Radical climate activists pit life against civilization, and that’s why they have taken up a crusade against classic pieces of art.
Recently, two climate-change activists threw soup at the “Mona Lisa.” Mercifully, the protective glass that encases the famous Leonardo da Vinci painting saved it from any damage. Still, the attack on the “Mona Lisa” is just the latest instance of vandalism against some of the West’s most famous paintings. In October 2022, Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” was attacked just two weeks after soup was thrown at Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers.” 2023 saw more attacks with red paint smeared on Claude Monet’s “The Artist’s Garden at Giverny” and with a pair of “activists” striking Diego Velazquez’s “The Rokeby Venus” with hammers.
All of these attacks have been in “furtherance” of environmental causes. But in reality, this crusade betrays their movement for what it is: a destructive attempt at self-flagellation to elevate their own moral status at the expense of truth and beauty.
None of the artwork attacked by these activists has been seriously damaged, as yet. However, this crusade against art reflects a pattern of anti-civilization stances. From eliminating cars and decreasing the production of goods to cutting birthrates and paying climate reparations, climate crusaders have yet to find a price too high for mankind to pay for the great sin of exercising dominion over creation. And that’s why they so often target the likes of da Vinci or van Gogh whose works explore the underlying created order rather than subvert it.
To those who attack these masterpieces with such cultic fervor, such priceless pieces of art are the icons of a decadent and destructive culture that cares more about old scraps of canvas than the planet it inhabits. Classic art has become the incarnation of the original sin of civilization which is the genesis of the forthcoming climate apocalypse. To them, this iconoclast crusade is a call to redemption, a call to choose between the planet and civilization.
Yet, these would-be iconoclasts betray their ignorance of the art they deface. Traditional artists often concerned themselves with the exploration of the ideas and ideals that support and sustain creation. The “Mona Lisa” is no different given da Vinci’s efforts to capture humanity’s connection to nature in the way the curves of the subject’s hair and clothes harmonize with the rolling rivers and valleys behind her. Ironic then that this masterpiece would face the ire of radical climate activists.
Works like the “Mona Lisa” are targeted by these activists in destructive demonstrations because these iconoclasts are aligned with the subversive spirit of the art of today. Modern artists busy themselves with the production of irreverent and ironic horrors that shame civilization for its mere existence. Like these artists, those who throw soup on masterpieces are less interested in participating in beauty than in degrading it and trivializing the creative act inherent to true art. Radical climate crusaders are the ideological allies of modern artists, waging a war against the artists of old whose work is revered for its participation in the beauty of creation.
This war betrays a shallow conception of both life and art. The climate iconoclasts advocate for little more than the perpetuation of the species in a world where there is life but no living. But that is no life at all. Rather, life is about participation, and art is participation in beauty. It is not, as climate crusaders argue, frivolous ornamentation or a mere exercise in self-expression. Instead, it is a participation in something greater than itself. Art can inspire devotion, communicate higher truths, and transfigure the real into the ideal.
While climate crusaders deify the world, the artist actually imitates God in his art, becoming a creator himself and bringing an aspect of the divine truth into the realm of the flesh.
There is perhaps no better way to demoralize a society than to destroy the beauty it has produced in its art. So, as climate crusaders target our most beautiful masterpieces to “benefit” their cause, they wage a war against civilization itself and with it, man’s right to participate in God’s creation.
Tyler Cochran is a law student at the University of Iowa and a master’s student at Houston Christian University. He writes on religion, politics, and culture. You can find him on Twitter @tylercochran54.