Following the controversial decision to throw foodstuffs on artwork, it looks like Just Stop Oil’s stepped up their game.
I was critical of the action that involved throwing soup on a Van Gogh, and I stand by my initial impression. Fortunately, Just Stop Oil’s more recent actions seem to be more efficient and on-target.
Protests that block traffic are enraging to motorists, but they should be. Inconveniencing people is an effective way to cause change — if nothing else, someone may think twice about taking their car if they’re going to be stuck in a protest-triggered gridlock for hours. There are other advantages to this kind of action over the museum stuff, too. For one, you don’t have security seconds away, so you have more time to get your message across. Second, there’s a direct connection to cars, car-centric city planning, and the fossil fuel industry, so it makes it easier to get your point across efficiently. The medium does at least a little bit of communicating for you.
One article pointed out that a woman with a sick child screamed at the protesters to let her through, and I can’t imagine how scared and angry she and her child must have been. I wish I had a better solution that would get people the care they need during an emergency, while still allowing protesters to demonstrate effectively. The truth is that the protesters probably aren’t the root of the problem here — protesters blocking roads get out of the way for ambulances and emergencies. The primary issue is all of the other cars creating the traffic that’s being blocked in the first place.
Two members of Uprising of the Last Generation also staged an interesting protest that, in my opinion, seems to bridge the gap between effective communication and attention-getting. They glued themselves to the metal poles supporting a dinosaur skeleton (don’t worry — most of the skeletons actually on display in museums are plaster models made to look like fossilized bone. Actual fossils are delicate, heavy, and usually incomplete). The message was that dinosaurs didn’t survive a climate catastrophe, and neither would humanity. It still runs into some of the same issues as other museum-based protests, but there aren’t a ton of layers between their target and their objective that could cause parts of their message to be lost.
This isn’t to say that I necessarily trust some of the financial backers of these efforts. While it’s true that a rich person can inherit a large sum of money and use that in order to fight against the thing that gave them the money in the first place, this feels disingenuous when they choose to, for example, retain enough to “buy and sell high-end properties the way the rest of us buy shoes.” This isn’t to say that oil heirs should have their wealth confiscated and automatically be consigned to cardboard boxes, but maybe living in one, regular house and throwing more monetary weight behind the causes they purport to care about would be a good start. Go big or go home.
The news cares about the wealthy and recognizable0. Hunger strike until you get to talk to a head of state. Handcuff yourself to something. Spraypaint the facade of an oil company’s corporate office. The rich and famous could attract more attention through direct action than a hundred members of the general public. If you’re gonna go to town, might as well go in style. As long as members of hoi polloi are the ones sacrificing their safety and freedom, it’s too easy for the media and social networks to paint them as melodramatic and delusional.