Scientists have been on the front lines of the worsening climate crisis since it started to become a matter of grave concern in the late 1980s. Over the last several years, many scientists have been psychologically effected as they see the alarming manifestations of human-caused global heating. Imagine how you might feel studying the abundant and colorful diversity of the Great Barrier Reef as it becomes an almost entirely bleached-white underwater desert. Imagine how you might feel about your own children’s future as you document the negative impacts of climate disruption on global food supplies. Meanwhile, you note that with each ever more alarming IPCC report, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
In spite of being largely ignored like that, other than a few notable exceptions, such as when James Hansen joined 350.org to protest in front of the White House in 2011, the people who study human-caused climate disruption and its effects until recently have not been known to engage in non-violent direct action in order to get the public’s attention. In the world of science, in which evidence is peer-reviewed and evaluated quantitatively, the emotion and theatrics in which we activists sometimes engage to make our point, is frowned upon.
But it is getting late. If the world were a Star Trek movie, scientists are Mr Spock, cool and logical. Activists are Dr. McCoy, passionate and a bit on the emotional side at times. We are now in the part of the film in which Mr Spock finally starts to lose it. We hear Bones slap Captain Kirk in the face and yell “Dammit Jim! We need to take this seriously! Mr Spock has started sniffing glue!” OK. Scientists are probably not sniffing glue. There have been no documented cases of that, at least. However, if the people who study the problem firsthand are starting to freak out, as evidenced by a growing willingness to engage in civil disobedience, then our society should start taking this situation very seriously.
The Scientist Rebellion organized protests around the world during the week of April 4-9 with the release of the latest IPCC report. The Portland Scientist Rebellion protest took place last Wednesday, April 6. It was organized jointly by a group of scientists in the Pacific NW and XR PDX. It was a relatively warm and dry day for April in Portland. At noon, we rallied at the headquarters of the Portland Business Alliance (121 SW Salmon St, Portland, OR).
Why Portland Business Alliance? PBA, Portland’s Chamber of Commerce more or less, has historically been a roadblock to climate action. They opposed Portland Clean Energy Fund when it was on the ballot in 2018. More recently PBA has been the source of efforts to undermine the program.
After rallying at PBA, we marched a few blocks to Portland City Hall in order to bring attention to our demands that the City start taking concrete steps to achieve 10% annual emissions reductions. The City will not hit 2035 or 2050 emissions goals if it does not do that.
After leaving City Hall, we marched back to the PBA, because we had a lot more to say to them. Once we arrived, we proceeded to the 2nd floor to assemble just outside PBA’s lobby. Several people, including scientists wearing white lab coats, began a sit-in inside the lobby. Meanwhile, outside the lobby, several dozen protesters gathered to hear live music performed by local musician/activists, Dan Kaufman, Rachel Freifelder, Jen Forti, and Wendy Emerson.
After about an hour of music, dancing, and sitting in the PBA lobby, the Portland Police arrived to spoil the fun as they are wont to do. We continued to rally while two brave scientists, Will Livernois, and Bernadette Rodgers, remained sitting in the PBA lobby. Both were issued citations. Will refused to budge and was finally handcuffed and carried off to jail. View the last 30 minutes of the action on Instagram.
Please stay tuned as XR PDX will be organizing larger actions this spring and summer. Scientists have not taken to sniffing glue yet because they know that we still have time to change course. They are engaging in non-violent civil disobedience because, though there is time, there is not very much. It is vital that all aware citizens of all backgrounds pressure governments to act now. We hope to see you out in the streets this summer.
Photo credit: Olivia Louise