XR Youth graffiti buildings on Cambridge West campus, condemning their ties to fossil fuels

They targeted the Cambridge Arctic Shelf Program (CASP) research building

On Friday 8th May, Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge (XRYC) spray painted on buildings on the Cambridge West campus, condemning the institute’s association with the fossil fuel industry. They targeted the Cambridge Arctic Shelf Program (CASP) research building in Charles Babbage Road.

They stated: “[t]his research institution, funded by subscriptions from oil companies including BP, Shell, and ExxonMobil, aims to find new opportunities for oil extraction. It has projects around the world, including the Arctic – an area that scientists warn is at high environmental risk from oil exploration.”

The graffiti slogans, spray painted by the activists during their daily exercise, include “stop searching for oil”, “leave the oil in the ground” and “you’re not geologists you’re oily”.

A spokesperson from XRYC said: “CASP’s website has been stripped of explicit references to the oil and gas industries, and increasingly technical language has been used to obfuscate the institute’s true purpose. And though CASP is listed as a charity, its funding model is based on subscriptions from oil companies – in the most recent financial reports, around £1 million was paid to CASP by 12 different fossil fuel companies.”

The activists claim that it is “unclear” as to what extent CASP is affiliated with the University of Cambridge. They claim that the University attempted to distance themselves from CASP, following a report from the Zero Carbon Society. However, CASP still remains on University land, appears on its signage and is listed as one of the University’s libraries.

Tom, a member of XRYC, said: “[w]e’ve been using the lockdown to do some research relating to our first local demand – that the university should cut all ties with the fossil fuel industry. We’ve visited CASP before, but we didn’t realise the extent of its environmental damage until we did further digging. We’d like to know if the University of Cambridge still supports this extractivist research. They claim to be the first university in the world to adopt science-based targets for carbon reduction, but researching how and where to extract oil is the exact opposite of this. At face value, they seem pretty ashamed of CASP given how far they’ve gone to hide their connections.”

An XRYC poster (Photo credit: XRYC)

Last week, XR “rebels” graffitied a series of buildings in Cambridge as part of a wider XR initiative, “#NoGoingBack”, which calls for an end to business as usual once lockdown is over. This follows similar action from the youth wing of XR Cambridge on 20th April, where they graffitied slogans on the University of Cambridge’s BP Institute building to mark the tenth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

XRYC claims that all “rebels” taking part in their actions, do so during their daily exercise, while wearing protective masks and socially distancing themselves. An XRYC member has previously explained: “We wish we had time to wait for the coronavirus crisis to end before going back to tackling the climate crisis, but we don’t, because they’re inextricably linked. Activism is something that is very hard to do purely from home, so we believe our protests must continue, albeit in a more socially distant form with more safety measures.

“We are very careful not to break the terms of the lockdown, but if the climate crisis is allowed to continue unchallenged, the consequences for global public health will be dire – much, much worse than the current pandemic. Many doctors, medical staff, and even the editor of The Lancet, a major medical research journal, have stated this but have been ignored by the government. We don’t have any more time, and the current crisis shows this.”

The University and CASP have been contacted for comment.

Cover photo credit: XRYC

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