“What matters most? Art or life? Is [l’art] worth more than food, than justice? Are you more concerned about protecting a web or protecting our planet? […] Crops are lost, millions die from the rains [diluviennes], forest fires and droughts. We can no longer afford new oil and gas projects. It’s gonna take everything we got! »
These are the words spoken by two young British activists from the JUST STOP OIL movement. On October 14, they sprinkled the famous Van Gogh painting with tomato soup The sunflowers exhibited at the National Gallery in London.
In terms of communication, this shock operation is a success. The video that captured the action went viral within minutes. The reactions on Twitter were not long in coming. Many people have insulted the young activists as “irresponsible”, “idiots”, “idiots” or even “terrorists”, on the grounds that “Van Gogh has nothing to do with the climate”, “there is other ways to be heard. What these early tweeters didn’t know was that the painting was protected behind glass. Sunflowers are intact.
On the merits, this direct action had the merit of not causing harm to anyone. JUST STOP OIL is a movement that opposes the issuance of new permits for the exploitation of hydrocarbons responsible for a climate change that ruins and kills. The cause is legitimate and supported by the immense global scientific consensus on the climate. Desperate climate scientists are taking other direct actions now.
JUST STOP OIL poses here the question of priority values in its simplest form: will the human genius of yesterday still be worth something tomorrow? A fortiori, what are today’s economy, markets and jobs really worth if there remains only chaos, violence and desolation tomorrow? These young people have the lucidity and the courage which are still lacking in well-meaning and many adults in a position of responsibility.
A few days earlier, it was Greta Thunberg who in an article in the Guardian challenged, not the managers of polluting companies whose sole mission is to generate a profit, but rather the political leaders who have freely chosen to seek the confidence of the people, promising security, hope and prosperity. The Swedish activist insists that the future of future and present generations is being stolen by the polluting countries of the Global North. Leaders need to have complete and sincere carbon inventories in order to finally consider solutions that comply with the laws of physics. The terms “Net Zero” and “carbon offset” are words that can be dangerous since they make us waste the little time left to act. Greta Thunberg concludes as follows: “I say ENOUGH! […] We are approaching a precipice. And I appeal to all those who have not yet been completely greenwashed with their common sense: HOLD ON! Don’t let them lead us [un centimètre] closer to the edge. Here and and now: THE RED LINE IS DRAWN. »
I delivered a copy of this text by hand to the members of a Franco-Canadian interparliamentary delegation at a reception organized on October 11. I hope that this text will be able to move them and rally them one day to the side of courage and honesty demanded by the climate emergency.
Two young fifteen-year-old Franco-Colombians to whom we had given the floor the same morning during a conference on eco-anxiety shared with us: “I am disappointed that everyone does not realize what is going on . I’m afraid. I’m mad. We are a majority to lose hope and hold resentment towards other generations. And at the same time “you have to trust adults and tell them to act because they have more power. We have to talk about change and how we can make this change. If authors who write about global warming could be read all over the world, that could change everything. We grow up in a world where every day we are told that the world is going to end, that we are the last generation. We’re not superheroes, the only way to get there is for everyone to get moving. We can’t be left alone to deal with this. »
Aloïs Gallet is a lawyer, economist, co-founder of EcoNova Education and Albor Pacific