Scientist faces sack for refusing to fly back from Solomon Islands

Climate researcher who once glued himself to VW factory – then begged to be freed so he could go to the toilet – faces the sack for refusing to fly back to his office from the Solomon Islands because he won’t use planes

  • Dr. Gianluca Grimalda was arrested last year for a protest at a VW factory  
  • He is now in trouble with his employers after he told them he would not fly home 
  • He’s instead taking two months to travel from the Solomon Island to Germany

A climate scientist who once glued himself to the floor of a Porsche factory now faces the sack after he told his employer he’s returning to Germany from the Solomon islands via a trip that will take him two months. 

Dr. Gianluca Grimalda, a researcher at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, was one of nine scientists who glued themselves to the floor of a VW-owned factory in October 2022 in an attempt to coerce the car giant, valued at nearly 58 billion euros, to ‘decarbonise’. 

The protestors from activist group Scientist Rebellion dressed in white lab coats and sat in the factory for just a few hours before they began complaining that they had no food, and had nowhere to go to the toilet. 

Grimalda was arrested by German police after he voluntarily left the protest after he complained about not being able to use the toilet and that his hand was swollen, adding that medics warned him he risked life-threatening blood clots if he stayed any longer. 

Now, Grimalda is in trouble again after his employers threatened him with a pink slip after he told them that he refused, on principle, to fly back to Germany, and would instead be taking a two-month long journey across land and sea in an attempt to reduce his carbon emissions. 

Grimalda claimed that he was called a ‘big man’ by communities in the Solomon Island

He was arrested by German police after he and eight others glued themselves to the floor of a VW factory 

Grimalda told the Guardian he wants to make the 14,000 mile journey back to Europe only using a mix of cargo ships, ferries, trains and coaches. 

He claims that the two-month long journey will reduce his output by 3.6 tonnes. 

The climate scientist has spent the last six months studying the impacts of climate change and globalisation for the Kiel Institute. 

He was told that if he was not at his desk in Germany on Monday, he would be sacked. 

But as his deadline came and went, he was waiting in Buka Town, Bougainville, for a cargo ship. 

The group of nine activists from the Scientist Rebellion group glued their hands to the floor of the Autostadt, a Volkswagan museum in the northern city of Wolfsburg, Germany

A group of eco activists glued themselves to the floor of a Porsche showroom in Germany and vowed to remain there until their demands to decarbonise the German transport sector were met

The eco activists sat on the floor – surrounded by the Porsches – for nearly 24 hours and were refusing to leave after spending the night there

‘I have written to the president of my institute to tell him that I am not there today and that I’m going to travel back by ship and over land,’ he told the newspaper. 

‘I’m feeling OK now, [but] some of the past days were pretty traumatic because I didn’t expect this type of behaviour from people at my institute. But I think I’ve made the right choice.

‘Air travel is really the fastest way to burn fossil fuels, so the fastest way to walk ourselves towards catastrophe … So from my perspective, as an individual, flying is probably by far the activity in which I use most of my carbon budget.’  

This isn’t the first time the eco-warrior has taken an extended trip across the world. 

In February, he began documenting his journey from Germany to the Solomon Islands, and over the following 35 days he documented his travels. 

He said at the time in a post to X, formerly Twitter: ‘I did this journey as a sign of love, respect, and gratitude toward life on our planet. 

‘I don’t know if what I did was pointless or whether, like in a Shakespeare tragedy, in a world of madness the maddest actions are the most normal. I simply felt it was the right thing to do.’

He took more than a month to travel from Germany to Papau New Guinea earlier this year

Despite this being work excursion, he admitted that his return to Germany is well overdue. His fieldwork was reportedly meant to end in July, and he was supposed to have returned by September 10. 

But he claimed that he faced several delays, including being held for ransom by bandits, thefts of his equipment and significant difficulties in getting local communities to speak with him.

‘It takes time to build trust between communities and a ‘white man’ – as I am always referred to – so that several communities requested me to go and explain the contents of the research twice or even thrice before the start of the field work,’ he said.  

In one photo shared to X, he claimed to have been crowned ‘big man’ by local women in the Solomon Islands. 

MailOnline has contacted the Kiel Institute for comment. 

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