How far must we go to alert other people to the scale of the crisis we face? Only one answer is clear: further than we have yet gone. We are hurtling towards planetary tipping points: the critical thresholds beyond which Earth systems collapse. The consequences are unimaginable. None of the horrors humanity has suffered, great as they are, even hints at the scale of what we now face.
The response by the media and government to the two Just Stop Oil activists who threw soup at Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers in the National Gallery in London speaks volumes.
Decorating the glass protecting the painting with tomato soup (the painting itself was, as the protesters calculated, undamaged) appears to horrify some people more than the collapse of our planet, which these campaigners are seeking to prevent.
For locking or glueing yourself to another protester, or to the railings or any other object, you can be sentenced to 51 weeks in prison – in other words, twice the maximum sentence for common assault.
Sitting in the road, or obstructing fracking machinery, pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure, airports, or printing presses can get you a year. For digging a tunnel as part of a protest, you can be sent down for three years.
The soup-throwing and similar outrageous-but-harmless actions generate such fury because they force us not to stop listening, but to start. Why, we can’t help asking ourselves, would young people jeopardise their freedom and their future prospects in this way.
The answer, we can’t help hearing, is that they seek to avert a much greater threat to both.
Source: The Guardian