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Just Stop Oil activist who threw soup at Van Gogh painting gives talk at Earth Sciences Department

The Oxford University Earth Sciences Department hosted Just Stop Oil activist Phoebe Plummer for a speaker event last Thursday, entitled ‘How To Just Stop Oil. Start acting like life depends on it: civil resistance to climate chaos in 2023.’

Plummer, a 21-year-old student and climate activist from London, generated controversy last year when she and a fellow activist glued themselves to a wall in the National Gallery and threw soup at Van Gogh’s Arles Sunflowers to protest against climate inaction.

Just Stop Oil, the organisation Plummer represents, has gained notoriety for their unorthodox protest strategies, which have included other art gallery protests and “slow marches”, which aim to draw media and public attention to the urgency needed to combat the climate crisis.

In her speech, Plummer stressed that without serious climate action, “We might see the destruction of all we know and love.” These sentiments have been echoed by Oxford academics at the Earth Sciences department and beyond. In a 2021 report, Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, the Halley Professor of Physics, urged that “As long as there is any unburned fossil fuel left in the ground, it is still worth fighting to keep it there.”

In an interview with Cherwell, James Skeet, a spokesperson for Just Stop Oil said: “History has shown time and time again that disruptive civil tactics are a large component of what brings about change, the fact we have universal suffrage, the civil rights movement – it’s a very long list […] most of the rights we enjoy today didn’t come about through polite asking but through people making the nuisance of themselves and demanding change.

“University students have always been at the forefront of real social change, so it’s absolutely imperative that young people are well versed in this sort of stuff and keen to get out into the streets – and ultimately its young peoples’ futures on the line.”

University students and young people make up a significant proportion of Just Stop Oil’s activists and students involved in the organisation at Oxford University and Oxford Brookes have demonstrated extensively in Oxford this year. Last term, Just Stop Oil activists hung banners near the Longbridges Boat House during the Torpids boat race and conducted a two-hour-long “slow march” through Oxford city centre to protest new deep mining projects in Cumbria. These demonstrations have been met with public frustration, but on the whole the student response has been largely supportive.

In response to a request for comment, a University spokesperson said “This is an externally-organised event booking that the University has assessed in line with its code of practice on meetings and events, as it does with all such requests.”

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