European Climate Change Protests; is it Effective or Harmful?

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Individuals with oil on their faces kneel in a line holding signs while chained to the ground during a climate change protest.

On October 14th, 2022, two climate change activists, part of a group called “Just Stop Oil,” hurled cans of tomato soup at a Van Gogh painting known as “Sunflower.”  The protesters then glued their hands to the wall and shouted, “What is worth more, art or life?”

Just Stop Oil is a climate change activism group based out of the United Kingdom. They have demanded, “That the UK government makes a statement that it will immediately halt all future licensing and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.” The group is known for their dramatic and unordinary forms of protest against climate change, including throwing cake at a wax figure of King Charles III and throwing support cables on The Queen Elizabeth II Bridge, blocking traffic. 

These large-scale forms of protest have sparked controversy all across the world. The group is not attempting to destroy the paintings, but rather gain attention. However, many people are upset with the actions performed by the protesters, and are opposed to seeing the paintings vandalized. 

Following the immense amount of backlash from the world, it could be interpreted that the climate change protesters are setting back the climate change movement. When people are upset about the vandalism and then find out that it is all linked to a climate change activism group, the general public may start to take climate change movements less seriously. This raises the question of determining where the line is drawn when protesting? 

It is important that protesters gain attention, but in a way that does not put them in a negative light which then drowns the message they are trying to get out, which is exactly what is happening with the climate change activists.