These militant collectives are called Just Stop Oil in the United Kingdom, Ultima Generazione in Italy, or Last Renovation in France. Members of the A22 Network, present in eleven Western countries and financed by the Climate Emergency Fund, they are increasing their actions.

On Saturday in Paris, a dozen Last Renovation activists thus blocked traffic near the French Ministry of the Economy, while in Toulouse other activists from the collective interrupted a match in the French championship for ten minutes. rugby between the Toulouse stadium and the French stadium by attaching himself to the posts.

In Madrid, two environmental activists stuck their hands to the frame of Goya’s paintings and spray-painted “1.5°C” on a wall, in reference to the global warming objective set by the international community.

Unlike typical activism, the targets don’t necessarily have a direct connection to the message. Where L214 attacks slaughterhouses to defend animals and where Greenpeace blocks convoys of nuclear waste, these young collectives change ground, interrupting an opera in Paris or sprinkling mashed potatoes on the window in front of a painting by Monet in Potsdam.

“We are facing the greatest episode of suffering and injustice in human history and our window of action is about to close”, justifies “Last Renovation” in a manifesto.

These actions are far from unanimous, including in the environmental camp. “The climate deserves better than this stupid caricature”, reacted the former green presidential candidate Yannick Jadot after a soup attack on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

– Despair –

“We are in the buzz, not in the action”, was annoyed at the end of October the Minister of Ecological Transition Christophe Béchu.

“There are so many people who are trying to discredit the fight against climate change, why do you want to give them additional ammunition?” Also asks Belgian political scientist François Gemenne.

The academic, who contributes to the scientific reports of the UN (IPCC), calls for sorting out actions, judging it “catastrophic” to attack art while approving the “symbol” of half-masting of the French flag on the Pantheon, carried out on Monday by Dernier Rénovation.

“To the critics, I would say this: if you don’t like what they’re doing, then don’t just quibble and do something that you think is better, that’s more positive and effective,” says Rupert Read, a professor at the University of East Anglia and former spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, another environmentalist collective adept at civil disobedience.

In these actions, “what counts is shifting the object of the action to say: listen, let’s take on everything, including the most sacred that is art, because opposite , death awaits us if we do nothing”, summarizes Xavier Arnauld de Sartre, geographer at the CNRS.

– Diversification – 

“In the short term, it has a high image cost”, recognizes the academic, “but at the same time, these young people could thus want to assume the radicalism and to pass the radicals of yesterday for respectable people, with whom one can talk”.

“There are many examples of this effect in history,” says Rupert Read. “But you have to be careful: because actions can also backfire on you,” he says, warning activists: “Always try to ensure that any action you take has meaning for ordinary people. And if possible, let her be beautiful”.

“I do not think that these actions lead to a change in behavior” in the population, notes the Quebec sociologist Stéphane La Branche, but they participate in the “diversification” of the means of alerting to the climate emergency.

Faced with the danger and the urgency to act, where will civil disobedience stop? Stéphane La Branche fears “that it will be taken over by black blocs, who carry out violent actions on the sidelines of non-violent ones”, at the risk of discrediting these collectives.