Food is not protest


Illustration by Samantha Haney

A can of tomato soup was thrown at “Sunflowers,” one of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, in protest. While the environmental movement needs to be acknowledged now, the decision to protest by attempting to ruin a painting is ineffective.

Juli Mejia, Editor In Chief

The Just Stop Oil activists were wrong to throw a can of tomato soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” painting on Oct. 14. Van Gogh has no fault.

I consider myself a climate activist. I work at Environmentalistic; a store meant to raise awareness about environmental issues and foster love between people and the environment. For the past five months, I have done research and created posts to draw attention to the store’s message and I have learned a lot about the environment in that time. So the harm being done to the world around us is no shock to me.

I’m not in complete disagreement with the activists. I acknowledge that their goal was to say that people are too materialistic, and I completely agree. The two young women also wanted to criticize people who care more about harming a painting than harming the environment, which I also agree with. I truly believe that by reprioritizing our lifestyle to truly pay attention to the environment and other issues facing our world instead of material items, we will have a better future. I also believe that our world is destined for destruction at this rate, just like these girls. But that does not justify these protests. 

The fact is their protest made more headlines than any recent environmental disasters caused by large corporations, which is not right. There is a very evident focus on news that is ‘shocking’ to people since these stories get far more attention. Whether the internet is upset or not, millions of people have now learned of their organization and the truths it has been exposing. So, the idea that they wanted to bring media attention to this issue in a shocking way is a great concept. 

Still, I want to ask what their purpose was for the protest. Why protest? They answered it themselves.

We’re using these actions to get media attention to get people talking about this now and we know civil resistance works, history has shown us this works,” Phoebe Plummer, one of the protestors, said in an article written by NPR.

They want people to talk about the issues, which of course is something I completely agree with— except that’s not what people are talking about. The dozens of articles talking about the protest only actually reference the protest itself instead of the messages or issues they are actually protesting. These activists have the attention, not their message.

Sometimes, being loud is an effective form of protest because it forces the world to pay attention to you. Noise is what made the Civil Rights Movement so legendary, and its what is demanding a reaction from governments worldwide. But again I ask, why protest?

The purpose of this protest is to get the attention of the public to show them the issues that the environment is facing and to ultimately convince the public to feel empowered to help the environment. What their protest and similar protests have done in recent months is only provoke those who are not fully convinced or are not active advocates for the movement. Instead, people could think of the movement as ‘juvenile’ and ‘delinquent’ because of the irresponsibility of the incident. It sheds a negative light on the movement and gives an excuse for politicians who want to boost the economy to go against any environmental reforms. 

I don’t believe the environmental movement should be a political agenda. However, as seen in our own ballots and in the mentality across the world, it is and we need to treat it as such. Our own response must be different than that of those successful ‘loud’ movements because Climate Change is something that will ultimately impact everyone, so convincing as many people as we can, regardless of political ideology, is critical. Of course, it may not get to everyone, but the last thing we need in this movement is more division because people are pulling illegal stunts for media attention.

What about protesting in a way that garners attention but actually offers something, like Greta Thunberg? Lets petition. Call government officials or run for office. Shame companies that are forcing consumers to purchase single-use items. Exposing groups that are not adhering to the standards. Educating each generation about its importance. Civilly talking about it as often as we can. Because civil disobedience took years to finally cause change and was not effective enough to convince the world. 

As environmentalists, it is our responsibility to convince the world that the environment matters, and it matters now. We need to ensure the world is watching when we talk about the little time we have left to truly change the planet for the better, and we need to ensure Americans are watching when we say our country has caused some of the worst environmental damages in the world. In order to properly convince the world though, we need to remind ourselves of one thing: why we protest.