Attacking art does zip to stop climate change


Courtesy / Just Stop Oil

Just Stop Oil supporters throw soup over Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and glued their hands to the wall

Kathryn Williams, Editor in Chief

The newest wave of climate change protesting involves three things: soup, glue, and artwork. What do these three items have to do with climate change? Your guess is as good as mine. 

A viral video showed two climate change activists throwing soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and gluing their hands to the wall. Phoebe Plummer, one of the two women in the video, asked “what is more valuable: art or life?” The message of this protest was that people should care more about protecting the environment than they do about protecting a painting. 

For all those concerned about the painting, it was protected by glass and remains unharmed. However, this is not an isolated incident. Many other climate change activists have staged similar protests in various locations. Two people glued themselves to a dinosaur display at Berlin’s Natural History Museum. Another attempted to glue his head to Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring at the Mauritshuis museum in the Netherlands. Even as far back as May 29, an activist tried to smash the glass protecting the Mona Lisa and smear cake over it. These are just a few examples of the many efforts of climate change activists to raise awareness through attempted vandalism.

Some of these incidents, including the souping of Sunflower, were by supporters of the organization Just Stop Oil. This is a coalition of groups in the UK that seeks an end to fossil fuel licensing, exploration, development, and production. The organization proudly hosted daily protests for all of October, inviting people to “bring soup and sandwiches!” Just Stop Oil has posted proudly of events such as spraying orange paint on buildings, blocking roads, climbing bridges, and destroying art. 

This form of protest is clearly trending, but is it effective? I would argue that it is attention grabbing, but does not promote respect for the cause or organization. The activists want people to be upset about ruined artwork, then to realize that they should care more about the environment. However, I think many people become upset about the artwork, and dismiss the protesters as crazy. 

Climate change is an important issue that everyone should care about. For people who already believe in climate change as a pressing danger for humanity, this form of protest may have little to no effect. They do not need to be convinced of the urgency of the issue. And for those who deny that climate change poses an immediate threat, how does this change their minds? As I stated earlier, I fear it will only encourage them to dismiss the cause. 

I also think that people would respect their protests if they were more related to the issue of climate change. People can go to a museum to appreciate famous artwork, it doesn’t mean that they are anti-climate change. The art in question has not done anything to harm the environment. In my opinion, it would make more sense to protest at a location that is a known contributor to climate change, or even outside of a government building. 

We know that art is incredibly powerful, that is why we go to museums to look at paintings from hundreds of years ago. Many of the pieces targeted are beautiful representations of life and nature. If anything, I think that creating art could be a more impactful way to promote the cause than attempting to vandalize world renowned paintings. Why not do something like a pop-up art gallery with themes of climate change? By harnessing the power of creation rather than destruction, perhaps protestors will be taken more seriously and change people’s minds.

I hope that we can find better solutions to climate change than throwing soup at paintings for the sake of our planet and our artwork. All I’m saying is that the Chapel Arts Center is dangerously close to the Coffee Shop with its daily soup options.