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XR Cambridge occupies Sedgwick Museum, demanding end to the uni’s fossil fuel ties

‘The University should cut all its many links with Schlumberger as a matter of urgency’


On Wednesday 22/02, the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge was occupied by Extinction Rebellion Cambridge and Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge in a protest of the Department of Earth Science’s fossil fuel connections. This formed part of the “Schlumberger Out!” campaign, which is attempting to persuade the University to cut all ties with oilfield services giant Schlumberger (which has recently changed it name to SLB).

XR Cambridge occupying the Sedgwick Museum (Image credits: Amelia Halls)

Extinction Rebellion (XR) was launched nationally in October 2018, and came to Cambridge soon after. It carries out civil disobedience across the city, with targets being the local government, University of Cambridge and other public institutions, oil companies, banks and the fashion industry. XR Youth was established in May 2018, focussing on relating the climate emergency to issues of social, racial, global and migrant justice. It is open to those aged 30 and under.

On Wednesday, the protesters staged a peaceful occupation. Family-friendly activities were available to young museum visitors, and one protester was even dressed as a dinosaur. XR members discussed the climate crisis, including the University’s links to fossil fuels and the “Schlumberger Out!” campaign, with the public. This occupation is part of a series of actions by XR Cambridge, including a vigil at the Senate House on Saturday 24 February.

On a national level, XR is building up to “The Big One”, a major gathering beginning in London on Friday 21 April. This aims to pressure the government into creating real change in regard to the climate and ecological emergency.

One XR Cambridge protester (Image credits: Amelia Halls)

The Earth Sciences Department of the University of Cambridge has various connections to fossil fuels. For example, the uni’s northern Borneo Orogeny Seismic Survey (nBOSS) project assisted SLB in an analysis of data from its seismic oil and gas exploration in Malaysia. Further collaborations with SLB include research on fracking as well as oil and gas exploration.

Protesters inside the museum (Image credits: Amelia Halls)

SLB is the world’s largest oilfield services company. With activities occurring in over 120 countries, SLB has played a role in instances of environmental and social harm by the fossil fuel industry, such as the drilling of the first commercial oil well in the Niger Delta.

Yoga, a carer and XR Buddhists member who was involved in the protest, stated “The Sedgwick Museum is full of wonderful reminders of deep time […] It seems so ironic that the Sedgwick Museum is intimately connected with Schlumberger – with global fossil fuel extraction doing so much to destroy life on earth.” Yoga called on the University of Cambridge to “cut all its many links with Schlumberger as a matter of urgency.”

When contacted last week about XR’s occupation of the university engineering departments, SLB provided the Tab with the following response: “We are definitely committed to playing our  part in addressing climate change by reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting our customers reduce theirs, through targets aligned with climate science and by meeting the demand for energy sustainably.

“SLB invests in a range of initiatives to achieve this. Our transition technologies are deployed for customers to support their climate ambitions and we have made a public commitment to achieving Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In addition SLB New Energy business is developing solutions for the future that are carbon neutral which we intend to expand as part of our strategic ambitions addressing climate change. The Cambridge Research centre is heavily involved in supporting the company’s commitment to Net Zero emissions, with many projects in New Energy activities.”

SLB has been contacted for further comment regarding the Sedgwick Museum occupation. The University of Cambridge and the Earth Sciences Department have also been contacted for comment.