Protesters at New York’s Natural History Museum Warn of “Mass Extinction”

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Protesters at New York’s Natural History Museum Warn of “Mass Extinction”

About 30 climate activists lined up in the Dinosaur Wing of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in Manhattan today, September 2, to protest the museum’s acceptance of donations from banks and other entities invested in the fossil fuels industry. The event was organized by Extinction Rebellion (XR), a prominent environmental group headquartered in the United Kingdom.

The protestors entered the museum surreptitiously around noon on a busy Labor Day weekend. They filed up toward the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing on the fourth floor, milling around incognito until they launched into their first chant at 12:20.

“Human pollution is causing mass extinction,” they chanted, following up with “We want to live; We want our children to live;” and “We will be extinct like the dinosaurs.”

A large black banner they held read, “Mass extinction funded by Citi, Chase, Bank of America, Koch Industries.” The three major banks, all listed as AMNH corporate patrons, are heavily invested in fossil fuel businesses, according to the protesters.

The museum’s Dinosaur Wing is named after a particularly controversial figure. David Koch, who died in 2019, owned oil refineries and was accused of funneling well over $100 million to climate-denial lobby groups. He also backed right-wing politicians who centered climate change as a divisive political issue. The billionaire also served as an AMNH trustee until he stepped down in 2016 amidst mounting criticism of the museum’s ties with him (AMNH denied this was the reason for his departure).

Protesters drawing attention to the human-made “sixth mass extinction”

“We have so many fossil fuel criminals donating to this museum, and the ironic thing is that they are actually funding the sixth mass extinction,” XR member Mun Chong told Hyperallergic during the protest.

The “sixth mass extinction” is a term used to describe the loss of biodiversity on Earth due to human-driven climate change. It’s distinct from the five previous mass extinctions caused by natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions or asteroids hitting Earth.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to have credibility or trust with these important institutions that we treasure so much,” Chong added.

Most museumgoers accepted leaflets from the protestors. Besides one “Shut up!” call at the beginning of the protest, visitors snapped photos of the demonstration, and some asked for more information. XR directed onlookers to its upcoming September 17 March to End Fossil Fuels, scheduled to precede the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit in New York City on September 20. Security gathered but did not interfere. The activists later protested at the steps of the newly unveiled Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation.

This is the second Extinction Rebellion protest at the museum this summer, with the first one occurring on August 1. The group also protested at the Met Museum at the end of June over the charges against two activists who targeted a Degas sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, in April. In March, the group also staged a “die-in” at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in March on the anniversary of its infamous art heist.

The group also holds weekly protests outside the New York offices of Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, and BlackRock.

“Every place we go to protest, the people with the power come to us and they say: We are on your side, this is the best we can do,” XR member Mark Rozendaal told Hyperallergic. “Nobody says: We are in favor of the climate crisis; we want the planet to burn.”

“And still, the planet is burning,” Rozendaal continued. “They’re still producing and preparing for more production of fossil fuels; so, somebody is doing this.”

Protesters at the museum’s Dinosaur Wing, named after David Koch
Some signs read “Mass extinction funded by Koch.”
The protest ended at the top of the stairs in the museum’s new Richard Gilder Center.
XR activists leaving the museum.

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