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Climate: Code Red

As the need for action on climate change and species loss becomes more urgent, an increasing number of scientists are turning to environmental activism. Emma Wrake AMRSB speaks to some of them

At a time when United Nations SecretaryGeneral António Guterres has declared that the planet is facing a ‘climate emergency’, activism is playing a substantial role in forcing social and political responses to the crisis. Across nations, everyone from schoolchildren to retirees are joining climate activism groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future to call for radical action to tackle the environmental crisis. Among these people are scientists who, whether it be through outrage, despair or a sense of duty, feel the time has come to do more than just provide society with scientific information.

Formed in the UK in May 2018, Extinction Rebellion (or XR) is a group that aims to use nonviolent civil disobedience to ‘halt mass extinction and minimise social collapse’. Since 2018 XR has grown steadily into an international movement, with thousands taking part in disruptive non-violent ‘uprisings’, from naked demonstrations in the House of Commons to sit-ins, blockades and marches. Last autumn eight people from the group were arrested after spraying the Treasury building with fake blood from a fire truck, and XR blockades bought central London to a standstill.

“I have been in despair that much too little is being done to save the natural world and to reverse our destruction of the environment. XR’s activities gave me some hope”

Professor James Bullock

TIME TO TAKE ACTION These actions have attracted global attention and a spectrum of reactions, ranging from celebrity support to accusations of extremism. Yet as of March this year more than 1,500 scientists have signed a declaration of support for XR’s aims, including hundreds of academics from the life sciences. Many are members of the group or related subgroups such as Scientists for Extinction Rebellion.

One of them is Professor James Bullock, an ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. With more than 30 years of experience in conservation and management of the natural world, Bullock is particularly interested in restoring habitats and landscapes to benefit biodiversity and increase resilience to environmental change.

18 / The Biologist / Vol 67 No 3

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