The invisible limits to climate activism

The invisible limits to climate activism

Throwing soup at paintings, biking around airplanes, and gluing themselves to tables. Climate activists have been taking their actions to another level lately. All for one goal; to make people more aware of climate change, and start the conversation. But how far would they go to spread this message?  

Even though the actions did acquire a lot of attention this attention wasn’t always positive. Many people had critiques about the way the actions went. For example how they treated the art. How far can activists go? Mieke van den Broeck, a lawyer specialized in immigration law and defense of activists, knows all about this; ‘Well it is a fundamental right, so you have the right to protest, you have the right to express your opinion even when it’s an opinion that’s not common. So the limits to that are like racism, insulting people, etc. but in general, you do have the right to protest.’

When asked when people go too far Mieke finds it difficult to say; ‘Because there are a lot of lines to cross. Everybody can make the rules more specific. What we’ve seen is that a lot of cities have rules that say that you have to announce an action and then the police say; you can do it here or here and when you don’t listen to them you get a fine. It’s not the worst thing but it can make people avoid protesting because it’s a lot of money. In the criminal court, they often consider violence as the limit. That can be violence towards people, but also towards building, stuff, and publicity.

But are there limits to how far the climate activists will go for their cause? Yes, say all of the activists when asked at a protest of Extinction Rebellion in Brussels. Some of them have a partner and a job, and they would rather not go to jail. Maybe for one night, or a month. And if they don’t show up for work, they will lose their job. They do find it really important to spread their message. That’s loud and clear when listening to the activists at the protest, but there is an invisible line to how far they would go for this cause.

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