Three members of Scientist Rebellion carried out an act of non-violent civil disobedience yesterday at the London publishing office (SpringerNature) of Nature, one of the most pre-eminent scientific journals in the world.

They had already written to the publication asking them to commit an editorial to asking their readership to engage in civil disobedience against governments which are ignoring the science and leading us into climate catastrophe.

In response, the magazine suggested they write a short (max 300 word) piece for consideration as comment.

One of the protesters, Zac Lumley, who is reading biology at Oxford University, said that the journal “has a responsibility to ACT like it’s an emergency, and not just continue to simply publish articles SAYING that it’s an emergency”.

Post-doctoral astro-physicist, Tim Hewlett, gave an example of a paper entitled Extinction risk from climate change published in the journal that shows by 2050 we’re looking at a third of all species on earth being extinct.

Mike Lynch-White, who studied physics but has moved to climate activism, explained that the action involved printing actual examples of papers forecasting catastrophe which the journal had published, and pasting them on the windows and doors of the building.

A security guard turned up for a while but then left, so the activists waited for some time to see if police would attend. When no-one else arrived, they left their message to the journal and will be asking for a meeting to discuss the editorial policy and a future call to action.


Here is full text of their letter to Nature.

We are Scientist Rebellion, a group seeking to compel scientists and scientific institutions to rebel for truth and life. As numerous publications in Nature have demonstrated, society needs rapid and sweeping transformation if human civilisation is to persevere. Yet scientists are failing to push for such change. As one of the world’s foremost scientific journals, Nature has tremendous capacity to inform and drive social change. We implore you to do so now.
Scientists produce the work that goes into journals like Nature. We do the research, write the papers, quality check them via peer review, and collectively pay millions to read that same work. In return, we need journals to use their significant voice and platform to provide honest and frank appraisal of the current situation. Without rapid socio-political and economic transformation we will see unprecedented famines, droughts and refugee crises within decades: billions displaced and dead.
In the four decades since scientific consensus emerged around climate change, governments around the world – particularly the larger economic powers – have failed by every metric to avoid this crisis. In fact, the crisis has deepened and escalated, emissions have dramatically risen, ecosystems have collapsed, the future has been stolen. Still governments continue to make inadequate targets – such as to decarbonise by 2050 – which, judging from historical data, they will miss.
If we do not decarbonise until 2050 we will have condemned the world to untold suffering and scarcity. Already there are tens of millions of climate refugees in the world, increased natural disasters, increasing food and water insecurity. Meanwhile, far-right and anti-science governments, hand in hand with corporate interest, trash the atmosphere, forests, oceans and ecosystems, destroying the possibility of a tolerable future.
There are solutions: we need great and deliberate effort to transform land use, energy, transport, agriculture – but governments must be compelled to act. For decades scientists have worked within existing structures of power: published papers, advised on policy, spoken to the press; all have failed. If governments will ignore the facts for decades, imperilling our very existence, scientists cannot simply restate the facts. We must demonstrate the legitimacy of science, the reality of the truth, through actions more than words. We must be willing to fight in defence of that which is true, and in defence of us all.
The most successful strategy in modern history for achieving systemic change has been via non-violent direct action and civil disobedience (NVDA) [1], prominent examples being the Suffragette and Civil Rights movements. Richard Horton, editor in chief of the Lancet journal, recently published an article pointing out the failures of the scientific community in regards to climate change, and encouraged readers to engage in NVDA against the government, in order to drive the required transformation today to meet the climate crisis [2].
We are calling on Nature to issue an editorial encouraging readers to engage in NVDA against the government; to compel them to halt and, as far as possible, reverse the destruction of the natural world. In a recent editorial in Nature [3] it was argued that Nature needs to become more political. It was stated that “conventions that have guided the relationship between science and politics are under threat, and Nature cannot stand by in silence”. We completely agree. There is a long tradition in science that supposes that to be credible scientists must be detached, dispassionate and apolitical. But if scientists do not act like our lives depend on systemic change, why should the public believe the science? The world sits on the brink of calamity. We must act like it and non-violently rise up to defend our right, and the rights of our children, to life.
Call on your members to engage in non-violent civil disobedience. We look forward to your response.
In love and rage,
Scientist Rebellion
[1] E.g. Erica Chenoweth – Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict
[2] “Extinction or Rebellion?”, Volume 394, Issue 10205, p1216, (2019)
[3] “Why Nature needs to cover politics now more than ever”, Nature 586, 169-170 (2020)