Protest Stickers: Berlin Part 2-Climate Change and the Environment

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A Fridays for Future demonstration in the German Bundestag in Berlin in March 2019 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

I recently visited Berlin at a time when climate change and environmental protection were at the forefront of protest cultures around the world thanks to the efforts of Greta Thunberg and the Fridays for Future movement, and Extinction Rebellion. Whilst touring the German Bundestag (Parliament) with my students, I witnessed a Fridays for Future protest which involved activists handcuffing themselves to the handrails seen in the image above. In last week’s post, I wrote about Berlin’s protest stickers, but there were so many protest stickers in the city relating to climate change and the environment that it warranted its own post. Again, I must thank my colleague Julia Affolderbach for translating a lot of these stickers for me.

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Extinction Rebellion is a direct action group that was formed in the UK in the second half of 2018. Since then, branches have been set up around the world. The group use nonviolent civil disobedience to promote their ambitious demands, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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System Change not Climate Change is one of the most common slogans used by Extinction Rebellion (XR for short). The group’s symbol, an hourglass in a circle, has been around for a few years and is called the Extinction Symbol. The circle represents the earth, and the hourglass is a warning that time is running out for many species (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Fridays for Future is the name given to the weekly strikes by school children and students, demanding that adults, particularly those in power, take the threat of climate change seriously. The movement was kick started by Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old who sat in front of the Swedish Parliament every school day for 3 weeks in August 2018 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker shows the Fridays for Future logo, and includes a quote from Greta Thunberg. Many people have criticised the strikers for missing out on their education. In this quote, Greta is defending that decision. The text in pink below the logo translates as “Education strike for the climate. Every Friday. Also in your city!” (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker includes a photo of a climate strike, possibly in Berlin. The slogan translates as “We are not skivving, we’re fighting!” “Klimastreik,” shown on the banner in the photo, means Climate-strike. This sticker is also responding to the criticism that students shouldn’t be playing truant in order to protest (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker is playing on Trump’s slogan of “Make American Great Again,” again referring to Greta Thunberg. The quiet Swedish teenager has become an overnight celebrity in activist circles, and travels all over Europe (by train, she doesn’t fly) speaking at rallies and meeting politicians (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Although Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future have been very prominent in recent months, they are not the only groups that campaign around climate change. This sticker was produced by Revolution Germany. It doesn’t have a website, but does have a social media presence and describes itself as an international communist youth organisation. The text on the strip at the bottom translates as “No profit from our earth. Expropriate climate-killers!” In effect, it is calling for the wealth and property of those responsible for the destruction of the environment to be confiscated (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker is also calling for an end to climate change, with a particular focus on coal, which is a particularly ‘dirty’ way of producing electricity (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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Ende Gelände is a coalition of activists, campaign groups, and social movements calling for an end to the mining and burning of coal for electricity because of its contribution to climate change. Their actions are mostly focused around a region of open coal mines in the Rhineland, which the group claim is Europe’s biggest source of CO2. The Hambacher Forest is an area of ancient woodland near Cologne that energy company RWE AG wants to cut down in order to expand an open-pit coal mine. Activists have fought hard against this, and a final decision from the courts is expected in 2020 (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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This sticker also refers to Hambacher Forest, although only as a web address which would provide the reader with more information if they wanted it (the English version of the website can be reached here). It translates as “Climate change won’t wait for you to finish your Bachelor’s [undergraduate degree]. Turn your theory into practice.” Many activists believe we have run out of time to discuss and debate climate change, and that action must be taken now in order to prevent disaster (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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The German text on this sticker translates as “Expropriate energy companies! To save the environment: overcome capitalism.” It was produced by Left Youth Solid (Linksjugend [‘solid]), a socialist youth organisation. The penguins look suspiciously like those from the 2005 children’s film Madagascar, who proved so popular that they got their own spin-off film in 2014. It is not uncommon for characters from popular culture to appear in protest stickers (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

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If there is one environmental issue that has captured the public imagination more than climate change over the past year or so, it’s plastic. Both governments and businesses are facing increasingly pressure to reduce the prevalence of single-use plastics, particularly because so much of it ends up in the oceans. The image on this sticker is difficult to make out because it has faded, but it shows a sea bird that has died, possibly because of the significant amount of plastic it had ingested (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

 

 

 

 

 

Violence, Landscape, and Gender in Woman at War

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An English-language poster for Woman at War (2018).

I recently got the chance to see Woman at War, an Icelandic film that’s been receiving excellent reviews. Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson and staring Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, it tells the story of Halla, a choirmaster who leads a double life as The Mountain Woman, waging a one-woman war against the expansion of heavy industry threatening the climate and Iceland’s natural environment. She’s very good at it too, until she is offered the chance of fulfilling her life-long dream of becoming a mother, and suddenly has to make some difficult decisions. The film is fantastic, and it draws on some really interesting debates and issues related to the geographies of protest.

Halla’s tactics are the cause of much controversy amongst the Icelandic media and politicians in Woman at War. She only ever commits violence against electricity pylons, never animals or people, but she is criticised for this nonetheless. When deciding on their tactics, activists must walk a fine line between doing something that will get attention and alienating people by going ‘too far’. Most of us consider violence against people and animals unacceptable whatever the cause, but people tend to be more tolerant of violence against objects. Despite this, Halla’s opponents use her tactics to undermine her argument. Her critics also accuse her of bypassing the democratic system and making unilateral decisions about Iceland’s future that she has no right to make, as she is not an elected official. In this way, Woman at War raises interesting questions about whether or not protest is democratic. It is widely understood that dissent and protest is an essential part of a healthy democracy, but how much pressure can we put on elected officials before it becomes unethical? Generally speaking, protest marches, rallies, petitions, and lobbying are considered acceptable, but violence, blackmail, or bribery is not. But does this lines shift if politicians refuse to engage, or if the future of the human race is as stake (as many people believe it is because of climate change)? This is not a debate with an easy answer.

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Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir as Halla in Woman at War.

Halla wages her one-woman war by sabotaging electricity pylons that supply an aluminium smelting plant. Sabotaging machinery and equipment is nothing new for the more militant wing of the environmental movement, but Woman at War was released during a surge of non-violent direct action on behalf of the environment by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future (also known as the school strike for climate movement, kick started by Grea Thunberg). Although these groups argue that non-violence is the most effective approach, they share a sense of urgency with Halla about the need to do something quickly. They are not alone; for example, The Guardian has recently announced a change in the language it will use, favouring “climate emergency/crisis/breakdown” over “climate change,” and “global heating” over “global warming.” Woman at War is not preachy, but it does convey a sense that drastic changes are needed very quickly.

Landscape is another prominent theme in Woman at War. Large portions of the film take place in Iceland’s rural highlands, and Halla has a strong connection to the natural world around her. It is her intimate knowledge of the landscape that enables her to evade capture, using crevices and streams to hide from helicopters and throw dogs off her scent. As well as the world as a whole, it is this landscape she is seeking to protect through her activism, and in return it protects her. When the film’s action shifts to Ukraine, the contrast with the Icelandic landscape is stark; the large cooling towers and desolate factories a warning against exactly the kind of economic development that Halla is trying to prevent in Iceland.

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Halla takes refuge in a hot spring in Woman at War.

The final theme that jumped out when I watched Woman at War is gender. When the chance to adopt a little girl from Ukraine is presented to her, Halla realises she must choose between being and activist and a mother. She takes her role as eco-warrior very seriously, but she has dreamed of becoming a mother, and it is obvious that she would devote just as much attention to this new role. Perhaps the choice between her passion and her dream of motherhood is more literal than that which most women face, but I’m sure that many can identify with Halla’s dilemma, and it was painful to watch her agonise over it. However, it is also Halla’s concern for future generations that drives her to her activism, she is trying to protect the world on their behalf. So perhaps without her motherly instincts, she would not have embarked on her one-woman crusade. Activists often sacrifice a great deal in their fight for what they believe in. Woman at War confronts the emotional toll of these sacrifices, as well as examining the forces that drive women to take action.

Woman at War is an excellent film. Despite it’s topical storyline about the future of humanity, it manages to be very funny at times, and retains a note of hope. It is both entertaining and thought-provoking, a difficult balance to strike. It hasn’t had a big cinematic release in the UK, but if you get the opportunity to see it, then I thoroughly recommend that you do. Who knows, perhaps Halla will inspire you to go out and save the world.

London’s Protest Stickers: Climate Change and the Environment

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This representation of the Extinction Symbol is a tile, so doesn’t technically count as a protest sticker, but I like this photo, so I decided to include it! (Photo: Hannah Awcock, South Bank, 03/08/16).

Environmental issues have been a focus of activists for decades, but campaigning specifically around the issue of climate change has only been going on since the 1990s. It has continued to gather momentum since then, however, although it seems to go through cycles of prominence amongst the general public. The recent BBC television series Blue Planet 2 has led to a significant backlash against the wasteful use of plastic, so I thought that now seemed like an appropriate time to look at climate change and environmental issues through the medium of protest stickers.

To see the location of these stickers, and all the protest stickers featured on this blog, check out the Turbulent London Map.

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A frequent refrain of animal rights campaigners is that animals are unable to speak out themselves, so humans must do it for them. This sticker echoes that sentiment. Climate Games was a period of concerted civil disobedience in protest against climate change in 2015 (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Malet Street, 20/10/15).

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Many people see climate change as inextricably linked to climate change–if we don’t change our dominant economic system, we cannot hope to halt climate change. The Alliance for Worker’s Liberty is a working class socialist group (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Euston, 15/04/15).

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The People’s March for Climate, Justice and Jobs took place in 2015, with an estimated turnout of 70,000 (although it is notoriously difficult to accurately estimate the numbers present at a protest). I really like the design of this sticker (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Malet Street, 17/11/15).

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Time to Act was another climate change march that took place in 2015. I went along to this march–you can see some of my photos here. I particularly like the request in the bottom right corner to “Please sticker responsibly”; I wonder what constitutes responsible stickering? (Photo: Hannah Awcock, King’s Cross Station, 11/03/15).

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EcoHustler is an independent online magazine that focuses on ecological concerns. Excessive consumerism is often held up as one of the causes of climate change and environmental damage. One frequently proposed solution is to buy less stuff (Photo: Hannah Awcock, King’s Cross Station, 06/06/15).

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This is another advert for EcoHustler, using the silhouette of Samuel L Jackson’s character from the 1994 film Pulp Fiction, Jules Winnfield (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Woburn Place, 15/04/15).

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Fossil Free UCL is a campaign to stop University College London from investing in the fossil fuel industry. I don’t really understand the retort, but it shows how protest stickers can spark political debate on the street (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Malet Street, 24/01/17).

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Fracking is one of the most controversial environmental issues of recent years, sparking resistance across Britain. This anti-fracking sticker has a particularly striking design (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Cable Street, 09/10/16).

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Stick it to the Tories is a stickering campaign by the People’s Assembly against Austerity. They produce protest stickers on a whole range of issues (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Little Venice, 01/05/16).

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Protest stickers are ephemeral objects–they are not meant to last forever. I think that this one was about fracking, but it is hard to tell (Photo: Hannah Awcock, Broad Sanctuary, 18/10/16).

Protest Stickers: London Road, Brighton

Like most other cities, stickers of all kinds are a common sight on the streets of Brighton.

Like most other cities, stickers of all kinds are a common sight on the streets of Brighton (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Brighton is a coastal city in the south of England, about an hour away from London by train. It is well known for being an open and accepting city, and it also happens to be my home town, so it’s very special to me. I have written about protest and dissent in Brighton on Turbulent London before, but the city also has an awful lot of protest stickers so I think it deserves (at least) one more post. I took the pictures featured here on a walk down a single (admittedly quite long) road in the city. London Road runs from the city centre to the outskirts in the direction of London, funnily enough. Quite run down when I was younger, the area along the road is going through a rapid process of gentrification, to the extent that is known by some as the Shoreditch of Brighton. Gentrification is frequently a contested process however, and London Road has no shortage of protest stickers.

This is a tile stuck to the wall of a Greggs bakery, so not technically a protest sticker, but I couldn't resist putting it in because I like it so much. London Road is changing rapidly, and not everyone supports the changes.

This is a tile stuck to the wall of a Greggs bakery, so not technically a protest sticker, but I couldn’t resist putting it in because I like it so much. London Road is changing rapidly, and not everyone supports the changes (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Le Turnip produces quite a few satirical stickers, and I have featured some of them before on the blog. This one apes CCTV warning signs, but refers to Sauron, the personification of evil in the Lord of the Rings. Sauron's eye sits atop a huge tower, and can see everything that goes on in Middle Earth.

Le Turnip produces quite a few satirical stickers, and I have featured some of them before on the blog. This one apes CCTV warning signs, but refers to Sauron, the personification of evil in the Lord of the Rings. Sauron’s eye sits atop a huge tower, and can see everything that goes on in Middle Earth (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Many of the issues protested in London Road stickers are similar to those in London. This striking sticker criticises the reliance of the state on police forces. Brighton generally has an anti-authoritarian vibe.

Many of the issues protested in London Road stickers are similar to those in London. This striking sticker criticises the reliance of the state on police forces. Brighton generally has an anti-authoritarian vibe (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The anti-authoritarian vibe is also played out through this sticker, variations of which are common throughout Brighton, not just in London Road. The dome which the cannabis leaf is imposed on is frequently used as a symbol of Brighton. It comes from the Brighton Pavilion, a palace built by George IV.

The anti-authoritarian vibe is also played out through this sticker, variations of which are common throughout Brighton, not just in London Road. The dome which the cannabis leaf is imposed on is frequently used as a symbol of Brighton. It comes from the Brighton Pavilion, a palace built by George IV (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Another cause close to the hearts of many Brightonians is environmentalism. The city elected the first ever Green Party MP in 2010, and had one of the first Green-run councils in the country.

Another cause close to the hearts of many Brightonians is environmentalism. The city elected the first ever Green Party MP in 2010, and had one of the first Green-run councils in the country (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Some stickers along London Road are about less familiar issues however. Most of this sticker has been obscured, but it is still possible to make out that it is declaring solidarity with the zapatistas, a topic which I have not seen in a London sticker yet.

Some stickers along London Road are about less familiar issues however. Most of this sticker has been obscured, but it is still possible to make out that it is declaring solidarity with the Zapatistas, a topic which I have not seen in a London sticker yet (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Unfortunately, not everyone in Brighton is liberal and accepting, this sticker declares a vicious anti-immigration stance in support of UKIP. This was not the first time I have seen this sticker around the city, and I must admit I have removed them from the streets in the past.

Unfortunately, not everyone in Brighton is liberal and accepting, this sticker declares a vicious anti-immigration stance in support of UKIP. This was not the first time I have seen this sticker around the city, and I must admit I have removed them from the streets in the past (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The location of stickers can sometimes be important. These stickers were on the entrance to the London Road open market, which has fish stalls.

The location of stickers can sometimes be important. These stickers were on the entrance to the London Road open market, which has fish stalls (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

There are many people in Brighton who are not afraid to be different. Nevertheless this sticker accuses people of being sheep, blindly following the herd.

There are many people in Brighton who are not afraid to be different. Nevertheless this sticker accuses people of being sheep, blindly following the herd (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Just like in London, protest stickers in Brighton are subject to the ravages of time. It is just possible to make out that this sticker is calling for the boycott of Israeli goods, although the colours have faded and most of the letters have worn away.

Just like in London, protest stickers in Brighton are subject to the ravages of time. It is just possible to make out that this sticker is calling for the boycott of Israeli goods, although the colours have faded and most of the letters have worn away (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

Anti-fascism is another prominent issue in Brighton, largely due to the March for England demonstrations that are frequently held in the city. This stickers adapts the norm anti-fascist logo to reflect the city's large LGBTQ population.

Anti-fascism is another prominent issue in Brighton, largely due to the March for England demonstrations that are frequently held in the city. This stickers adapts the normal anti-fascist logo to reflect the city’s large LGBTQ population (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The March for England events draw participants and opponents from elsewhere to Brighton.  This stickers comes from Southampton, a city along the coast to the  west.

The March for England events draw participants and opponents from elsewhere to Brighton. This stickers comes from Southampton, a city along the coast to the west of Brighton (Photo: Hannah Awcock).