On the spectacle of hurling soup to save the world

Scott Parkin
2 min readOct 16, 2022
Climate Activists + Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” + some tomato soup

I’m always down for disrupting the system and creating a spectacle, but I’m unclear how this most recent wave of tactics in the UK is going to move the needle on climate action.

Watching Climate Twitter discuss this, I’m probably in the minority with my opinion. But, the hurling of soup by British climate activists at Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” lacks strategy. I understand that we’re in an extinction level crisis (maybe better than most) and the value of a famous painting is not to be outweighed by value of a burning eco-system, but creating a spectacle for starting a conversation’s sake isn’t really strategic organizing. It seems to be more just like acting out.

I don’t really think Roger Hallam (co-founder of XR before being kicked out for being an asshole; founder of the group Just Stop Oil that did the action) really cares that much about organizing, he’s more of a mobilizer of people to create spectacles like this. I don’t think that all the media and conversation the action creates will really bring new people to our cause and I don’t think it really does anything to damage our opponents (oil companies, big banks funding them, complicit politicians) or, as the group is named, just stop the flow of oil.

Also, the first response that Just Stop Oil and their defenders keep saying is that the painting was not damaged. If you’re serious about undertaking actions like this to stop the climate crisis than maybe think about economic and reputational damage that our actions can do to our opponents. How do we put oil companies out of business? How do we disrupt the flow of oil?

I am unclear about how this action undermines oil companies and politicians.

And if we’re going to throw cans of soup, thrown them on Liz Truss not Van Gogh.

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Scott Parkin

Lover, fighter and organizer with Rising Tide North America and Mt. Diablo Rising Tide. Organizing Director at RAN. Co-Host at the Green and Red Podcast.