In recent months, several monuments in Rome have been vandalized by activists protesting the lack of climate action. Since December, more than 90 young people have been arrested for throwing paint or pouring charcoal on buildings such as the Senate, the Spanish Steps Barge, and the Trevi Fountain. The government of Giorgia Meloni, which includes climate change deniers, plans to toughen sanctions against what they consider “eco-vandals.” In this context, the Trevi Fountain is full of tourists and couples enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and throwing coins into the water.
However, on the stairs leading to the fountain, the atmosphere is not so calm. A group of policemen stands guard to prevent damage to this baroque jewel. After climate activists poured a charcoal-based solution into the fountain’s water, tension arose. The fountain had to be emptied, and 300,000 liters of water had to be replenished. According to Tania Renzi, an official in charge of Rome’s cultural heritage, the cost of the cleanup has not yet been calculated, but it is estimated that it will exceed the 4,500 euros spent to clean the Spanish Steps Barge, another monument affected by the activists.
The activists justify their actions due to the urgency of reversing climate change and cite evidence such as the floods in the Italian region of Emilia Romagna, which have caused massive deaths and displacement. They argue that the Trevi Fountain was chosen because it represents health through water, and seeing it dyed black with charcoal symbolizes how the fossil fuel industry is poisoning and killing people. Some tourists feel saddened by these acts of vandalism and believe that they should find other ways to fight that do not affect cultural heritage. However, others, especially the younger ones, see the activists’ actions as valid as long as they do not hurt anyone.
The Italian government plans to impose harsher economic sanctions on those who damage works of art. However, environmentalists warn that nothing will stop them from raising awareness and saving the planet.
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