Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Ben Okri are among a long list of scientists, academics actors and authors who are reported to have joined the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and leading climate scientists to highlight what they describe as a “collective act of madness” that is driving “the destruction of life on Earth”.
A letter signed by more than 100 of them showed that the UK government is ignoring the scientific reality of the climate and ecological crisis, pushing ahead with new fossil fuel developments and criminalising peaceful protesters who raise the alarm.
“Rather than listening to reason or scientific fact, the UK government continues to hand out contracts for oil exploration in the name of false ‘energy security’ while steering the UK towards authoritarianism,” the letter states. “In Britain today, it is verging on illegal to urgently and effectively protest for the right of life to survive.”
The intervention, which was also signed by Sir David King, who is a former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, and Prof James Hansen, who alerted the world to the greenhouse effect in the 1980s, comes amid growing concern about the crackdown on peaceful protest in the UK.
Last month, Michel Forst, the UN rapporteur on environmental defenders, described the situation in the UK as “terrifying”, with protesters having to navigate a draconian new legal environment that includes significant limits on the right to protest.
In one case, considered to be one of the most controversial, two Just Stop Oil activists, Morgan Trowland and Marcus Decker, were given jail terms of three years and two years respectively for blocking a motorway bridge in east London. Trowland’s is thought to be the longest jail term handed down by a British judge for non-violent protest.
Ian Fry, the UN’s rapporteur for climate change and human rights was quoted this week as saying that the lengthy sentences were a potential breach of international law and risked silencing public concerns about the environment.
The letter, published on Friay, showed that while banks and fossil fuel companies appear to face no legal sanction for making billions in profits from the destruction of life on Earth, governments are using all the powers at their disposal to crack down on peaceful protesters.
“Rounding up people of conscience instead of charging the real criminals is the response of a political and legal system in steep decline, unable to cope or envision a way out of this urgent crisis,” it says.
Story was adapted from the Guardian.