“Climate justice is more important than public opinion”: is Just Stop Oil’s tactic the right one? | Environmental activism

FWhether blocking traffic or throwing soup at Vincent van Gogh’s sunflowers, protected by glass, Just Stop Oil activists have turned to divisive methods to draw attention to the climate crisis.

Here, six people in the UK say what they think of the environmental group’s tactics.

“There have been decades of signing petitions”

“It showed society that we value the wrong things. A work of art is worth more than a piece of nature. Spilling soup on glass that can be wiped up has caused more outrage globally than oil spilling across entire ocean ecosystems. These tactics have been an effective way to shine a light on our value systems.

“If only it was early enough in the history of this destruction that we didn’t need such tactics, but the time is up and governments haven’t listened to 30 years of campaigning. They have to use a wide variety of tactics – there have been decades of people signing petitions, sending letters to MPs and voting, all in CO2 levels are rising, deforestation and pollution are increasing, there is massive overfishing. At some point, we have to try different tactics to get the necessary exposure. Emma, ​​40, Yorkshire, health worker

“They need to capture the conversation, not just the spotlight”

Tristan Snowsill: ‘The protest got them the attention they were looking for, but the message was nowhere to be found.’ Photography: Jim Wileman

“As soon as I saw the Sunflowers protest, I guessed they had done their homework. It would not be difficult to choose a substance to throw on a famous painting, being sure not to damage it. There’s no way a group trying to make a point will actually destroy a valuable piece of art.

“The protest got them the attention they were looking for, but the message was nowhere to be found. Couldn’t they also have stuck a poster next to the board to explain the meaning of their act? It was a good way to ’cause attention, but there seemed to be no connection between the protest and the message. When you block a road, it at least makes sense.

“In this country, all forms of protest are being progressively criminalized, which is appalling. There still appears to be another bill pending in Parliament regarding the crackdown on protests. These protesters are brave, they will definitely be on the right side of history, but they need to seize the conversation, not just the spotlight. Tristan Snowsill, 36, Devon, health economist and lecturer

Good cause, bad method’

“I agree with the switch to renewable energy, but the tactics must target those who make the decision. The ones they’re annoying right now don’t have the power – they’re wasting time, it’s not like that. I think at worst it alienates the audience, and at best it does nothing. Being stuck in a traffic queue hampers your chances of supporting them.

“Target MPs and oil company executives. Annoying the general public, who feel pretty powerless against this deaf government anyway, only hurts the cause. If you target politicians it might have a bit more effect as they are the ones who can make the decisions. I think most people are still okay with it but can’t do anything about it.

“I agree with their message – I don’t think anyone doubts that except a few. This is the right cause, the wrong method. Wayne Palmer, 63, Cardiff, civil engineer

“The tactic is selfish”

“Blocking bridges, damaging fuel pumps, priceless paintings and other types of endemic criminal damage impress no one. Their selfish tactics only cause financial and historic frustration and damage. The working class person who is at struggling with the cost of living crisis is the hardest hit – those at the top don’t have to worry about the daily stresses of life that those at the bottom of the social ladder have to endure.

“I will never dispute what they say. However, disturbing people with daily and vital tasks, from shopping to hospital treatment, during the country’s biggest wage freeze since the 1800s shows where their delusional priorities lie. What might work better tactically is to stage non-disruptive protests. Scott, 20, London, railway worker

“I am concerned for the safety of the demonstrators”

Judith Randall
Judith Randall: ‘I’m okay with disruptive tactics’

“I agree with the disruptive tactics of Just Stop Oil given that we are in a dire situation regarding the climate and ecological crises. The science is very clear that we are witnessing an extreme collapse of the biosphere which puts life-threatening and yet we, the public, are continually lulled into a false sense of security.

“I have been arrested once, but not charged, in London for protesting with Extinction Rebellion in 2019 and am concerned about the potential for violent assault from conscientious protesters. I also fear that the way protesters may be portrayed in the media makes them a target.

“I don’t know of any protesters deliberately obstructing emergency vehicles or actually damaging iconic artwork. There’s a rage in some ignorant people and when they can see a highway obstruction they go ballistic Yet traffic often finds itself in long unnecessary gridlock, spewing toxic fumes and going nowhere due to the volume of traffic or roadworks. Judith Randall, 63, Lincolnshire, retired

“Climate justice is bigger than public opinion”

“I think they’re brave and I’m glad they’re doing what they’re doing, I wish I had the courage myself. I understand they’re not trying to win the sympathy of the public, they are trying to get us all talking about climate change and why the government continues on this path of destruction.

“People need to listen to the activists – there are plenty of videos explaining why they are taking specific action and they knew they wouldn’t damage the paintwork. Lots of public outrage online is pushing arms and legs and s’ further away from what activists are saying. I wish more people understood that climate justice is more important than public opinion. You don’t have to like them or their tactics, but you have to listen to them. You and your children are facing a disaster like we have never seen. Fiona, 33, Glasgow, waitress

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