and climate crises, don’t we?
But while we’re now well informed, we haven’t actually changed course. Biodiversity loss proceeds apace, to the extent that a million species face extinction in the coming decades, and we continue to pump carbon into the atmosphere at ever faster rates. We have emitted more greenhouse gases since 1990, in full awareness of its impacts, than we ever did in ignorance. It seems that knowledge alone cannot trigger the radical global changes we so urgently need.
It was this realisation that incited us both to embrace activism, and to take to the streets and engage in non-violent civil disobedience as members of Extinction Rebellion. The refusal to obey certain laws has a long and glorious history: from the suffragettes to Rosa Parks and Gandhi, many of the 20th century’s greatest heroes engaged in non-violent civil disobedience to win their rights. [Continue reading…]