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For her climate protests (and arrests), a scientist loses her job

111022 Rose Abramoff at CLT.jpg
Scientist Rebellion
Scientist Rose Abramoff chained herself to a fence at Charlotte's airport in November as part of a global climate protest. She says her activism got her fired from her job at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

A scientist and climate activist who was arrested after chaining herself to a fence at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in November has been fired from her job.

Rose Abramoff had worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. But she said in a New York Times opinion piece this week that she was terminated Jan. 3 because of her activism.

Abramoff, who once chained herself to a White House gate, most recently gained attention for joining fellow scientist Peter Kalmus of Chapel Hill in a nonviolent protest that disrupted a session at the American Geophysical Union meeting in December. She has been arrested three times, including on Nov. 10 in Charlotte, along with Kalmus. They were part of global protests coordinated by the group Scientist Rebellion to raise awareness of how luxury air travel contributes to global warming.


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Abramoff has been careful during protests not to say where she works. When I interviewed her in November, she was adamant that she was not representing her employer.

"Like all scientists, we were trained to maintain a type of neutrality in all things, especially when speaking publicly. As scientists, none of us claim to represent our institutions," Abramoff told me.

"But when we're engaging in advocacy, we're citizens, you know, we're mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons and members of our community. And we have a right to say what we're thinking, and almost a responsibility," she said.

But Oak Ridge laboratory apparently had enough of her outside activities. She said officials there told her that she had violated its code of conduct.

"[This] ultimately highlights a disappointing reality: that established scientific institutions will not even support scientists interrupting a meeting for the climate. I’m all for decorum, but not when it will cost us the Earth," Abramoff wrote.

Read Abramoff's Jan. 10 op-ed on NYTimes.com, "I’m a Scientist Who Spoke Up About Climate Change. My Employer Fired Me." 

This story originally appeared in WFAE's weekly climate newsletter, published Thursdays.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.