UN Projects ‘Go Away’ Onto Side of Its Own Building in Fight With Activists

UN Projects ‘Go Away’ Onto Side of Its Own Building in Fight With Activists
Photo: Graeme Eddolls, Other

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND Tuesday night saw a war of the projections in Glasgow. Activists sent a message to the United Nations, and the UN struck back, though the organisation may have accidentally told onlookers in Glasgow to “go away.” 

The spat took place at an unusual venue: On the side of what’s known as the SEC Armadillo, one of Glasgow’s landmarks and part of the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) where the UN climate talks have been taking place since last week.

It’s this building that UK activist group Gastivists, which oppose gas projects in the UK as well as abroad, decided to target with a visual protest. Throughout the UN climate meetings, the group has been executing actions to send the message that the global methane pledge reached by more than 100 countries last week wasn’t enough. They have also criticised the EU’s continued investment in new gas projects despite multiple major bans on fracking from European leaders.

On Tuesday night, the Gastivists set up a projector across the River Clyde from the SEC campus to project their messages. They successfully got some phrases up on the side of the SEC Armadillo, including “GLOBAL FRACKING BAN,” “CLEAN GAS IS A DIRTY LIE,” “BAN FRACKING NOW” and “NET 0 IS NOT 0.” The latter has been a rallying cry of activists at the talks who have worried net zero pledges could be an excuse to keep digging up fossil fuels.

COP26 management did eventually notice that the building had been hijacked — and took some puzzling measures to shoo the activists away. They first started by projecting their own colourful lights and patterns on the SEC. That had the unintended effect, activist Tommy Vickerstaff noted on Twitter, of making the Gastivists’ messages “look more exciting.” Which honestly, yes.

When those measures didn’t work, the UN projector operators tried a new tactic: projecting “GO AWAY” over the activists’ messages — and onto their own venue. The result was a literal war of the words, as the activists’ messages were eventually met with “GO AWAY” projected several times over the building in red text.

“I haven’t stopped laughing since,” Vickerstaff wrote.

By engaging with the activists’ protests, the UN accidentally highlighted a big point of contention some higher-level leaders may rather keep quiet. The methane pledge reached last week was announced with a lot of fanfare, but has been highly criticised by grassroots groups and activists from around the world as not doing enough. Activists are particularly concerned about the role of fossil fuel companies in the agreement, as well as the world’s ability to deliver on the promised cuts without some of the biggest methane emitters being in the agreement.

Still, there appeared to be no hard feelings between the warring projectionists. According to a tweet from Graeme Eddolls, an activist who was involved in the demonstration, the official UN projectionist “came out and congratulated” their opponents.

Job well done, Gastivists!