Frustration at lack of action on climate change spilling over into vandalism

By Marta Montojo

Madrid, Nov 3 (EFE).- Beet pulp dumped outside a government building. Tomato soup or mashed potatoes doused on paintings. Golf holes filled with cement. Paint splattered on luxury automobiles.

Frustration and desperation about a lack of action to combat climate change have led some mostly young activists to resort to vandalism to get their point across.

That is the message conveyed to Efe by different activists engaged in this new wave of environmentalism associated with recently formed movements like Fridays for Future (FFF) and Extinction Rebellion (XR).

Direct action and civil disobedience are not new tactics.

Organizations like environmental watchdog Greenpeace have adopted them from the start as part of efforts to block large-scale industrial projects and trade treaties, while in Latin America the struggle has always been highly disruptive, environmental scientist Andreu Escriva recalled.

But the key to understanding why activists are resorting to increasingly controversial actions – despite the initial rejection they cause – is their quest to create viral social media content, he said.

Escriva also added that more radical actions are being taken because previous attempts to raise people’s awareness have been unsuccessful.

That sentiment is echoed by young activists from movements like XR, who have spoken about the urgency and deep frustration that have pushed them into riskier and more controversial actions like filling golf holes with cement in southern France and splashing paint on the staircase and columns of Spain’s Parliament.

In Germany, 16 activists from the Scientist Rebellion – a sister group to XR – have been jailed for repeatedly resorting to civil disobedience to denounce the use of fossil fuels in public transport.

Astrophysicist Elena Egea, a member of that collective, said new ways of raising awareness are necessary because “nothing is working.”

“We’re going to exceed the (target) limit of 1.5 C” above pre-industrial levels that was established by the 2015 Paris Agreement, she said. “And our leaders aren’t preparing us for that, nor are they taking measures for a just transition.”

She said she supports a wide variety of protests and respects the Just Stop Oil activists who made headlines last month for throwing tomato soup over Vincent Van Gogh’s glass screen-protected “Sunflowers” painting at the National Gallery in London.

“They managed to make the front page of the New York Times,” Egea said.

There was a lot more talk about the Van Gogh action than the scientists who mobilized in Germany, XR spokesman Alex Meaude said, adding that the museum protesters “understood the media game.”

It doesn’t matter if people support these types of stunts now, according to the activist, who predicted that radical environmental actions will be celebrated in history books 50 years from now, just like the fight for women’s suffrage or the civil rights movement in the United States is today. EFE


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