Are Climate Activists Really Making an Impact?

“Just Stop Oil” activists have recently struck global news as they display some of their most interesting acts of climate activism.


Supplied by Extinction Rebellion

To go with story by Andrew Dykes. Extinction Rebellion held ‘fossil fool’ protests in Edinburgh. Picture shows; Extinction Rebellion held ‘fossil fool’ protests in Edinburgh.. Edinburgh. Supplied by Extinction Rebellion Date; 01/10/2022

Nicholas Yoo, Editor-in-Chief

To what extent of action do climate activists have to achieve for them to share their message? And are their actions justified? These are the questions that recent climate activists and society faces as we see the onslaught of climate campaigns that have recently struck the news worldwide.

“Just Stop Oil” is an environmental activist group based in the United Kingdom that has come under fire for their unconventional and even destructive ways of protesting to spread their message. Their most popular form of demonstration has been defacing priceless works of art by famed artists like Van Gogh and Vermeer in museums by splattering food and soup on these pieces.

Recently, a Dutch court sentenced two climate change activists from “Just Stop Oil” Belgium to prison for two months for targeting Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring”.  Subsequently, one of the sentences was suspended.  While these masterpieces faced minimal damage due to protective covers that divide the actual art from the real world, the question shifts, then, to are these actions justified?

The issue of climate change has loomed over our society for several decades—a problem we just can’t seem to resolve. Politicians and environmentalists alike are creating new bills or protesting for global warming awareness, but why is it that we are still in the same rut we’ve been in since the beginning of the century, if not any worse?

That’s because climate change is a societal (as well as an environmental) problem. We must recognize that we are causing the problems and only we can really fix the issue. Of course there are people who don’t recognize climate change as a real issue, but that’s for another time.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if our planet wants to avoid the worst impacts from climate change, we must remove roughly 10 gigatons (10 billion tons) of carbon dioxide from the air by mid-century—an amount that is twice what we emit from fossil fuel burning each year. And mind you, this wasn’t a statement provided a couple of years ago. This was from an article published as recently as March, 2022.

So then let’s address the elephant in the room. Can we really reach that goal and in the end, were those “Just Stop Oil” “loonies” actually justified in doing this? At this point, it’s hard to conclude anything regarding the former. For the longest time ever, we’ve had resolutions to cut carbon emissions where it’s finding alternatives to gas-powered cars, trying solar energy, or even the age-old advice on recycling. But none of these matter if we don’t implement them into our daily lives. It honestly doesn’t take much to make a big difference. At a global population of almost eight billion people, if each of us does one or two environmentally friendly acts, we can make a tremendous impact.

That being said, while the intent behind the “Just Stop Oil” activists may be well-founded, their way of expressing their discontent does not really work. Personally, I don’t see how throwing soup at priceless art or on the glass windows of luxury watch stores will make a big difference, especially if it annoys the public about their actions. Rather than defacing public/private property, it would behoove them or any activist to focus on continuing to spread the word about climate change.