Should the Climate Movement Embrace Property Destruction?

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(Bloomberg) -- The past few months have seen a flurry of climate protests. In Marseilles, a cement factory was sabotaged by activists for its high emissions. In London, tomato soup was thrown at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers by members of the group Just Stop Oil. Other activists have taken to deflating SUV tires in cities across Europe and the US to discourage use of the gas-guzzling vehicles.

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This is only the beginning of what climate activists need to do in order to be effective, says Andreas Malm, associate professor of human ecology at Lund University and author of How to Blow Up a Pipeline. “The task for the climate movement is to make clear for people that building new pipelines, new gas terminals, opening new oil fields are acts of violence that need to be stopped — they kill people,” Malm says on Bloomberg Green’s Zero podcast.

Malm argues that while the majority of climate action should remain non-violent, no social sea change — from the suffragettes to the Civil Rights Movement — has succeeded through completely peaceful activism. “We shouldn't engage in assassinations or terrorism, or use arms and things like that,” he says. “But until that line or boundary, we need virtually everything … all the way up to sabotage and property destruction.”

The stakes are high for protesters engaged in disruptive tactics, as governments around the world target them with increasingly punitive legislation. Last month in the UK, Just Stop Oil activist Jan Goodey was sentenced to six months in prison for causing disruption on a major London motorway. Earlier this month in Australia, climate protester Deanna “Violet” Coco was sentenced to 15 months in jail for blocking a lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for 28 minutes.

Malm says this response is to be expected. “That's what always happens when you escalate. As soon as you pose a danger to the system, this is what you'll get in return,” he says. “And that's a sign that you're doing something good, that you are actually challenging some interests.”

You can listen to the full conversation with Malm below, and read a full transcript here. Check out more episodes of Zero, and subscribe on Apple, Spotify and Google to get new episodes each week.

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