Recently I became angry watching a news report about a group of ‘kids’ who allegedly threw tomato soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting at the National Gallery in London.
That is just vandalism, I thought. And although I am super duper sympathetic to the cause of raising awareness of the climate emergency….defacing precious art is not the way to do it.
After watching one of the activists interviewed (watch it here) and doing a little reading, I have changed my mind.
Here are some of the reasons why:
- The paining was sealed behind glass with zero risk of being damaged by flying soup. A fact the protesters were well aware of.
- Fossil fuel companies have long subscribed to the process of artwashing. The process of funding/sponsoring art and other cultural activities to dilute any opinions as to their unethical corporate practices.
- In fact, the art industry has become a very big part of the activities of global corporate and fossil fuel capitalism. For both artwashing and tax avoidence purposes.
- Emergency scenarios require emergent responses. This action made headlines across the world and kindled debate and awareness. Most people will just double down on their existing views….but there will always be a potential for some people to change. It was highly effective in generating discussion.
- The time has come (and some would say gone) for the wider community to stand up and demand significant action and accountability from governments.
- If I was now in my teens or early twenties I would be pretty flipping furious at my actual generation for their complete balls up of this situation.
The potential misery, suffering and death of millions perhaps billions of people not to mention entire species of other lifeforms on this planet is at stake.
And then there is this….
In its latest environmental report, the UN has underscored our abject failure to reduce global carbon emissions. This has now left us with zero chance of meeting any reduction targets with anything less than a “rapid transformation of societies”.
You can browse the full report here. Or read a summary of key messages here.
It makes for sobering and frankly depressing reading. Even the UN states that current evidence “does not provide confidence that the nationally determined net-zero targets will be achieved”.
We have had fair warning. We have failed to take apropriate and timely action. Our window of response is now all but closed….leaving us with not much option other than to react to each environmental catastrophe as it occurs.
The climate crisis is part of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. This year, the world is witnessing compounding energy, food and cost of living crises, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, all of which are causing immense human suffering […]
The task facing the world is immense: not just to set more ambitious targets, but also to deliver on all commitments made. This will require not just incremental sector-by- sector change, but wide-ranging, large-scale, rapid and systemic transformation. This will not be easy, given the many other pressures on policymakers at all levels […]
The success of such coordinated and cooperative action, depend, ultimately, on public support and pressures to avert the significant risks of inaction, and the willingness of key financial system actors to take on their roles
Some time ago Kelly and I visited the Franklin River in the southwest wilderness of Tasmania. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
Back in the 1980s the area was part of a huge protest movement against the damming of the river by the Hydro Tasmania company. I remember watching the protesters on TV (and later looking after a few in hospital) and thinking they were a bunch of hippy, rent-a-crowd, unwashed troublemakers.
As usual, I was wrong. If not for their actions and the ripples of change they generated we would have lost this gem of wilderness bio-diversity.
These people are engaging in activism, walking the talk, to save our planet.
In contrast, mostly I engage in slobovism, talking the walk, as I make biased and ill informed judgement of them whilst slumped in front of the TV.
No soup for me.
- Article, The Conversation: Three arguments why Just Stop Oil was right to target Van Gogh’s Sunflowers