Pro vs. Con: Climate Activism

Life over Palette 

by Solaiman K Hassanin ‘23

Climate activism has never been free of controversy. Prominently, climate activists have blocked streets, glued themselves to goalposts, and spray-painted the windows of stores. On its surface, climate activists seem to be confused and disorganized. Yet, as annoying as they may seem, they are not the villains. 

Last October, climate activists desecrated a Van Gogh painting (although the painting was behind glass), a move that precipitated a large backlash on social media. Meanwhile, as social media proceeded to shred the climate activists, the last seven years have been the hottest on record, and worldwide dependence on fossil fuels has led the world economy to the brink of recession. The UK, one of the world’s biggest victims of the current crisis in gas and oil and the origin point of the Van Gogh controversy, has attempted to raise gas production in the North Sea in order for it to combat raising prices. While no one truly wants to see incredible art disrespected, it is crucial to recognize that the two young activists that attacked the painting were not responsible for decades of environmental destruction, nor were they responsible for complete dependence on unethically sourced fossil fuels that are now causing a global crisis. So perhaps they should not be more criticized than those who are responsible.

Defacing Art Is Not Nobel, It’s Vain

by Lizzy Hermosilla ‘23

Recently, activists have taken extreme measures to protest the lack of government intervention to protect the deteriorating climate. The most abhorrent of tactics to gain attention has been the defacing of priceless works of art on multiple occasions. The first victim was Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” Two members of the climate advocacy group, Just Stop Oil, threw two cans of tomato soup onto Van Gogh’s master work. The second victim was an 111 million dollar Monet. Activists from the same group, Just Stop Oil, threw mashed potatoes on the painting and then glued themselves to the wall. Art vandalism is not a new concept but it seems to have gained new momentum as a form of protest during the month of October.

It is everyone’s right to protest unjust governments, policies, and social justice issues. However, defacing priceless works of art is not nobel, but rather vain. Although it makes a statement, the actions of these activists reinforce the radical view of climate activism, and that is the exact opposite image the climate movement needs. The impact these protests have on the overall climate movement is unproductive, giving the movement negative press. Defacing art sends a message, a message of radicalism and arrogance to the cause they are fighting for.