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Science Museum scattered with 40k snowflakes

  • 40,000 snowflakes were dramatically dropped into the entrance gallery of the Science Museum.
  • Each snowflake represents a signature to a petition against oil sponsorship and entrance changes in the museum’s new children’s gallery.
  • Gallery sponsor, Statoil, recently announced a major new Arctic exploration project, drilling for oil scientists tell us must stay in the ground.

On Saturday, over 40,000 snowflakes were dramatically dropped into the entrance gallery of London’s Science Museum by a group of 15 science and climate campginers. Each flake represented a signature to a petition against oil sponsorship and entrance changes in the museum’s new children’s gallery, Wonderlab.

The snowflakes also drew attention to the alarmingly hot Arctic temperatures this winter. Temperatures of -5C have been logged, whereas -25C is more normal for this time of year.

Photo by Kristian Buus

Photo by Kristian Buus

Drew Pearce, a founder of the Progressive Science Institute, said:

"The Arctic is terrifyingly warm. There are scientists protesting in the streets in San Francisco, terrified about what Trump will do to their work. Meanwhile, the London Science Museum - who should be a world leader in helping bring people and science together - is sitting there, gleefully doing PR for the likes of Statoil, BP and Shell. Scientific institutions like the museum should be helping everyone understand the enormity of climate change and discuss ways to tackle it. They shouldn’t be offering a gloss of scientific credibility to companies who so willfully ignore scientific advice to quit out fossil fuel habit.”

It is not the first time the Wonderlab Statoil gallery has drawn protests. More than 50 scientists, politicians and campaigners signed a letter calling for Statoil to be dropped on the eve of the VIP opening of the gallery, which was itself gate-crashed by a coalition of Norwegian and British science campaigners. They unfurled a white carpet symbolising the Arctic, pouring a black oil-like substance (made from molasses) over a small model oil-rig which party-goers such as George Osborne, Bill Bailey and Lauren Laverne had to step over as they left.

Photo by Kristian Buus.

Photo by Kristian Buus

The creative intervention followed news that the American Museum of Natural History has responded to a campaign driven by scientists, museum colleagues and climate campaigners, and slashed its holdings in fossil fuel companies. Campaigners hope other museums of science will follow suit, cutting all ties with fossil fuel companies. This week also saw a “stand up for science” rally in San Francisco, with members of the scientific community, indigenous groups and grassroots collectives coming together to demonstrate that attacks on science won’t go unnoticed.

Photo by Kristian Buus

Statoil announced a major new exploration campaign in the Arctic this summer, including 5 to 7 new exploratory wells in the Barents Sea next year, and the most northerly block ever licensed by Norway. A lawsuit has been filed against the Norwegian government over the climate risks of opening up that part of the Arctic for oil exploration.

Earlier this week, Statoil announced it would be exiting producing in the Canadian Oil sands,  and campaigners are hopeful we might see a similar retreat from the Arctic.

A much-cited paper published in Nature in January 2015 by Christophe McGlade and Paul Ekins showed that development of resources in the Arctic would be incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2°C.

Recent controversies around Statoil’s sponsorship follow years of criticism of Shell’s sponsorship of the Science Museum’s climate change gallery. In May last year, internal documents uncovered by Art Not Oil showed that Shell had tried to influence the presentation of a climate change programme it was sponsoring at the museum.  

Photo by Kristian Buus

Photo by Kristian Buus

There is also growing controversy around the museum’s relationship with the arms trade. In July, there were protests outside the museum when it was discovered they were hosting the official reception of a major UK arms fair, Farnborough International. According to Campaign Against Arms Trade, 10 catering staff walked off shift to join the protestors. There have also been several protests over Airbus’ sponsorship of the recent Leonardo da Vinci exhibition.

In March, Tate announced BP sponsorship would end, following years of protest from artists-collective, Liberate Tate. The British Museum has also been the target of numerous protests, with the BP-sponsored Sunken Cities exhibition coming under particular criticism. In October, actor Mark Rylance publicly stated that he would be unlikely to perform at the Royal Shakespeare Company unless it drops its sponsorship deal with BP.

Add your name to the petition, calling for Statoil to be dropped as a sponsor of Wonderlab and for the newly introcued entry charges to be reversed...