On April 20th, a small number of rebels from Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge marked the 10-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with a chalk spray action against the University of Cambridge’s BP Institute.

This catastrophic environmental disaster took 11 human lives and caused immeasurable ecological damage to the Gulf of Mexico - 4.9 million barrels of oil were spilled over 87 days, and the effects are evident even now. It will take another 10 years for the effects of this disaster to fully end.

The protest took place during the rebels’ daily exercise and they took all precautions necessary to keep themselves and others safe, staying several metres away from each other at all times and wearing face masks.

A member of XR Youth Cambridge said: “Deepwater Horizon is only one example of BP’s crimes. We are using this anniversary to ask the University of Cambridge why they are so proud of their connections with such a harmful industry and company. As oil companies seek bailouts from our government, it is essential that we continue to highlight the harm they have and are causing, especially as climate and ecological breakdown has been shown to make pandemics much more likely.

“Continuing to pump, process and store oil is not necessary work - this is evident in the current reaction of markets and near-zero oil prices. They need to stop, but they won’t unless they and their image is disrupted. Protesting is not a job that can be done from home, and it is essential for the safety of our future. It is vital that environmental activism continues in a new, more socially distant form, or we risk far worse crises than COVID-19 in the near future. The biggest threat to public health is the climate crisis.”

10 years on from the Deepwater disaster, oil companies have increased offshore drilling output, and experts are concerned that not enough has been done to prevent further oil spills. Meanwhile, the use of fossil fuels puts public health in serious danger: early studies are even suggesting a link between air pollution and coronavirus mortality. It is time for us to consider a new system - one that truly values life, and which focuses on care and community over profit. It is clear that corporations such as BP cannot play a part.