The Trevi Fountain, a masterpiece of Baroque art created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the 17th century, is a beloved tourist attraction in Rome. But on the 7th of May, the fountain turned black with murky liquid, catching the attention of tourists and locals alike. It was later revealed that the fountain was turned black by Italian environmental group “Ultima Genarazione” (Last Generation) in a protest against fossil fuels.
The group poured black liquid into the fountain, explaining that it was plant-based charcoal water. Activists wearing orange shirts then entered the fountain, unfolded prepared placards, and continued their protest. They demanded that the government immediately stop investing in and subsidizing fossil fuels, which they claim are the cause of greenhouse gases.
The activists shouted, “Our future is as dark as this water,” and posted protest videos and photos on Twitter. They explained that without water, no living organisms can exist, and with rising temperatures, we are exposed to the risks of drought and flooding. They continued, “If we run out of water to grow crops, our lives will be destroyed,” and said, “We may face difficulties in the years to come, but we must immediately reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions from fossil fuels. We have no choice but to resist.”
However, the group’s actions were met with protests and boos from tourists and citizens near the fountain. Some made hand gestures pointing downwards and shouted.
The activists were later arrested by the police on charges of damaging a public monument. Italian Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini criticized the group, saying that if responsible people, they should pay the restoration cost from their own pockets. He added that the cost of restoring the fountain will fall on Italian citizens and called the group “environmental destroyers.” He also urged the parliament to come up with new sanction measures against them as soon as possible.
In a tweet, Minister Franceschini posted a photo taken in front of the fountain that day and stated, “I visited Piazza Navona to check the state of the fountain.” The Last Generation group quoted the post, saying, “Fossil fuels are the main concern.”
The incident has sparked a debate about the effectiveness of protests that damage public monuments and the government’s role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While some have criticized the activists’ actions, others have praised their courage and commitment to protecting the environment.