Teachers to boycott new Adani-sponsored Science Museum gallery 

  • Letter signed by over 400 teachers and educators so far, including Chris Packham, criticises museum for taking fossil fuel sponsorship
  • Signatories pledge ‘If your proposed Energy Revolution gallery is sponsored by [coal giant] Adani, then we will not be bringing our students to it.’
  • Internal documents reveal the target audience of the new gallery is ‘key stage 3 and 4 students’ and ‘young people aged 11-18’ 
  • More teachers and educators invited to sign and demonstrate their strength of feeling

The Science Museum is under renewed pressure to drop its four fossil fuel sponsors as 417 teachers and educators have launched an open letter stating that:

‘As educators, we have a legal duty to ensure our students are receiving a fair and balanced education, which prepares them properly for their future. There is no doubt among the scientific community that in order for us to turn the tide on catastrophic warming, we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground and end the exploration for high carbon energy. The business interests and practices of your major fossil fuel sponsors go directly against this.’  

The signatories sent the letter to the museum yesterday and are now making it public, inviting more teachers and educators to sign and demonstrate their strength of feeling. The signatories pledge not to bring their students to the new Energy Revolution Gallery, due to open in 2023, if it is sponsored by coal and renewables giant Adani. Internal museum documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show that its target audience for the gallery is ‘key stage 3 and 4 students, geography and science’ and ‘young people aged 11-18’ (see page 8)

Slide from internal Science Museum presentation on the Energy Revolution Gallery, due to be sponsored by Adani Green Energy

The letter, co-ordinated by the Fossil Free Science Museum collective, is the latest expression of concern about the museum’s three long-running oil sponsors, BP, Shell and Equinor, and its newest sponsor, Adani. It was announced in October last year that Adani Green Energy, part of the Adani Group run by Indian multi-billionaire Gautam Adani, would be sponsoring the museum’s new gallery. Adani has been heavily criticised for its destructive coal projects in Australia and India, where Indigenous communities are directly opposing mining on their lands. Indigenous representatives have written to the museum, asking it to listen to their experiences on the ground and drop Adani.

Chemistry teacher Ian McDermott from Harris Westminster Sixth Form, who signed the letter, said: 

‘I’m a science teacher and I’ve brought many thousands of students to this place over the last 25 years. It makes me so sad that this magical building, that has done so much to benefit and inspire young people, is now actively harming them, by allowing coal giants like Adani, who are destroying the future of the world’s young people by expanding mining, to greenwash their reputation at the expense of the reputation of the museum. The board have a duty to these young people to think again.’

Meryl Batchelder, science teacher from Corbridge Middle School, added:

‘Through environmental education young people are becoming increasingly aware of the damage caused by the fossil fuel industry. As a teacher I try to lead by example and live my life as sustainably as possible. The Science Museum is hugely influential so it would be an incredible step in the right direction if they became a leader in promoting decarbonisation and turned their backs on Adani and their ilk. Greenwashing has no place in education and I will not be bringing pupils to the Museum until the ethos of the Board of Directors changes.’

School children visiting the museum hear about Adani from a member of the Fossil Free Science Museum collective during a protest earlier this month

This is just the latest case of members of the scientific and educational community deciding not to work with the Science Museum Group in protest at its ongoing partnerships with major polluters: 

  • In October, climate scientist Professor Chris Rapley – himself a former director of the Science Museum – resigned from its Advisory Board. A few weeks later, as the COP26 Climate Summit opened in Glasgow, mathematician and presenter Dr Hannah Fry and Director of the Institute for Research in Schools Dr Jo Foster resigned from the Board of Trustees.
  • In November, many prominent scientists and former contributors to museum events and exhibits announced that they will not work with the organisation again until it commits to ending its partnerships with fossil fuel companies. 
  • In April, the museum was forced to cancel a prominent panel discussion at the last minute after speakers withdrew from the event. Several other speakers, artists and performers have withdrawn from events in the last few months.

The Fossil Free Science Museum collective is a growing group of organisations who have come together over the last year in response to the Science Museum striking new sponsorship deals first with Shell and then Adani. It consists of Culture Unstained, Scientists Warning Foundation, London Mining Network, UKSCN London, Scientists for XR, XR Hammersmith and Fulham, South Asia Solidarity Group, Fossil Free London, Coal Action Network and Jubilee for Climate.

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