A massive mural of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is going up on a building in downtown San Francisco in an effort to force citizens of the Bay Area to think critically about their contribution to global climate change.
— CNN (@CNN) November 10, 2019
The project, which features a 60-foot by 30-foot depiction of the tight-lipped Swedish adolescent and bears a striking — almost comical — resemblance to the “Big Brother” mural that graces the cover of the paperback version of George Orwell’s 1984, is a project by the environmental non-profit, OneAtmosphere.org. The mural, located on the side of a building just off downtown San Francisco’s famous Union Square, will have its official unveiling this week.
The group told CNN that they want to “celebrate” Thunberg’s contributions to environmental activism and that it hopes to make the mural one of several showcasing key anti-climate change figures.
“If we can amplify her message and get more people involved and listening to what she’s saying, then we’re doing some good,” Paul Scott, director of OneAtmopshere.org, told the media outlet.
Scott added that he hopes that the cartoon Thunberg’s watchful eyes force Bay Area residents to do some soul-searching over their climate-killing activities. If they don’t recognize Thunberg, he hopes they’ll seek out information on her crusade, which includes a series of “climate strikes” in major cities, most headlined by high schoolers.
“They’re struck by the image and want to learn more,” he said. “If they take the time to learn more about what she’s trying to share, that I think has an impact on most people. Makes them want to help.”
“Argentine muralist Andres Iglesias, who signs his art with the pseudonym Cobre,” is completing the work, according to the Associated Press. “Cobre,” who also did a now-demolished hyper-realistic mural of the late comedian Robin Williams, also in San Francisco, told media that the mural has been in development for a year, and that he is donating his skills because “we have to take care of the world.”
“I think It’s a very important mission to try to awake some citizens that they are wasting a lot of energy and resources for no reason, and I think it’s very important to try to help in a way,” he told TIME magazine. “People need to know about these things.”
“I usually don’t paint political stuff, because it kind of gives you people who will love it and people who will hate it,” Cobre added. “But this one I think was really important.”
If Cobre truly intended to “help” the cause of battling climate change, though, he might have jettisoned his preferred medium, aerosol spray paint. The 60-by-30 mural is expected to require hundreds of the climate-killing color to complete.
OneAtmopshere.org is supplying the paint, and would only admit to the artist using around 133 cans, which they say Cobre plans to repurpose into a sculpture to prevent the highly toxic items from ending up in a landfill. But The Blaze reports that a similar, smaller mural by the same artist took more than 500 cans to complete. The Thunberg mural will likely take closer to 700 cans to finish.
Cobre can be seen using hundreds of cans of spray paint in a promotional video for the mural.
World Atlas notes that, despite technological advances in chemical propellants, aerosol cans — particularly spray paint cans — are still thought to be a major contributor to global climate change.
The modern CFC-free aerosols still emit the volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which still affect the ozone and the environment. The VOCs are the primary component of the asthma-inducing smog. Besides, the propellants in aerosol cans are highly flammable when in contact with fire and can cause explosions and start fires. Empty aerosol cans are considered as hazardous waste in the US.
And that’s not the only carbon-spewing element of creating a massive outdoor painting. The Ohio EPA notes that major coating and painting projects also involve climate-killing industrial solvents and multiple layers of paint, including topcoasts and sealants, multiplying the negative environmental impact the mural.
It’s difficult to quantify exactly how destructive the Thunberg mural is, but it’s likely to be significant — and hypocritical, given that Thunberg herself rejects most everyday products that contribute to climate change, and groups affiliated with Thunberg’s crusade often go so far as to suggest that people stop using things like deodorant and dry shampoo in order to minimize the environmental impact of aerosols.