At COP 27, at art galleries around the world, and on the streets, one of the most visible trends of our time is the battle between youth and global warming. The young protestors argue that their future is at stake as a callous world refuses to take dramatic steps to stall global warming.
Climate activists Anna Holland (20) and Phoebe Plummer (21) after throwing a can of soup on Van Gogh's famous Sunflowers painting at the National Gallery in London. The young activists belong to a climate resistance group called Just Stop Oil.
Climate change affects us all, it affects every element of human life. The main cause of climate change has been human activity which involves the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. When fossil fuels are burned, greenhouse gas emissions are released into the atmosphere, serving as a blanket over the earth, trapping heat from the sun and raising temperatures. These extreme weather events are becoming increasingly severe around the world, endangering lives and livelihoods. The extreme rise in temperature means there is an increased risk of wildfires as witnessed in Europe. A record-breaking heatwave has affected a large portion of Western Europe, drastically increasing the danger of fires. Extreme weather situations are predicted to grow more regular after the United Kingdom experienced temperatures above 40°c for the first time in recorded history earlier this summer.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an intergovernmental body of the United Nations, global temperatures have increased by 1.1°c and are on the verge of increasing to 1.5°c. People living in small island nations and developing countries are already more sensitive to climate change. Africa has been the worst affected region.
The major brunt of climate change will be faced by the children and younger generation of today. Recently, we have seen youth climate activists being at the frontline of the climate crisis. They are increasingly being acknowledged as agents of change in the climate crisis. Youth climate advocacy is widely recognized as a significant player in attempts to address the climate problem, both in terms of protest-related actions and a growing presence in policy-making and decision-making processes.
Increase in presence of youth activists at COP 27
The Conference of the Parties, also known as COP 27, is the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will take place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, from November 6- November 18, 2022. This conference is held annually where governments and state heads work together on policies to minimize global temperature rises and adapt to the effects of climate change.
Climate activism and advocacy are growing across Africa, and several young people are receiving global attention for their efforts at climate change solutions. Some of these young climate activists are present at this conference. Sharon Gakii, a 24-year-old Kenyan climate activist, said at this event, “I come from Kajiado County, a semi-arid region in Kenya. My parents lost at least 100 cattle due to drought, and right now they don’t have enough money to pay school fees for my younger siblings. I am here to make my voice heard. I am here to let everyone know it’s about time that countries meet their climate commitments. For example, the $100 billion promised by wealthy nations more than a decade ago to help poor countries in adaptation and mitigation has still not been delivered. We are in 2022. Why?”
Young people from some of the nations most affected by climate change have warned that they are not victims but rather a force to be feared. Two women activists from Uganda - Hilda Flavia Nakabuye and Patience Nabukalu from Friday's for Future, an international, youth-led climate action group, have traveled to Egypt with an important message: listen to young people from Uganda and across Africa.
In the run-up to the 27th United Nations Climate Conference in Egypt, the Climate Justice Camp took place in Tunisia. It was to provide a forum for young climate activists and organizers from the Global South to cooperate on plans and demand a fair and just response to the climate crisis. It was a week-long camp which took place in September, led by dozens of climate organizations and brought together people from some of the world's most vulnerable regions. The camp's main objectives were to foster intersectional solidarity, create avenues for long-term political and systemic change, and address issues of climate adaptation, justice, energy access, and loss and destruction brought on by the disproportionate effects of climate change.
Greenpeace, one of the organizers of the climate camp in Tunisia, stated that the Climate Conference COP27 will be funded by Coca-Cola, a significant global polluter. Coca-Cola will be a sponsor in this conference which is frequently named the world's largest plastic polluter.
Art as a sign of protests
To demand climate change action, young climate activists are targeting museums and their artwork. These young climate activists are increasingly targeting museums. They have committed various acts of vandalism against well-known artworks.
In a German museum, two climate activists attacked a famous French Impressionist artwork by Claude Monet with mashed potatoes to highlight the issue of global warming. Similar attacks were seen in museums across Europe. In a series of attention-grabbing actions, climate protesters/activists from throughout Europe have been glueing themselves to the frames of iconic paintings.
At the centre is Just Stop Oil, a group of environmental activists who have organized more than four protests in United Kingdom museums and have been the targets of multiple arrests as a result of their efforts. Just Stop Oil is a group of environmental activists in the United Kingdom. The organization uses civil opposition and direct action to pressure the British government to promise to stop issuing new licenses for and producing fossil fuels.
Just Stop Oil has received attention and criticism for its targeting of museum artworks. The activists from Just Stop Oil glued themselves to the frame of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper at London's Royal Academy of Arts, as well as John Constable's The Hay Wain at the National Gallery.
Similarly to protest fossil fuel extraction, climate activists threw soup over Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers in London's National Gallery. While the soup was dripping from the painting and hands glued to the wall, the two members of the German climate group, Letzte Generation stated, "We are in a climate catastrophe, and all you are afraid of is tomato soup or mashed potatoes on a painting.” [This is the English translation.]
Similar actions were seen in Paris, France, where a man spattered cake on the glass screen protecting Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa at the Louvre museum in Paris.
The young climate activists are leading the way for a call to action on climate change, they are raising their voices, using artworks to express their concerns about global warming and climate change.