Climate scientists protest private jets at Charlotte airport
As world leaders discuss climate change at the United Nations summit in Egypt, activists elsewhere are targeting private jets and frequent flyers, which contribute to global warming. On Thursday, four people, including two climatologists, were charged with trespassing after chaining themselves to the entrances to the private jet terminal at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
It was one of a series of protests at 17 airports around the world coordinated by a group called Scientist Rebellion.
Peter Kalmus of Chapel Hill studies biodiversity and ecological predictions for NASA. Rose Abramoff of Knoxville, Tennessee studies how climate change affects ecosystems. She doesn’t want to say where.
They are also both activists, who have recently turned to civil disobedience. Abramoff says she struggles to keep her work and activism separate:
“Like all scientists, we have been trained to maintain a kind of neutrality in all things, especially when we speak in public. As scientists, none of us claim to represent our institutions. place more credible because of our background, and because of our background in climate science,” Abramoff said.
“But when we engage in advocacy, we are citizens, you know, we are mothers and daughters, fathers and sons and members of our community. And we have the right to say what we think, and almost a liability,” Abramoff said.
Thursday’s incident began around 9:30 a.m. at the airport’s Wilson Air Center for private jets, which is across from the main terminal. Abramoff and Kalmus joined two other activists – Deborah Kushner from Virginia and an indigenous activist from Florida, named Dakota.
Abramoff and Dakota locked in and glued to a sliding door that leads to the runway. Kushner and Kalmus chained themselves to the terminal’s main gate.
“Quite quickly, maybe after five minutes, about 20 police showed up. And they asked us to leave,” Kalmus said. “A few of us were actually glued to surfaces. The other two of us were chained up and we didn’t have the keys. they arrested us all.”
Chained up, they did interviews and posted on social media, calling for a ban on private jets and a tax on frequent flyers.
“I feel hopeless”
For Kalmus and Abramoff, it was the second time this year that they were at risk of arrest during a climate protest. Kalmus was arrested on April 6 after he and other protesters chained themselves to the door of a JP Morgan Chase bank building in Los Angeles, where he was living at the time.
“This action has gone quite viral, and I think it’s raised a lot of awareness that JPMorgan Chase is the institution on our planet doing the most to fund new fossil fuel projects,” Kalmus said.
That same day, Abramoff was also arrested while she chained herself to the White House fence in Washington, DC.
“We were asking the administration to declare a climate emergency, which is still ongoing, although some aspects of those demands from this group have been somewhat met by the government. You know, we passed landmark climate legislation and mobilized defense production Take action. So, you know, there’s a lot of things to be optimistic about. But much, much more should be done to keep our planet safe and habitable,” Abramoff said.
In addition to risking being arrested for civil disobedience, the two activists sometimes fear mixing their passions and careers.
“An analogy made by another activist is that being an environmentalist in 2022 is like being an academic at the Library of Alexandria while it burns. At some point you have to put the books down and pick up a spear at fire,” she said. .
Kalmus hasn’t suffered any repercussions from his work as a government scientist, but he’s also worried about it. When he does interviews like this, he is careful to say that he only speaks for himself. But he still worries.
“The first action on April 6, I thought there was a very, very good chance that I would be fired,” Kalmus said. “It’s just very weird that I have to do this, that it’s come to this point. But I feel responsible to do everything I can to raise awareness. I feel hopeless. I want to do this for the planet, and for my children and for young people is, frankly, more important than being safe in my career, so I do everything I can not to jeopardize my work. But sometimes, there are, you know, a higher calling.”
The four protesters at the airport were taken to Mecklenburg County Jail and charged with trespassing. Kalmus says he has a court date in December.