Trinity academics sign letter supporting extinction rebellion

The letter supports the acts of civil disobedience being taken by the organisation this week

Trinity academics are among a group of almost 200 academics from universities across Ireland that have signed an open letter in support of Extinction Rebellion Ireland. Researchers and professors from a range of academic fields signed the address which asserts that the Irish government has failed to meet the demands of the climate crisis and that direct action is both necessary and justified. 

Among the signatories of the letter were Dr Cordula Scherer, a marine ecologist from Trinity’s school of environmental eumanities and Associate Professor Simon Trezise, head of Trinity’s school of music. 

“Rising temperatures are causing the climate and ultimately the entire ecosystem to destabilise”, the group says, “Unless halted, this will have catastrophic effects for life on earth.” 

The letter cites various scientific sources which confirm the level of urgency with which the crisis must be dealt. 

The letter goes on, saying that the government is “complicit in ignoring the precautionary principle, and in failing to acknowledge that infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources is not possible.” They say that the government is, through its policies, allowing emissions to rise and biodiversity to collapse.

The issue of human rights is also brought up, as the letter cites the European Convention on human rights, as well as the Irish Constitution, which state that “The Irish State is under a positive obligation to maintain an environment in which human dignity and equality are sustainable.” The group believes that, as the State has failed to meet these requirements, it has committed “a serious and continuing human rights violation”.

Finally, the group declares its support for Extinction Rebellion Ireland, stating that their protests are justified given the situation at hand, as well as the government’s failure to act.

“When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship. The ‘social contract’ has been broken and it is therefore perfectly reasonable that concerned citizens would bypass the government’s flagrant inaction and rebel peacefully to defend life itself.”

This comes in the middle of Extinction Rebellion Ireland’s “Rebellion Week”, during which the organisation will hold several direct actions to raise awareness about climate change itself as well as the Irish government inaction on the issue.

 The week began with a “swarm protest”, which saw activists march from College Green to O’Connell bridge, blocking traffic on their way. This was followed on Tuesday by a “sit down protest” in front of Dáil Eireann on Kildare Street.

 The group’s main aim, according to their website, is to “force the Irish government to respond appropriately to the climate crisis and make the radical changes needed to minimise the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse.” These changes would include implementing policies with the goal of reducing carbon emissions to net zero by 2030, as well as reversing all policies which do not align with that position.

Tuesday also saw minister for finance Paschal Donohoe release his Budget plans for 2020, which included an increase of €6 per tonne of the Carbon tax. This was not enough to satisfy climate activists, and Extinction Rebellion Ireland pointed to the fact that only €90m was dedicated to the climate, compared to the €1.2bn put towards provisions for a no-deal Brexit.

Extinction Rebellion Ireland’s “Rebellion Week” will continue each day until Sunday, October 13.

Patrick Coyle

Patrick Coyle is a News Analysis Editor for Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister student of English Literature and Spanish.