Today, 28th August 2023, 10 health professionals gave a series of short talks at the Science Museum’s ‘Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries’, and hung a banner from the giant ‘tattooed man’ (Self Conscious Gene) exhibit, which said ‘Greenhouse Gases are the greatest threat to health’. In addition 100+ health professionals wrote to the trustees of the museum asking them to reconsider their positions.
Outside, health professionals and scientists asked those leaving the gallery to place a sticker on a large sandwich board asking ‘Should the Science Museum drop coal, oil and gas sponsors’. As of 1pm, 71 of the public had chosen YES, 4 were undecided and 3 had chosen NO.
These talks aim to raise awareness of two things:
First – fossil fuel sponsorship of the museum, especially the upcoming gallery entitled Energy Revolution: The Adani Green Energy Gallery, which is sponsored by the Adani group, the world’s largest private developers of new coal mines[link].
Second. – the fact that while Wellcome occupies ‘five vast and visually stunning new galleries’ on health, including one gallery devoted to public health called ‘Medicine and Communities’ [link], none of the exhibits address the greatest health threat of the 21st century – The Climate and Ecological emergencies[link].
The Health professionals primarily talked to visitors in the Medicine and Communities gallery. One discussed the harmful nature of fossil fuel propaganda next to an exhibit on the impact of tobacco on health. One discussed the increased risk of pandemics caused by animal agriculture, which we know is also a significant cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Others discussed health risks linked to increasing temperatures such as heart failure and dementia.
Dr Lynne Jones OBE, a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, said ‘The fossil fuel companies are using the same playbook as the tobacco companies did in the past to hide the horrifying damage being done to every aspect of our health. Benign language like ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change” obscures the fact that greenhouse gas pollution caused by fossil fuels is harming and killing us, young and old, through diseases like dementia and asthma. There were 61000 extra deaths in Europe last year because of the increased heat. How many do you think it will be in Europe this summer?’
Dr Chris Newman, a GP and one of the founders of Health for XR, said ‘Let’s not kid ourselves. A gallery on the future of energy being sponsored by one of the world’s biggest coal developers is like having a gallery on the future of health sponsored by a tobacco company. It is not going to be objective. It is not going to tell the whole truth. It is going to manipulate us like fossil fuel companies have for decades, and as the Tobacco companies did before them. And to have it stationed in one of the most prestigious science museums in the world is an insult to scientists the world over.’
Dr Alice Clack, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, said ‘How can you have an exhibition about health without including the greatest threat to health we face? People have to start owning the fact that greenhouse gas pollution threatens every person on the planet, everything humanity has built, the future of the NHS. Everything we hold dear. There is no escape. Our cultural institutions need to work harder to ensure that we don’t only hear about the climate emergency in the news now and again. It needs to be embedded deep into our culture, to help drive the biggest cultural shift we have ever had. That we desperately need.’
Professor Hilary Neve, a GP, said ‘By partnering with companies who are themselves driving the climate crisis the Science Museum is complicit. For health’s sake, this sponsorship has to stop.’