Health clinicians, researchers and academics declaration in support of disobedience and Extinction Rebellion

The following declaration has been signed by many individuals working in the health field, because they know that as the climate warms, more people will get sick and more will die. The only way to prevent the looming healthy crisis, is to act now to end the threat of a climate crisis.

We, the undersigned, are health professionals; clinicians, researchers and academics, from across Australia. The views expressed here are held by us as individual signatories, not by our institutions. While our clinical, research and academic interests and perspectives are diverse, we are united on these points: Earth is gripped by a rapidly deteriorating climate and is in an ecological emergency, caused by human action.

This is the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. Populations of mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and amphibians have declined by an average of 60 percent since 1970 and extinction rates are accelerating.1 Human extraction of resources is depleting our natural heritage of water, forests, topsoil, fish stocks, fossil fuels and minerals at an unsustainable rate

Earth is already too hot. Temperature changes have activated dangerous cycles in the climate system, causing the loss of arctic sea ice and the release of methane from thawing permafrost.

Scientists warn these unprecedented changes “could push the Earth system irreversibly onto a ‘hothouse Earth’ pathway.”

Australia is experiencing the hottest summers on record. Tasmanian wilderness, unaffected by fire for thousands of years, has burned. The Great Barrier Reef is dying.

Sweltering temperatures cause drought on New South Wales farms, while cyclones and floods in Queensland submerged Townsville and killed half a million cattle.

The effects on human health and wellbeing due to climate change are already being observed internationally and in Australia

Less rain mains less water and the health impacts that this brings

Further escalation of the processes driving these disasters will intensify the health emergency and lead to the collapse of our ecosystems and human civilization as we know it

Government responses have been slow and ineffective and utterly disproportionate to the scale of the crises. Our governments are not listening to the scientific consensus, and remain unmoved by advocacy from businesses, academics, health organisations, and indigenous communities, to name a few.

Governments are failing to take concrete steps to address the scale of the crises, betraying the values upon which our democracy is based, the fundamental values of human morality. Communities are becoming increasingly alarmed and are no longer tolerating this inaction.

The last year has seen the rise of a new wave of global climate activism. The School Strike for Climate movement began with the protest of teenager Greta Thunberg, which set off waves of actions around the world.

Extinction Rebellion formed in parallel and began acts of peaceful civil disobedience. Over ten days in April this year, Extinction Rebellion occupied five iconic locations and blocked traffic in London. This resulted in the arrest of over a thousand activists and led the UK government to declare a climate emergency

A warming climate means more crop failures and less food. Animals will also die because the food chain has been disrupted

Extinction Rebellion remains committed to undertaking peaceful civil disobedience to force governments to act, to prevent further escalation of the climate crisis.

Starting October 7, 2019, the ‘Spring Rebellion’ will mark the beginning of mass participation civil disobedience in Australia and around the world.

Thousands of citizens will express the demands of Extinction Rebellion to state and federal governments: tell the truth about the climate emergency; commit to decarbonise the economy as fast as humanly possible; and empower a citizens’ assembly, demographically representative and selected by sortition, to decide and oversee the necessary changes.

We write this letter to make a national declaration of civil disobedience, and to voice our support for the citizens from all walks of life who are choosing to rebel, many of them are health professionals: clinicians, researchers and academics. Some will be risking arrest and incarceration, in order to accelerate the speed and scale of change required to address the climate emergency.

Civil disobedience is a tool for repairing, not tearing down, the social fabric of a resilient and just society when used within the professional framework6. Examples of this in Australia include the Franklin River Dam, led by Dr Bob Brown, and the BUGA-UP Tobacco Control Campaigns in the 1980s, and more recently, the Doctors for Refugees protests in Brisbane and Melbourne.

We call on the Australian Government to declare a climate and ecological emergency and take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gases to zero as fast as humanly possible. The science is clear, the world knows what is happening and wants to stop it: we need governments to act before it is too late.

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