Polish climate activists are modeling themselves on those in the West. They are still less radical and their actions less spectacular, but it is only a matter of time until they begin to copy the antics of Paris or London one to one. The era of the “Green Khmer1” is coming to Poland.
In the fall of 2022, a series of acts of vandalism in European art galleries caught the attention of the media and the international community. Activists of the “Just stop oil” coalition doused the famous painting of Vincent Van Gogh “Sunflowers”, worth about $100 million, with tomato soup. The perpetrators then taped themselves to the walls of the National Gallery in London. “What is worth more? Art or life? Is it worth more than food? More than justice? Do you care more about protecting a painting or protecting our planet and people? The cost of the living crisis is part of the oil crisis. Fuel is too expensive for millions of hypothermic, starved families. They can’t even heat one can of soup,” one of them exhorted. Fortunately, the artwork was not harmed, as the surface of van Gogh’s painting is protected by a special glass coating (like other painting exhibits on display in the world’s largest galleries).
Another target of attack by climate activists was Dutch painter Jan Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” which is on display at the Maurice House in The Hague. A young man wearing glasses came close to Vermeer’s painting, then leaned his head against it. Another man poured red paint behind his shirt. The boy attached himself to the painting with a strong adhesive. The companion of the “glued” fellow turned to the visitors: “How do you feel, seeing something so beautiful and precious being ruthlessly destroyed?” In this case, as in the London gallery, Police was called to the site, and the vandals were arrested. “We are facing a climate catastrophe, and you are afraid of tomato soup or potatoes in a painting?” – “Just stop oil” activists asked later with indignation. They argue that they are choosing the most famous works of art as the objects of attack in order to arouse worldwide interest. “We are doing this to get media attention. People need to start talking about this. My soup video had 50 million views. People all over the world are talking about it. We need to talk about it and we need to talk about it now,” explained Pheobe, who took part in the action at the National Gallery in London. Among the less spectacular actions in the English capital were the spraying of orange paint on the storefronts of Harrod’s luxury department store and the pelting of a wax statue of Charles III with cake.
Paintings, bridges, and ships
The happenings in the galleries don’t stop there. On October 17th, “Just Stop Oil” activists climbed to the top of the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge in central London. The men spread hammocks 84 meters high, forcing authorities to block traffic for at least 24 hours. The action caused gigantic traffic jams and delays. The activists, so concerned about the climate and the purity of nature, failed to notice a contradiction – with pro-environmental slogans on their lips, they led to gigantic traffic jams in the very center of the metropolis and thus contributed to the generation of excess emissions and their hated CO2. JSO activists are radicals. Not only are they committing acts of vandalism against cultural works, which are our collective heritage, but they are also going so far as to destroy private property. A while ago a case about the action of cutting tires on SUVs belonging to London residents gained particular media attention.
The organization “Just stop oil” is demanding the immediate abandonment of fossil fuel extraction, because, in their view, the continuation of this practice is a “crime against humanity.” They demand the suspension of the granting of licenses for such activities throughout the UK. In November 2022, the activists announced that they were temporarily suspending their actions and giving the government time to think. This is a de facto ultimatum – either the authorities will meet the demands of opponents of oil and gas extraction, or the climate activists will act even more radically. One searches in vain in the materials distributed by the JSO for rational and realistic prescriptions for carrying out the great transformation they are demanding.
In Poland, “Just Stop Oil” does not have its own cell. Domestic climate activists have taken up the banner of the fight against coal. In September 2019, activists from Greenpeace blocked a coal ship heading for the port of Gdansk. They painted a huge sign on the side of the ship saying “Stop Coal.” In the same year, Greenpeace’s sailing ship Rainbow Warrior entered the port and dropped anchor at the coal terminal, preventing the unloading of raw material bound for Poland from Mozambique. “In order to prevent the climate crisis from turning into a catastrophe, Poland, like other European Union countries, must move away from coal by 2030, and within the next decade from the remaining fossil fuels – gas and oil,” Greenpeace Poland, the largest and most recognizable environmental organization, warns. “We have 11 years left to prevent a climate catastrophe. If we do nothing, in just a few decades the world as we know it today will cease to exist. Poland must move away from burning coal by 2030. Meanwhile, our government, instead of caring about the safety of Polish women and men and the Polish raison d’etre, is defending the interests of the coal lobby and importers of foreign fuels,” he said in 2019. Pawel Szypulski, program director of Greenpeace Poland.
Our death is imminent
Another climate organization, perhaps the most radical in its message, is Extinction Rebellion (XR). Its symbol is an hourglass to remind us that there is less and less time to stop climate change. The message is clear – if we don’t immediately abandon our current lifestyle, we will all die. “We are rebelling against the system that led us here. We rebel for the sake of the future we want. We revolt because it is our duty to act. We can no longer waste time. Nothing is impossible – we can still make our own history, and it will happen,” the XR activists argue, while citing research that says that already 3.5% of citizens who choose peaceful civil disobedience are capable of bringing about permanent, long-term political change. They point out that loud actions, often disruptive to others and balancing on the edge of the law, are the only way to stop the catastrophe that will eventually lead to the annihilation of our planet. “Life on Earth is affected by the crisis. Our climate is changing faster than scientists and scientists predicted. Loss of biodiversity. Failure to produce crops. Social and ecological breakdowns. Time is running out, and our governments are doing nothing to change it. Extinction Rebellion was created to change that,” XR points out on its website. One of the main demands sets 2025 as the time horizon, by which – according to the organization – we can still save the Earth: “The government must act now to stop the loss of biodiversity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in 2025.” Extinction Rebellion bases its activities on “acts of civil disobedience,” that is, blocking traffic, occupying buildings, and urban spaces. These actions are extremely likely to be replicated by XR activists in Poland. On September 5th, 2020, with the Great March for the Climate, Extinction Rebellion Poland, and Strike for the Earth – Earth Strike Warsaw launched the three-day “Rebellion 2020.” As part of the event, one could take part in numerous meetings and workshops on climate, which were organized in the festival town in Warsaw’s Jazdów district. One of the “attractions” was a mass action of civil disobedience and blockade of the capital. Activists sat on one of the streets, paving traffic. It ended up in court, with a verdict imposing a fine. Often in similar situations, however, Polish courts have acquitted activists. Interestingly, German judges are no longer so lenient. According to Die Welt, so far in Berlin there have been 550 court verdicts in cases against climate activists of the “Last Generation” movement. The cases were primarily about roadblocks. In the German capital alone, they blocked roads 276 times. In addition, by mid-December, the activists had carried out 42 other types of actions, quite a few of which ended in sentences, Berlin Police Chief Barbara Slowik reported. A total of 2,200 criminal charges have already been brought and 600 fines imposed.
At the same time, it should be noted that Polish climate activists are still far from those in Western Europe. In Poland, the dominant form of their activities are (still) protests in large cities, during which, in addition to sticking to the streets and buildings, primarily young people are presenting various slogans, often referring to mass culture. In addition, activists have effectively entered the public discourse. Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, pressured by activists, began a dialogue with the Youth Climate Strike. Also, Civic Platform head Donald Tusk addressed the activists’ demands during the program convention.
However, observing how leftist, “progressive: models from Western Europe are effectively implemented in Poland (we are talking, among other things, about the pronoun gender craze), one should expect that in our country, too, throwing food at works of art will become a normal form of protest in some time.
This, of course, does not mean that domestic climate activists are not already imitating their colleagues in the West. Perhaps the most interesting example of such “monkeying around” is the figure of Dominika Lasota, who came to prominence in the media on the occasion of an exchange with President Andrzej Duda during November’s 27th UN Climate Summit (COP27). She was quickly proclaimed the “Polish Greta Thunberg.” Lasota, who is affiliated with the Fridays for Future movement, gained popularity by throwing around populist slogans about how she “would like Poland to be as developed as possible in terms of clean energy, because it is the cheapest, fastest to develop and the most accessible.” “I would like people to have something to heat their homes with, but the problem is that at the moment, through years of neglect, this energy policy is simply irresponsible,” said the 21-year-old, whom Gazeta Wyborcza advertised as a “climate and anti-war activist.” The liberal-left media outdid themselves in their praise of Lasota, especially as she entered into a discussion with a politician they disliked. Andrzej Duda, who presented a rational approach based on real analysis of the situation in his interview with the activist, was not helped by his statement that he “would like to see snow in the mountains and warmth in the lowlands.”
In no time, the first interview came – on Radio Zet. The activist gave it while still on a summit in Egypt. It turned out that Lasota dropped out of college because she chose to follow a mission to save the world. Now she’s already an authority for media outlets such as Rzeczpospolita, which gave her access to its pages by publishing her text on wind energy. As an expert, Lasota has also spoken on TVN24, including on the topic of RES and windmills. The problem is not that, by her own admission, the activist does not have a college degree, and draws her knowledge and sense of moral obligation to instruct others, among them the president of a country of almost 40 million people, from conversations she has had with researchers and fellow activists from other countries. Of the activist’s new activities, one can note the demonstration under the slogan “Fighter jets, Full oil embargo,” organized during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Warsaw. The statement that emulating the actions of activists from “Just Stop Oil,” among others, is only a matter of time, confirms Lasota’s words. Commenting on the dousing of van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” with soup, she admitted that it was shocking, but immediately pointed out: “But what shocks me more are the absurd actions of those in power, who are pushing us into an expensive and energy crisis.”
Consciously or not ,Dominika Lasota is following almost exactly in the footsteps of Swede Greta Thunberg. At age 15, Thunberg stopped going to school to protest in front of the Swedish parliament building. Every Friday, she skipped class and continued her one-woman picketing (this is how Fridays for Future, co-founded by Lasota in Poland, was founded). In December 2018, Greta attended the COP24 climate summit in Katowice, Poland, where she came at the invitation of UN Secretary-General António Guterres. In April 2019, she addressed the European Parliament. Greta Thunberg has been in the news in recent months in the context of activist protests against the demolition of the German village of Luetzerath to build a coal mine in its place. The Swedish girl has climate celebrity status. Interestingly, the two girls – Greta Thunberg and Polish Dominika Lasota – are the next in the “climate relay of generations.” Few remember Canadian Severn Cullis-Suzuki anymore. At just 9 years old, she founded the environmental organization ECO, dedicated to teaching young people about ecology. In 1992, at the age of 12, she and her organization raised money to attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. During the summit, Suzuki discussed environmental issues from a youth perspective in a speech. Her speech was met with great enthusiasm. It was immortalized on the famous video (available on YouTube) titled, “The girl who silenced the world for five minutes.”
“Brave new world” is already here
It is possible that the climate revolution in Poland will not need advocates in the form of activists. What if it turns out that, wishing to be the prime followers of climate activism, it will be the authorities in our country who will start introducing extremely radical solutions? This does not seem so abstract observing the discussion that erupted after the publication of Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, which described a report by Leeds researchers prepared for the C40 Cities group. Among the 100 cities striving to build “just communities,” is Warsaw, and its mayor is an active participant in the discussions held at this forum. The aforementioned report recommends steps to, as it puts it, “save the climate.” To the average “bread eater” these ideas sound utopian, as they include limits on nutrition and purchased clothing. Thus, the recommendation is for 16 kg of meat per person per year. In a more ambitious variant – to exclude it altogether. In the case of dairy, the researchers also advocate its reduction – 90 kg of dairy per person per year (a progressive goal) or an ambitious one – 0 kg. Each person could buy 8 pieces of new clothing per year, although the goal is 3 pieces. Progressives also want to limit the number of cars – there would be 190 cars per 1,000 people (today it is 600 vehicles). The ideal is zero. If the recommendations went into effect, everyone would be able to take two airplane flights a year, but they could not be longer than 1,500 kilometers. The radical option – a flight once every three years. In mid-February, the C40 Cities group and the Open Society Foundation, linked to billionaire George Soros, launched a pilot program called the European Global Green New Deal. The goal of the endeavor is to analyze “the role of Europe’s cities in combating climate change.” Warsaw has joined the program. Admittedly, Trzaskowski dissociates himself from claims that he will introduce “meat cards,” but recordings of his speeches can be found on the Internet, where he boasts of implementing climate demands here and now.
It comes as no surprise that C40’s despotic demands have been supported by Greenpeace. “All these changes are intended to make our lives in cities better, healthier and safer. Fewer traffic accidents, fewer cardiovascular diseases and, what’s more, we don’t have to eat less delicious things at all,” argued the head of the organization in Poland, Pawel Szypulski.
The world that climate activists offer us, apparently supported in some areas by liberal politicians, is a world of lack of property, limited opportunities and poverty. It will be ordinary people who will bear the costs of the radical energy transition, both directly the financial ones (because with this comes the abandonment of Poland’s still relatively cheap coal energy for the more expensive underdeveloped RES) and the “life” ones. The rich will still use private jets and import select steaks from Argentina. The rest are expected to stop flying and live under the illusion that thanks to this, we have, for now, managed to avoid a disaster.
1 A reference to the Khmer Rouge in communist Cambodia