First it was tomato soup on Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”, then on Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. Mashed potatoes on Monet soon followed – and even if the paintings themselves were not damaged, I admit that I briefly asked myself: Does that really have to be the case? I really didn’t have a quick answer.
The question came up again a few days later: when a bad accident happened in Berlin. A cement mixer runs over a woman, she later dies in hospital. And because at the same time a climate protest of the last generation took place on a nearby freeway, it immediately seems clear: the people glued to a sign there are to blame. If it hadn’t been for them, according to many articles and especially many commentators on social media, a special vehicle would not have had to be stuck in traffic and be able to save the woman.
Many questions are open
But it’s not that simple: the lack of rescue lanes is primarily due to the large number of drivers, and not to the two people stuck to the sign. In addition, according to a statement, the last generation reports such actions to the police beforehand and asks for emergency vehicles to be diverted: Why didn’t that happen? Many questions are unanswered, not least whether the special vehicle would have been used for salvage at all. Too many questions, in my view, to justify the vehemence and outrage with which the civil disobedience of the last generation was met.
In the course of this reporting, the Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, tweeted, for example: “Anyone who blocks escape routes is putting lives at risk. We saw that in a terrible way this week in Berlin. The #police have my fullest support for a tough crackdown.” The obvious question that follows is: Does this also apply to illegal parkers and emergency lane blockers in road traffic from now on? Many asked under the tweet. There was no answer or perhaps even a clarification. And that makes me think.
“Then I’ll go to jail too”
The Jesuit and Catholic priest Jörg Alt is one of the radical climate activists who sticks to road blockades. In the RND interview, he explains why he sees no alternative to this form of protest, what he expects from the world climate conference and what he wants to say in court.
Protest must not endanger human life
It is clear to me: Of course, a protest must not endanger human life. As Economics Minister Robert Habeck rightly says: “Climate protection is about protecting life and freedom.” Especially when it comes to human lives, a focus on the facts would be very important to me: Instead, in this case, the Manipulated discourse and created a mood against the climate protests with supposedly strong slogans.
The situation is similar with the other protests: Strictly speaking, tomato soup does not endanger glazed paintings or human lives – but prison sentences are being demanded or even implemented, and the media outrage gallantly diverts the focus from the underlying problem in all cases: a lack of climate policy.
Air conditioning check
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Tough action on climate protection desired
For me, there is no question that climate protests are needed. After all, our lives and liberties are at risk from the inconsistent actions of our government. And optimism alone is definitely not enough when it comes to climate protection. Since Fridays for Future, Greta Thunberg and Luisa Neubauer also experience enough outrage and malice, I ask myself: What form of climate protest is it allowed to be? And where is the crackdown and the media outrage about illegal parkers and emergency lane blockades in everyday traffic? I haven’t read much about this, at least in the last few days – but maybe everyone is optimistic and full of energy on groundbreaking and effective climate protection at the climate conference in Egypt. For the sake of our lives and our freedom. Tough action is also desired here.
Insa Thiele-Eich is a meteorologist and researches the connections between climate change and health at the University of Bonn. She has been training as a scientific astronaut for a two-week mission on the International Space Station as part of the “Die Astronautin” initiative since 2017 – and would thus be the first German woman in space. Here she writes every two weeks about space travel, climate change and the fascinating world of science.