By Sloane Walsh ’25
Recently in Europe, the fossil fuel activism group, Just Stop Oil, has been throwing different foods onto famous paintings and art pieces. The first of these incidents happened on Friday, October 14, when two activists took to Vincent Van Gogh’s painting Sunflowers with a can of tomato soup. The painting is held in London’s National Gallery, and the video of these activists went viral on social media. The video shows the two throwing the can of tomato soup and then gluing their hands to the wall while one yells about climate change and fossil fuels.
“What is worth more, art or life? … Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet?” yelled the protestors.
After this incident, officials stated that the painting was not damaged because the museum had covered it in protective glass. However, the activists brought a lot of attention to their group. Many people are unhappy after seeing the video and do not believe this particular group should be taken seriously.
Events similar to the soup on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers have been happening all over the United Kingdom. One protester sprayed yellow paint on a Scotland Yard sign, and another smeared chocolate cake all over King Charles’ wax figure at Madame Tussauds. Unfortunately for Just Stop Oil, many see these actions as pointless and unhelpful for the organization. People take this group less seriously because of their disrespect for public spaces and art pieces.
One activist from the incident at Madame Tussauds talked about his drive to do something to help people and feel like he accomplished something in his life. “Over the past 40 to 50 years, I have been driven by the desire not to be confronted by my grandchildren or yours demanding to know why I did not do anything to prevent the destruction and poisoning of this planet.”
Some may say that these protesters are brilliant for these bold actions because they bring a lot of attention to their group, which is what they want. In each of these public incidents, activists have justified their reasons to protest, saying they feel accomplished about doing something in life. While Europe needs to address the climate crisis, this group should handle it differently. Based on reactions from the media, it is clear that this organization’s approach is not supported by the citizens of Europe. Although this organization aims to improve the UK’s awareness of climate change, opinions worldwide have shown it otherwise. Just Stop Oil will continue to fight in the campaign against climate change, but will they be respected?