Just Stop Oil: Climate activists explain why they cling to art

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Just Stop Oil made headlines this week after activists glued themselves to paintings in art galleries across the UK.

In recent weeks they have also taken the British Grand Prix track by storm, winning the backing of Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton.

Others had a more mixed reaction to the group’s protests. From calling them “extreme” and “unnecessary” to accusations of privilege among those who participated.

So who are the activists behind these controversial protests and what exactly do they want?

We spoke to two members of Just Stop Oil to find out in their own words.

Who are Just Stop Oil?

Founded in December, Just Stop Oil was created to put pressure on the British government to stop new and existing fossil fuel agreements. It is a coalition of different groups inspired by organizers of Isolate Brittany and Extinction Rebellion.

Their message caught on and, as group member Indigo Rumbelow at Euronews Green says, attracted a much wider range of participants than you might expect.

“At the moment in prison is Dr Diana Warner. She is a general practitioner and she is 62 years old,” says Indigo.

“And there is, also in jail, a 29-year-old mason from the north of England, Josh Smith.”

Smith was part of the group that disrupted the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on July 3.

Hannah Torrance Bright, 20, is a student at the Glasgow School of Art. She is also one of the people who stuck to Horatio McCulloch’s painting ‘My heart is in the Highlands’ at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery in June.

“I do things that I never thought I would do in my entire life,” she says.

But being terrified of the consequences of the climate crisis is one of the reasons Hannah says she’s taking part. It doesn’t matter if people are involved in the problem, she says, it’s not “us versus them,” because everyone will be affected.

“I think we are all scared. Much of the answer to this comes from fear and over-focusing on small details of what we are doing to avoid talking about the bigger issue.

What does Just Stop Oil want?

As the name suggests, Just stop the oilApplications for are relatively simple.

“We demand that the government immediately suspend all future licenses and permits for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK,” Indigo says.

They are not there to be liked, she says, comparing what they do to suffragettes and adding that any effective social movement will not be immediately popular.

“I want a future and I want my government to stop trying to kill me.”

These are not personal actions or small individual choices, but the government’s response to an “emergency” situation. We are quickly running out of time to take actionadds Indigo.

In the words of the UK’s former chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, in 2021, what we do over the next three or four years will determine the future of humanity.

“And I guess in the short term, directly from our actions, what I want from people who aren’t in government is to join us,” Indigo says.

“He’s so easy. I’m not doing this because I’m brave or crazy or any of those things. I’m just doing it because I care and I’m scared.

Why do they stick to the boards?

The two activists say that while Just Stop Oil has specific targets for their actions, the widespread nature of their protests is meant to break the illusion that all is well.

“The goal was just to tell our culture, basically, that we can’t hide from this. At this point, everyone is responsible, everyone is going to be impacted by the climate crisis,” says Hannah.

The art world, she says, does not exist in isolation.

“I am an art student myself and sometimes I feel that the art world sees itself as existing in isolation from the rest of the world. But, you know, the climate crisis affects us all.

They have targeted the oil industry, art galleries and even football matches where protesters tied themselves to the goal posts during Premier League football matches in March.

“This is just the beginning,” adds Indigo.

“We want to show that this illusion that everything is fine is just not true and that we are in an emergency situation, and we should act like that.”

What does Just Stop OIl have to say to its detractors?

In recent weeks, the actions of Just Stop Oil have attracted a lot of media attention and social networks. Not everything was positive.

So what do they say to those who think these actions are “useless” or “extreme”?

“I think the fact that it got so much media attention, that so many people are talking about it – [people] for whom it was off their radar before – I don’t think it’s unnecessary in any way,” says Hannah.

The art student adds that she’s not doing this because she wants to, it’s not for fun. Regardless of how people react, the consequences of the climate crisis are impacting people around the world right now.

“I don’t think it’s extreme at all. You know we we glued ourselves to the frames paintings,” she says.

“I think the fact that the government is effectively displacing half of the [world’s] the population is much more extreme.

Hannah adds that 3.5 billion people are expected to become climate migrants over the next 50 years. With the unfathomable impacts of climate change and warnings from scientists, she believes inaction, especially from those in power, is the most extreme approach.

“Instead of bringing that fear into outrage at us, outrage it at what the government is doing to all of us and the entire planet right now — and then do something about it.”

Indigo adds that this is not an endless campaign. On the contrary, the group poses a question to the British government.

“He will either stop allowing new oil, which will end our campaign of civil disobedience, or continue allowing new oil, in which case we will continue.”

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