Trevi Fountain in Rome
Photo: HANDOUT / AFP
Climate activists in Rome have temporarily dyed the water of the famous Trevi Fountain black with ground, dissolved charcoal. Since the well is fed with water flowing through it by an aqueduct, the temporary damage "repaired" itself: the organic material was washed out within a short time via the three drains of the well.
With their action at the tourist-popular place in the center of the Italian capital, the members of the group "Ultima Generazione" (Last Generation) demanded "an immediate end to public subsidies for all fossil fuels," according to a statement. Four activists got into the water and showed banners. They were then arrested by the police and taken away.
According to the group, it protested against the climate policy of the Italian government, which is doing too little for climate protection. Among other things, this is "the cause of the climate crisis that has hit Emilia-Romagna and Marche in recent days". Flooding occurred in the area after heavy rains with at least 14 deaths.
The Trevi Fountain is the largest fountain in Rome and also one of the most famous in the world. The activists have already demonstrated at other famous fountains in the city. In the past, for example, they poured black liquid into a fountain at the famous Spanish Steps in Rome. They also smeared the façade of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence with orange paint. Works of art are also a recurring goal of the internationally represented group.
The Last Generation is a loose alliance of climate activists that first appeared in Germany and Austria, but which has only recently begun to form formal structures. The name probably goes back to a quote from Barack Obama from 2014: "We are the first generation," the then US president had said, "to feel the effects of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it."
With its actions, the movement aims to achieve public awareness of this belief. It is part of the so-called A22 network, under whose umbrella eleven climate protection alliances are currently networking and coordinating internationally. It uses numerous different methods of non-violent civil disobedience: it aims to disrupt public life, but strives not to cause permanent damage. Above all, their tactics of sticking themselves to roads while sitting and thus causing massive traffic obstructions, as well as their pollution actions against works of art, are meeting with increasingly harsh criticism.
Politicians and security agencies are increasingly cracking down on the activists. Climate deniers are using the growing anger over the group's interference to discredit the issue of climate protection as such. Even in the left-liberal spectrum, there is therefore a debate about whether these actions have a counterproductive effect.
Italy's government also announced a tougher stance against climate activists in view of the current actions. It wants to punish vandalism of cultural property more severely with the payment of damages of 10,000 to 60,000 euros and criminal sanctions. In Germany, there have been a number of verdicts against climate activists of the group in recent months, which have resulted in their first prison sentences.