‘Fasten Your Seatbelt’: US Just Stop Oil Supporters Pledge New Van Gogh Protests | Climate crisis


US backers of a group of climate activists who poured tomato soup over Van Gogh’s sunflowers at London’s National Gallery have promised similar thrilling stunts will take place in various countries within weeks. coming.

On Friday, two young activists from the group Just Stop Oil entered the gallery, opened two cans of Heinz tomato soup and threw them at the board protected by glass. As spectators exclaimed “Oh my God!”, the activists glued themselves to the wall under the painting.

“Which is worth more, art or life? said Phoebe Plummer, one of the activists.

The protest, which has drawn applause and heavy criticism, is just the latest to be funded by the Climate Emergency Fund, an American network created in 2019 to fund dramatic forms of protest to spur action on the climate crisis. The organization said it would seek to build on the Van Gogh soup shock to support further protests across Europe and the United States.

“More protests are coming, this is a rapidly growing movement and the next two weeks will hopefully be the most intense period of climate action yet, so buckle up,” said Margaret Klein Salamon, executive director of the Climate Emergency Fund.

“In terms of media coverage, Van Gogh’s protest is perhaps the most successful action I’ve seen in the last eight years in the climate movement. It was a breakthrough, it succeeded in breaking through this really terrible media landscape where you have this massive illusion of normalcy. It’s time to wake up.”

The Climate Action Fund has distributed more than $4 million to dozens of climate organizations this year (Just Stop Oil is the biggest recipient, receiving $1.1 million), helping spark a wave of unusual protests across Europe. Activists stuck to Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper in London and an Umberto Boccioni statue in Milan damaged fuel pumps, rushed onto the British Grand Prix track and even been tied to a goal post during a Premier League match between Everton and Newcastle.

These resounding protests are all the more remarkable in that they were financed in part by an oil heiress. Aileen Getty, a philanthropist whose grandfather was tycoon J Paul Getty, co-founded the Climate Action Fund and donated $1 million to it for activists to use. Among thousands of other small donors to the fund, several other prominent figures made major contributions – Abigail Disney, scion of the Disney family, gave $200,000 and Adam McKay, director of the dark and satirical climate film Don’t. t Look Up, a promised $4 million.

The money is used to pay and help train people through the activist groups, sowing acts of civil disobedience that Salamon says are echoes of earlier eras, such as the civil rights movement or the suffragettes. “We help wealthy people who are freaking out about climate change, because we all live on this planet, to fund the most effective activism possible,” she said.

“Activists have forced millions of people who don’t want to think about the climate emergency to think about it. Nobody protests against art or sport, but the fact is that the house is on fire, it’s an emergency. We cannot just enjoy the beauty and the fun and carry on as we are without doing anything, because right now we are speeding off a cliff.

The watering of sunflowers by Just Stop Oil drew much criticism, with some decrying it as vandalism (although only the frame was slightly damaged) or examination the relevance of paint to the need to move away from fossil fuels. Right-wing Fox News host Tucker Carlson called “radical” and “religious extremist” demonstrators.

“Just getting publicity for a cause doesn’t automatically translate to generating support for it,” tweeted Paul Graham, the prominent investor. “If you get publicity for a cause in an odious way, you will generate opposition.”

Theories have even been spread on social media that the stunt was aimed at discrediting climate activists, as part of an elaborate ruse concocted by Getty. “It seems unfair to me,” Salamon said of Getty’s involvement. “You can’t hold someone responsible for the sins of their deceased grandfather. She does everything to make things right – what would you rather she do, just go away and live a life of luxury?”

Proponents of this funded activism point out to research showing that disruptive tactics can motivate those who more moderately support a cause, while provoking little backlash from others, a so-called “radical flank effect” that has seen a youth climate movement thrive amid everything from school strikes, led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, to massive SUV tire deflation.

“It was the tomato throwing heard around the world,” said Dana R Fisher, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who studies climate protest. “The target was not art. He used art as a platform, and he got attention because he used a tactical innovation: tomato soup.

Climate activists demonstrate outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Photography: Allison Bailey/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock

Fisher said he was not yet sure how effective the protest would be. “I’m sure it will put some people off,” she said. “But the idea isn’t to win hearts and minds, it’s to get media attention and mobilize people who sympathize with the cause.”

Climate activists often complain that it can be difficult to keep the public’s attention on global warming, despite a growing parade of climate-related disasters and a growing sense of hopelessness, especially among young people, in the face of government inaction. Since 2019, two American men have set themselves on fire in separate incidents aimed at raising awareness of the climate crisis, although none of these acts have attracted as much attention as the Van Gogh incident.

Just Stop Oil’s latest stunt “revealed that many people feel more outraged by soup-splattered paint than by the irreversible and escalating destruction of life on Earth,” according to Peter Kalmus, a NASA climatologist. . who handcuffed himself to a bank in Los Angeles earlier this year.

“It’s really remarkable,” he said. “It shows the enormous strength of status quo social norms, and it shows that the reason we’re not treating this as an emergency is that people still don’t think it’s an emergency, despite the clear science and despite recent catastrophic events.”

Salamon, however, said she was optimistic that activists could help mobilize voters for the US midterm elections or force countries like the UK to end oil and gas drilling. “I just want everyone to think about the climate,” she said. “Even those who are angry with climate activists. It’s better to be angry than to just keep ignoring them.

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