I reckon that for as long as humans have been around, protestors have, too.
Currently you’ll find protestors in many countries, most with serious causes, some less serious…
This was a protest in London in 2017, and I’m not sure what their cause was.
Recently there’s been a different group of protestors in London.
Their cause is serious.
And so is their vandalism:
On the left is Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh, a treasured part of the collection of London’s National Gallery. The same painting is on the right, defaced on October 14 with the contents of two cans of tomato soup.
Heinz Cream of Tomato soup, to be specific.
Here’s a larger image of one of the protestors holding a soup can, with the painting behind her:
Here’s the same protestor with her colleague – also holding a soup can – now with their hands glued to the wall:
According to this and many other articles:
“The two young women [were] from the campaign group Just Stop Oil…which represents a coalition of groups working together to stop the UK government from committing to new licenses concerning the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels.”
This led me to the Just Stop Oil website, where the vandalized painting was the lead story:
“The actions this month are timed to coincide with the planned launch of a new round of oil and gas licensing in which over 100 new licences for oil and gas projects are likely to be awarded and an energy price hike on October 1st, which means almost 8 million households are expected to fall into fuel poverty by April 1st 2023.”
There’s no doubt that the thoughts expressed on the website are strong and sincere; here’s a quote from one of the London Gallery protestors:
“Is art worth more than life? More than food? More than justice?
“The cost of living crisis is driven by fossil fuels – everyday life has become unaffordable for millions of cold hungry families – they can’t even afford to heat a tin of soup. Meanwhile, crops are failing and people are dying in supercharged monsoons, massive wildfires and endless droughts caused by climate breakdown. We can’t afford new oil and gas, it’s going to take everything. We will look back and mourn all we have lost unless we act immediately.”
Hence the Heinz soup tie-in.
And according to this article:
The Just Stop Oil protests weren’t limited to the October 14 painting defacing:
“A group of protesters from the same group later gathered at police headquarters and sprayed yellow paint over the rotating ‘New Scotland Yard’ sign in front of it. Several also glued themselves to the road, blocking traffic. Police said 24 people were arrested.
“Just Stop Oil has drawn attention, and criticism, for targeting artworks in museums. In July, Just Stop Oil activists glued themselves to the frame of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, and to John Constable’s The Hay Wain in the National Gallery.”
So the protests are widespread, but I’d like to focus on the two Heinz Cream of Tomato soup throwers:
I’m wondering if either of these women ever gave any thought to how those cans of soup came to be in available to them.
Let’s start with the tomatoes, which were grown in a field and then likely harvested with equipment like this…
Equipment powered by…
Oil. Fossil fuel.
Then trucks loaded with tomatoes…trucks powered by oil…
…went to a Heinz canning factory – maybe this one:
A factory probably powered by oil.
The canned soup was shipped all over England, perhaps this time by a freight train…
…powered by oil.
And the soup would then be loaded onto trucks…powered by oil…for delivery to our protestors’ grocery stores:
A store with lights and heating and cooling likely…powered by oil.
I’m thinking that without oil, the protestors would not have had cans of Heinz Cream of Tomato soup to throw at van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
I’m also thinking that thought didn’t cross their minds.
You may have noticed that one of the protestors has a hair color…
That looks like it came from a product like this one:
We could go through the whole drill again – from factory to store and how it got there – but I think I’ve made my point.
I say this emphatically – I’m not unsympathetic to the goals of the Just Stop Oil protestors. I wish our world’s dependency on oil was a thing of the past. I wish climate change was something kids learned about in history books, instead of living with it every day. I wish all our energy came from clean, renewable sources.
Headlines like this infuriate me:
And I live in California, where we’re getting no relief on the price of gasoline as this recent article attests:
But…I don’t think this:
…is the way to reduce our dependence on oil.
On October 15 – the day after the painting was defaced – the BBC reported:
“One of Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers paintings has been cleaned and is back on display, after climate activists threw tins of what appeared to be tomato soup over it.
“London’s National Gallery confirmed it is now back in place, about six hours after the soup incident.”
If the goal of Just Stop Oil was to get attention – they got it.
They also got this:
I fear the warning in this article:
“University of Pennsylvania climate scientist Michael Mann said he worries that the vandalism ‘alienates many people we need to bring into the fold. People who are natural allies in the climate battle but will draw negative associations with climate advocacy and activism from such acts.’”
I also fear protestors like this:
And most of all, I fear this:
Update: Taking a page from the soup throwers’ handbook, on October 23 in the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany, …
“Two climate activists threw mashed potatoes on a glass-covered painting by the celebrated French Impressionist Claude Monet…the latest art attack intended to draw attention to climate change.”
The activists each glued a hand to the wall:
“…the woman shouted in German that the world was in ‘a climate catastrophe, and all you are afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes in a painting…’”
The article concluded:
“The activists appear to be targeting artworks with global resonance, hoping that notable names and paintings will garner more publicity.”
I have two thoughts. The first is regarding what the activists are “hoping”:
Or as they say in Germany:
The second: Those mashed potatoes came from potatoes that grew in a field and were harvested by a machine…fueled by oil…