Soup Activism is Not Activism

We’ve now been treated to tomato soup, mashed potatoes, and cake. What did they accomplish? In short: nothing.

In an article from Vox on Monday, the author weaves together a complex (and compelling) story of how the impact of this act—based on the fact that each of these works were otherwise protected and unlikely to truly be damaged—is complex. That if you take a moment to consider it, no one was actually trying to damage art, but to get people to talk about the fact that they are more worried about damaging art than the impacts of climate change. And, yes, this is likely true for some astute few who will take the time to sit with those feelings and parse out deeper meaning.

But for the 99% of the world who just saw snippets, a Reel, an angry comment, a headline—this will amount to nothing more than another reason for people to get upset at climate activists doing dumb ****. Because let’s be real, in the 24-hour news cycle, this was just activists doing dumb ****.

There’s something to be said, however, about the power of vitality in all this. The one thing that these acts have in common was their ability to strike a real chord with sympathizers and critics alike. But when going viral in today’s world, one really needs to consider the reasons for going viral and the consequences. Intended or otherwise.

For example, an entire subset of TikTokers have created a conspiracy theory that Just Stop Oil is actually a pro-oil stunt group. That’s right. TikTok has taken to demonizing “Just Stop Oil” to be pro-oil.

As such, one needs to be incredibly intentional in one’s approach to activism. A viral moment is a great way to get attention, but what message are people taking home when they experience said moment?

Last year, we recommended creating a giant copper cube in downtown Anchorage to highlight the amount of mined materials required to create clean tech annually. Now, this doesn’t have to be in Anchorage, but the intention is clear:

  • Show people the massive amount of materials it takes to build clean infrastructure
  • Make people consider where said materials would be coming from
  • Reinforce that these materials can’t just come from recycling (though some can)
  • Create a destination; an event; an experience; an Instagrammable moment

Until then, we (and 99% of the rest of the world), will just let the feeds refresh and start talking about something new next week…


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