The Trevi fountain in Rome is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world, attracting millions of tourists every year who toss coins into its waters and admire its baroque beauty. But on Sunday, the fountain became the scene of a shocking protest by a group of climate activists who turned its water black with diluted charcoal. The stunt was meant to draw attention to the subsidies that governments give to fossil fuel companies, which the activists blame for causing the climate crisis and its devastating effects, such as the recent floods in northern Italy.
The protest was carried out by seven members of Ultima Generazione (Last Generation), a group that claims to represent the voice of young people who are facing an uncertain future due to global warming. They climbed into the fountain and poured charcoal into the water, holding banners that read “We won’t pay for fossil (fuels)” and chanting “Our country is dying”. They were quickly removed by police officers who waded into the water and arrested them.
The protest sparked outrage among many Romans and tourists who witnessed the scene, as well as among local authorities who condemned the attack on the artistic heritage of the city. Rome’s mayor, Roberto Gualtieri, tweeted: “Enough of these absurd attacks on our artistic heritage”. He added that he would take legal action against the protesters and that he would restore the fountain as soon as possible.
The protest was also criticized by some environmental groups who said that it was counterproductive and disrespectful to the cultural heritage of Italy. Greenpeace Italia said that it did not support such actions and that it preferred to use peaceful and creative methods to raise awareness about the climate emergency. WWF Italia said it understood the frustration of young people but that it did not agree with damaging public goods.
However, some people expressed sympathy and support for the protesters, saying that they were brave and justified in their actions. They argued that the protest was a symbolic gesture to denounce the hypocrisy and inaction of governments and corporations who continue to profit from fossil fuels while ignoring their responsibilities for the climate crisis. They said that the protest was a wake-up call for society to demand urgent and radical changes to prevent further environmental disasters.
The Protest by Ultima Generazion is part of a wider movement of civil disobedience by climate activists who are willing to break the law and risk arrest to draw attention to their cause. In recent months, similar protests have taken place in Italy and other countries, targeting highways, airports, museums, banks, and other symbols of power and wealth. The protesters say they are inspired by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future, who have mobilized millions of people around the world to demand climate justice.
The Trevi Fountain protest raises important questions about the role and limits of civil disobedience in a democratic society. On one hand, it can be seen as a legitimate and effective way of expressing dissent and challenging the status quo. On the other hand, it can be seen as a violent and irresponsible way of violating the law and harming public goods. The debate is not new, but it is becoming more urgent and relevant as the climate crisis worsens and threatens our future.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the protesters? Do you think their action was justified or unjustified? Do you think their message was clear or confusing? Do you think their impact was positive or negative? Share your opinion in the comments section below.