Are Just Stop Oil supporters actively considering slashing paintings or escalating their actions?

A young Just Stop Oil supporter was asked a hypothetical question about what might happen a few years down the line if there were no government action on the climate crisis. Would things ever escalate in the future to the point that artworks could be slashed if nothing changed? His answer  “yes it may come to that” coupled with a misleading headline seems to have prompted the usual outrage.

But stop for a minute and think. What is a proportionate response to the knowledge that the government is knowingly planning to cut short your life by decades? That by encouraging new oil and gas they have condemned you to a future of fighting for a few miserable scraps of food to feed your starving children – assuming you feel brave enough to have children? How do young people even begin to process that gutwrenching conclusion?

Just Stop Oil and other climate groups such as XR and Animal Rebellion are resolutely nonviolent, what does this mean? It means that we maintain a discipline in which we do not physically harm others. By this definition, how do you consider the actions of a government planning to allow millions to starve to death, to die in extreme heat waves or get washed away in floods?

Our nonviolent and accountable ethos means that we challenge the morality of unquestioning obedience in social systems including the law and that we take responsibility for our actions. Unquestioning obedience of a population to socially prescribed norms is dangerous as many marginalised groups have found throughout history. Drilling for new oil and gas is legal and actively encouraged by the government, despite the widespread knowledge that it will cause harm to billions – where is the morality in that?

So yes, if no action is taken to end new oil and gas, ordinary people might actively consider slashing paintings as the Suffragettes did and yes, if the government does not address our demand for no new oil, we will consider escalating our actions. It’s what the Suffragettes did, it’s what the Civil Rights movements did, it’s what everyone does when the inalienable right to life and a livelihood are violated. 

We are engaged in nonviolent civil resistance. For now that means slowly marching around the streets of London, calling on ordinary people to take their first steps to help block and disable the cogs of the machine. This is not a “tactic” – it is an act of self respect, an act of solidarity, an act of love and necessity. 

We must resist now or we will look back with longing at all we have lost. The last 250 years of sacrifice and tears expended by generations to create decent societies is about to be snuffed out in the blink of an eye. The word betrayal does not cover the reality of what is going on. All our traditions, all our values, all that we claim to stand for is being destroyed.