An open letter to young climate warriors: This is not helping.

I get it, I do. You are angry and frustrated. I am, too. You want to draw attention to a cause that feels like life or death. I agree.You want people to wake up to the urgency of the global environmental crisis we are facing. Bravo! You throw soup at famous works of art because you feel like it’s the only way to get the attention you think this cause deserves. This is where we part company.

I am an environmentalist and also an artist and gallery owner and I’m here to tell you this is not helping. At all. 

Sure, you are getting attention, but is it the kind of attention that enlightens the mind and softens the heart of those who don’t care about the earth? Because that’s what is needed. No, the attention you are getting only hardens hearts against your cause and provides more fodder for people who are convinced that climate activists are elitist nut jobs that don’t understand the day-to-day problems of the average human. Don’t give them ammunition!

Think of your end goal, which is ostensibly to convince people/governments to take climate change seriously and act with urgency to address it. But as far as I can see what you are doing is only alienating people who you might have reached. And, I say this with love, your reckless actions only make you seem childish and irresponsible, not like the kind of person people take seriously and listen to.

Here’s a secret. If you want people to respect what YOU care about, then show some respect towards the things THEY care about. Don’t deface a Van Gogh painting, a beloved piece of work by a man who saw beauty in everything and has probably caused more people across time to care about the earth and sky than you or I ever will. Don’t throw mashed potatoes at a Monet. It’s nonsensical. How about you respect the beauty of the painting, and take that soup and potatoes and feed someone since you claim to care so much about world hunger? How about you glue yourself to an oil refinery or BP corporate headquarters. Direct your anger at those who deserve it.

Another secret: you can care about more than one thing. You can care deeply about protecting the earth and about protecting our cultural heritage. Instead of abusing art, make it your ally! Enlist artists to create art that supports your cause. Art moves people deeply and has always been at the forefront of any real social change. 

Better yet, make some art yourself. Channel all that pain and frustration and release it onto a canvas of your own. That’s what art is all about. Make people feel what you feel by showing them. Because empathy is what will move them, not disgust. Don’t throw soup. It may make you famous, but it will not make you or your cause beloved. It will not make people care. It’s not helping.

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