Make boring change
On the virtues of DEET, the surprisingly gassy nature of concrete, and the pointlessness of destruction-based activism
Like too much of climate-related activism, the desecration of Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" by soup-throwing protesters is nothing better than a cry for validation. And a strange cry it is: Mother Nature has rarely shown much favor towards keeping humans alive in the first place. Nature sends us polio, cholera, and mosquitoes (which carry everything from West Nile virus to malaria). Humans had to invent vaccines, water purification, and DEET for ourselves..
■ Aside from the way it demonstrates a narrow-minded fixation on false dichotomies, activism that relies upon shock and destruction is a deeply pointless (and often even counter-productive) way to make a point. There is literally no end to the list of things that people could go and damage, break, or disfigure, and every time someone does so, it only leaves the world poorer. And poverty leaves us without resources, which are what the world needs in order to solve our problems.
■ The real work of grappling with climate change isn't done by the extremists who pit goods like carbon efficiency and economic growth against one another. It is done by patient and often very dull work in low-key spaces, many of them unexpected.
■ Reducing the relative carbon density of concrete will make a huge difference (it's responsible for about 8% of greenhouse gas emissions). And progress is being made. Turning wastewater treatment systems into net energy producers will make a big difference by reducing the world's energy consumption by as much as 3%. Progress is being made there, too. Putting electric passenger cars on the roads to replace cars with combustion engines will help, but don't overlook the impact already achieved by double-stacking freight trains.
■ People who are serious about solving problems don't go about making new ones just to put attention on themselves. It's selfish and juvenile. Real change doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen because of desecration.
■ It happens when people of goodwill are persuaded by reasonable arguments that change needs to occur, and when they are shown productive steps that can be taken in the right direction. Mother Nature isn't going to love you back, but your fellow humans can appreciate an effort undertaken with sincerity.