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Who are Last Generation, the activists who threw mash at Monet?

Last Generation came to international attention after hurling mashed potatoes at a Monet painting earlier this week – we speak to one of their members about why they did it

Leztze Generation – or Last Generation – came to international attention earlier this week after throwing mashed potatoes over Claude Monet’s £96 million pound painting “Les Meules”, in protest of the German government’s climate inaction.

But the group of German climate activists have been active for over a year now. “Last Generation has existed since autumn 2021,” Theo Schnarr, a member of Last Generation, tells Dazed. “It started with a hunger strike prior to the elections in autumn 2021, followed by blockades of streets, turning off oil pipelines as well as other, more artful actions.”

He adds that they’re a “diverse movement”, with many of their current members campaigning for climate justice with Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future prior to joining Last Generation. “We are the first generation to feel the beginning of climate collapse and the last generation that can still do something about it,” their website reads.

As temperatures soar and meteorological catastrophes continue to impact and kill innocent people across the world, Dazed spoke to Schnarr about Last Generation and the importance of climate justice.

Why did you choose the name ‘Last Generation’?

Theo Schnarr: All of us, every living human being, are part of the last generation that has the chance to implement policies that keep our planet an inhabitable place. The time to do so is quickly running out – direct peaceful actions must be taken now. In the words of UN secretary Antonio Guterres: “we have a choice: collective action or collective suicide.”   

Why did you decide to throw mashed potatoes at the Monet painting?

Theo Schnarr: We were asking critical questions: what [will it take for people] to listen, to be aware of the catastrophe that is laying ahead? What is worth more: art or life? 

We do appreciate and love art. Yet art is only valuable and only has meaning when there are people to look at it. What will that painting be worth, if our everyday lives will be about fighting for water and food? 

In the [Monet] picture, a big harvest is shown. It’s an image that we won’t see in reality anymore, if we continue to go the path of ‘business-as-usual’, leading our societies into floods, drought and hunger. Claude Monet was a lover of nature and its fragility, yet everything that he loved and tried to preserve for the following generations is being destroyed.

There have been several recent climate protests that ‘target’ art (Just Stop Oil, the activist who threw cake at the Mona Lisa etc). Why do you think that’s the case?

Theo Schnarr: The climate crisis is a comprehensive threat to our civilisation. If our politicians don’t act immediately, we will turn our planet into an oven that will be hostile to life. 

This crisis must not be ignored anymore. We know that the solutions exist and we also know that they promise a better future for everyone. Policymakers and the media must tell the truth about the crisis and the big changes that need to be taken. There must be attention on this debate, and these actions created that. 

What would you say to people who don’t understand your tactics, or your critics?

Theo Schnarr: I do understand your anger, and I’m sorry for that. But please take a moment of your time to understand the catastrophe that lies ahead. All these crises that hit us right now are connected – they are symptoms of a system that systematically disadvantages poorer people, that is influenced by lobbyists, and that depends on short periods of time in office for politicians. I invite you to come to sit next to me, let’s talk about the changes we need to implement for more democracy and how we can achieve these.

What we do is, on the one hand, an act of desperation. People are already dying from the climate crisis’ consequences and the imminent catastrophe will be devastating. The path of our governments is putting us on a fast track to that catastrophe. 

Yet our actions are, on the other hand, an act of deep hope. We know that the solutions are there and that these solutions are based on social justice, healthy nutrition, better cooperation between the people, a democracy taking power from the mega-rich and giving it to the people, living in a world and country with clean air, rivers... 

This better future is possible, yet still we have to reach for it.