Performative Activism or Priceless Destruction

Sarah Levenson, Staff Writer

Have you seen climate change activists throw food at multi-million dollar art? On TikTok or Instagram? Well if not, here’s the latest news on why these protests went viral. The majority of protests have taken place in museums across Europe. Other than throwing food at paintings, activists are gluing themselves to the pictures, refusing to stand down against hate. Hate is accumulating throughout the world because the more activists continue to fight, the more others will continue to push them away. According to a Time magazine article titled: “Why Climate Protesters Are Throwing Food at Art”, a British group going by the name of “Just Stop Oil” protested by blocking roads around London. In addition, groups spray-painted famous stores and buildings. Their motive was to capture the attention of onlookers and engross them into the protest by doing it near a landmark or significant area, for example the London Eye where this protest took place. The climate change activists partaking in these protests are mainly in Gen Z.The younger generation feels the need to protest because they are expressing more anxiety about the future and how our planet will hold up with time. In the Time article, one activist shouted, “Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet?”. Such expression of one’s objection highlights the determination of young adults and their willingness to go to fight for the protection of our earth. 

Above all, climate activists aim to draw attention to the climate crisis, but goals can differ for different places. For example, German climate activists protest to reduce the amount of car and public transportation usage. In Germany, the crisis of climate change has escalated quickly. Germany is a country that uses nuclear and coal-generated power, so as a result, Germany is now cutting down the production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. Two members of the Just Stop Oil group glued themselves to art in Frankfurt. Gluing themselves to art is just another way to raise awareness to the pressing issue of climate change. The Just Stop Oil group members said, “People are starving. People are freezing. People are dying. We are in a climate catastrophe. And all you are afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a painting. You know what I’m afraid of? I’m afraid because the science tells us that we won’t be able to feed our families in 2050”. The above quote is from the Smithsonian magazine titled, “Why Are Climate Activists Throwing Food at Million-Dollar Paintings?”. The activist’s words are extremely impactful because it gets the audience thinking of how they can help and encourages them to start taking action. Whether this is throwing food at art or publicly sharing ideas on social media, there are all types of ways to start something. 

To see a perspective on climate change from the WFS Science department, I interviewed Caitlin Norton (Biology teacher). First, I asked Mrs. Norton, Why do you think climate change activists may be protesting in museums with art? She responded, “I think that a big part of these protests is drawing media attention to their cause. They are attempting to destroy something beautiful that people care about because the same thing is happening to our earth”. This quote is valuable because it explains simply how the activists want to destroy something beautiful, like modern day art, but others want to destroy something beautiful, like our environment. I also asked her, How is climate change affecting young people? She responded, “All over the globe people feel the impacts of climate change. Some places, like the global south, experience its impacts more than others. Young people in particular feel more stress and concern about issues of climate change because they realize that they will be alive to see the outcomes of  climate decisions being made today  and these decisions will determine the severity of the possible outcomes that they will experience.” Lastly, I asked, What are the impacts of climate change? She responded, “Temperature rise, sea level rise, melting polar ice, increased severity of extreme weather events such as storms, droughts, wildfires, human impacts like scarcity, disease spread and emerging diseases, climate refugees”.  Mrs. Norton displayed the meaning of the climate crisis and described this issue in a relevant and valid way. Her description of how severe the impacts of climate change can be are very valid because it emphasizes what the future of our world holds if we don’t do something. Hearing from one of the friend’s community’s science teachers, allows young readers to gain a new lens on this increasing issue and it also provides connections for topics of interest involving climate activism in the future. Big thank you to her! 

 Climate change is affecting our planet in a dangerous way. Activists like the Just Stop Oil group are putting themselves forward and initiating change while influencing others. To end with a familiar phrase, “Go Eco!” and start somewhere. The little things are sometimes what matters most.