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HomeBreaking NewsClimate activists’ new, confrontational tactics aren’t popular. That’s kind of the point.

Climate activists’ new, confrontational tactics aren’t popular. That’s kind of the point.

'Quick read' news summary

2022 may be remembered as the year that climate protests got weird. Activists prowled cities in the dead of night, using lentils to deflate the tires of thousands of SUVs. They glued themselves to airport runways. They also glued themselves to priceless artwork in museums, dumped flour on a sports car painted by Andy Warhol, and, infamously, launched a can of Heinz tomato soup at the glass protecting Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.”

Frustrated with the sluggish pace of climate action, protesters turned to disruptive tactics, risking arrest and widespread disapproval. Activists made people late for work; they delayed flights; they were accused of vandalism. Their actions weren’t popular, but they anticipated that.

“We’re going to be noisy. We’re going to be disruptive. We’re going to be unignorable. We’re going to be a pain in the ass until you listen to us,” Emma Brown, a spokesperson for Just Stop Oil, the coalition behind the museum protests, recently told PBS Newshour. The group hopes to persuade the U.K. government to put a stop to all new fossil fuel projects.

When a pair of activists with Just Stop Oil tossed tomato soup at the van Gogh painting in London’s National Gallery in October, it sparked a widespread debate about the effectiveness of such tactics. In a survey of more than 2,000 Americans conducted within a month of the protest, 46 percent said that “disruptive non-violent actions including shutting down morning commuter traffic and damaging pieces of art” decreased their support for efforts to address climate change. Only 13 percent said such actions increased their support.

The thing is, the public rarely approves of disruptive protests — unless they happened sometime in the past. Suffragettes actually slashed paintings, permanently damaging them, and then were remembered as heroes. Even peaceful marches, as they unfold, are sometimes seen as unhelpful.

2022 may be remembered as the year that climate protests got weird. Activists prowled cities in the dead of night, using lentils to deflate the tires of thousands of SUVs. Frustrated with the sluggish pace of climate action, protesters turned to disruptive tactics, risking arrest and widespread disapproval.

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