JTwo climate activists who threw soup on the protective glass of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting captured the world’s attention. While some have ridiculed the activists, as a funder of climate activism I am proud of the larger conversation they have started.
When I saw the video, my first reaction was shock. Throwing soup on a beloved painting was a desperate move. What could possibly motivate a young person to do such a thing? This is where we find ourselves after decades of mostly progressive activism that has brought us to the point of a collapsing planet, engulfed in flames and drought, and burning to the ground. Activists are trying in every way to get our attention. How far is too far to attract the attention of people in immediate danger?
I am the daughter of a famous family who built their fortunes on fossil fuels – but we now know that the extraction and use of fossil fuels kills life on our planet. Our family sold this business four decades ago, and I instead swore to use my resources to do whatever it takes to protect life on Earth.
People often come up with theories about my motivation for getting involved in the climate movement. My motivation is clear: I fight for a livable planet for my family and yours. I don’t dwell on the past. I seek to build a better future.
I am proud to fund the Climate Emergency Fund, which in turn provides grants to climate activists engaged in nonviolent legal civil disobedience, including Just Stop Oil, the group the activists represented. I do not directly fund these groups, nor do I have direct control over the specific actions climate activists choose to take.
I believe the climate crisis has progressed to the point where we need to take disruptive action to try to change course on a planet that is becoming increasingly unlivable. My support for climate activism is a statement of values that disruptive activism is the fastest route to transformative change and that we have no time left for anything but rapid and comprehensive climate action.
Young activists correctly guessed that aiming for a famous painting, familiar and personal to many of us, would strike a chord. They made it clear that they never intended to do any real damage to the art, knowing that it was covered in protective glass. The action was intended to disrupt the status quo, draw attention to the dire state of the planet and demand an end to all new oil and gas exploration. It caught our attention and started a conversation about what really matters.
We have to navigate the mess to get to the real conversation: we need an energy transition as soon as possible. Governments and businesses must stop the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and step up clean energy. We can have an economy fueled by fossil fuels, or we can have a thriving life on planet Earth. We cannot have both. The sad truth is that our planet has no protective glass coating.
Yet some have chosen to criticize young activists. This review only makes it clearer how anyone could take such a desperate step to get the world’s attention. Generations before them have destroyed a livable climate and are now telling them that the way they are trying to save it is wrong. Older generations judge and blame them and yet have stolen their future. Instead of blaming young activists for trying to wake us up to the reality of our planet’s climate crisis, we should ask ourselves how to be better partners to those who inherit our wreckage. Climate anxiety, especially among our young people, is high and growing. How will this anxiety manifest in our public and private spaces as the planet becomes increasingly unlivable?
I hope we, as a society, can wake up to accept these actions of brave climate activists for what they are – an alarm that lifts us out of the status quo and focuses us on the real emergency at hand. : we kill life. on this planet. Nonviolent civil resistance works. Many of the rights we hold dear were won by previous generations of young people who stood up and said enough. Shouldn’t we be using these same tactics to redirect our anger and energy towards the preservation of life – our own and those around us?
As the planet burns, we’re approaching a time when all we’ll be left with are images and paintings of our beloved Earth, and urban art galleries could be the final resting place for Earth’s sunflowers. .