Over the past few months, climate activists have been gluing themselves to works of art or throwing soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. Whether that’s the best way to instigate action for our climate is debatable, but they’ve certainly succeeded in getting attention and proving their point, also thanks to you.
You call them climate vandals. Who are the real climate vandals? The corporations and people who are deliberately destroying our planet, or the climate activists who threw soup at a work of art that was deliberately targeted because it has a protective cover and therefore cannot be damaged?
“When was the last time you wrote an open letter to the fossil fuel companies to call them out?”
In fact: when was the last time you wrote an open letter to the fossil fuel companies to call them out? Both in your speech and in your open letter, you give more attention to a group of people who appear to be destroying art than to the group of companies that are destroying our planet. And in doing so, I think you made the message of climate activists loud and clear.
COP27: fighting symptoms vs tackling root causes
Newspaper headlines and the world’s governments generally agree in saying that the result was historical. As active players in the sustainability space, we couldn’t hold back our thoughts on the summit.
Technology will save the world
I firmly believe that technology can save the world. I started my company, Quest Impact Design Studio, because we noticed that the people developing the technologies to save the world sometimes lack the skills to market and scale those solutions. And that’s where we come in.
And the tech-for-good movement is growing very quickly. Despite the looming crisis, investment in climate tech is at an all-time high. But technology alone won’t save us. You say policy is catching up, but it’s happening at a pace that’s far too slow for this crisis. And policymakers shouldn’t be catching up in the first place, they should be acting proactively and with a long-term vision in mind. When people say that politicians are focusing too much on (a future) technology to save the world, what they really mean is that there’s so much that can still be done at the political level, but is just not happening.
Technology is worthless if it’s not implemented at scale. So I’m wondering what percentage of the roofs of our government buildings are equipped with solar panels? And how many government buildings are sufficiently insulated to meet the standards you’ve set for homeowners? In Belgium, we’re facing water shortages, but I read that in 2021 about 167 million liters of water were spilled per day because of leakages. If you want to place your bets on technology to save the world, why doesn’t the Belgian government give a good example?
Collaboration is key
You’re right in saying that collaboration is key, and we need everyone on board. I would add that we need to address problems on a systemic level. We must not just react to issues as they arise. We need to get to the root causes, not just fight the symptoms. And we need to think on a global ecosystem-level, instead of just focusing on our own national interests and technologies.
Why do these activists resort to such drastic means? Because of the government’s inaction. Neither in your letter nor in your speech did I find a critical analysis of this issue. Instead, you try to draw negative attention to it.
To work on a systemic level, you need commitment and collaboration. And what better way to inspire that commitment than to lead by example, acknowledge the systemic issues, and act in a timely and appropriate manner? Until that happens, the climate activist movement will grow and an increasing amount of people will continue to resort to more radical, attention-seeking measures. Because with climate issues and anxiety growing larger day by day, it’s far better to speak (what you might perceive as) too loud than to remain silent.
Youth climate activist Clover Hogan speaks about the climate crisis
Can we suggest hiring her for the next speech at COP?