Climate activists have thrown tomato soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in London and have hurled mashed potatoes at Claude Monet’s “Les Meules” in Germany. They think such actions, paired with gluing themselves to walls, is the answer to solving fossil fuel dependence.

Britain Van Gogh Protest

A handout photo issued by Just Stop Oil, which wants the British government to halt new oil and gas projects, depicts two protesters who threw canned soup at Vincent Van Gogh’s famous 1888 work “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London on Oct. 14. Just Stop Oil via AP

While the paintings are protected by glass, the activists hope that defacing cherished works of art raises alarm over environmental and humanitarian catastrophes. The problem with performative activism is that it’s all style, no substance. It creates buzzy headlines, sure, but it won’t do anything to advance sensible climate policies. Instead, it makes climate activists look childish and irresponsible.

Stunts like these have been carried out in cities across the globe, but before anyone storms in to the Portland Museum of Art to throw a lobster, I suggest a more effective alternative: Vote in the midterms. After that, get a job that allows you to affect policies. Volunteer for local nonprofits. Write editorials, speak on podcasts and attend rallies with an eloquent messaging strategy. Find a way to get leaders to listen by becoming one.

If you care about clean water, sustainable forests, resilient economies and all of humanity, create art. Don’t destroy it.

Emma Joyce

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