Is Art Vandalism the Way to Solve the Climate Crisis?

Op-ed

Wearing a white T-shirt with ‘Just Stop Oil’ printed on the front, a climate activist glued his head to ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring,’ the famous painting by Johannes Vermeer. While the activist glued his own head to the painting, the other protestor at the scene poured tomato soup over him.

“How do you feel when you see something beautiful and priceless being apparently destroyed before your eyes?” the protester said. “Do you feel outraged? Good. Where is that feeling when you see the planet being destroyed before your very eyes?”

This is the latest incident of art vandalism in a series of actions by climate activists that have targeted famous paintings in recent months. A few days ago a German climate-activist group threw mashed potatoes across a Claude Monet painting. Earlier this month, activists flung tomato soup at Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ in London. In June, members of the group glued themselves to the frame of van Gogh’s ‘Peach Trees in Blossom.’ In May, a man dressed as an elderly woman plastered cake on the ‘Mona Lisa's’ protective glass.

If you find these protests to be annoying or upsetting, well that means their strategies are working. These protests are effective in the sense they are making headlines and going viral on social media when usually our fingers scroll over climate related news. Let’s be clear, climate change is important and it needs to be addressed.

The extreme flooding in Pakistan that left one-third of the country underwater and the aftermath of Hurricane Ian clearly show how important it is to address the climate crisis. To add on, the Emperor penguins have now become a threatened species by the U.S. government as climate change melts sea ice.

So ultimately, when it comes to an issue as pertinent as climate change, it’s possible to sympathize with these protesters' effort. These people are passionate about the state of our world (so it appears), and climate change is an important issue… so we should support their actions…right?

Personally, I think the message is good, but the execution falls short. The soup protests don’t make sense, have not shown evidence of creating a real impact, and quite frankly they look silly. Humanity is already doing enough to destroy our valuable history. Let's not make it worse. Instead, let's continue lobbying, donating, and volunteering our time to local sustainability movements. Anything to help save our world which doesn’t destroy what we already have.

As much as I can understand the despair of the climate activists, as I grew up with the saying by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him): ‘The world is sweet and green, and verily A God has appointed you as a representative and trustee over it’, I think the action of vandalizing artwork is the wrong way to go. The works put in danger belong to the world’s rich cultural history and need to be protected as well as our planet.

Maha .
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