In March 2023, a climate activist called Ever went viral online after she participated in a protest at the Junos, Canada’s annual music awards show. Commandeering the stage as singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne was about to present an award, Ever’s message, lack of clothing, and act of civil disobedience quickly flooded our feeds and FYPs.
As part of our new column Going Viral for Good, SCREENSHOT sat down with Ever to learn more about her journey into activism, her go-to methods when it comes to conveying her message, and why it’s so important we have these conversations sooner rather than later.
My conversation with Ever started exactly how I imagined it would. As the Zoom video snapped into focus, I was greeted by an extremely smiley woman who, while holding a small fluffy dog in her arms, informed me that she’d just finished giving herself a haircut. Though we began our conversation in her kitchen, pretty soon after, Ever decided to grab her chai tea and settle on a patch of grass in her front lawn. In between questions, the activist waved at passers by and, all in all, radiated a pretty special and unique energy.
“Well, ever since I was a kid, I’ve been into environmentalism. I remember always being the one to take things out of the recycling bin in order to try and make something out of them when I was little. I went to school for fashion design, right out of high school. But pretty quickly, I realised that I hate the fashion industry, and what I really want to do is reclaim items. So, I did launch a couple of different recycled clothing lines over the years. And I really do consider those things part of activism, because every little thing that any person can do, does make a change, no matter how small. So, for a long time, I turned trash into treasure.”
“It was about last year  in April that I got involved with Save Old Growth. I did my first environmental action with them. I moved to Vancouver from Toronto back in 2020 and so a lot of my activism before then had been in the cannabis movement. I had worked in the cannabis black market for the last 15 or so years, and then legalisation happened in Canada approximately six years ago.
Before that, we had to fight very hard for our rights to use this natural medicine and for other people’s rights to access it. I think that a big part of my activism comes from my experience in the cannabis movement. And then I moved here [Vancouver], and I became so much more aware of the climate crisis. And so, last Spring, when I saw Save Old Growth participating in road sit-ins and stopping traffic and, you know, creating headlines, I knew I had to get involved because they’re doing something radical that’s shaking the boat. And that’s what we need right now, we need to shake things up.”
“I was approached by On2Ottawa, which includes a lot of people that have come from Save Old Growth. And the two actions I had previously done were topless: I interrupted a FIFA soccer match in Vancouver, and I scaled the Victoria Visitor Centre, right across from the legislature. So they kind of knew that if they needed something crazy done, they could reach out to me. On2Ottawa had just been starting up and so really needed to get the word out. Disrupting the Juno Awards was presented to me as the first thing I could get involved with. And after agreeing to get involved, I immediately asked ‘Can I do it topless?’.
With any of the actions that I’ve done with all of these groups, it’s always been me that asks, ‘Can I do it topless?’ I’ve never once been asked to do something like that topless. And it’s also always added that there’s no pressure either way. Like, ‘hey, if you’re interested, you know, this could be fun’. So, I chose Avril Lavigne and I chose to do it topless, and it went really well.”
“There are so many layers to why I choose to go topless. First of all, an article that mentions a topless protester is more likely to get clicks than an article that brings up an environmental activist. So, yes, it is for the clicks, it’s for the shock value. But it also reaches a lot of different demographics of people. When we were in Toronto, I was wearing the infamous pink pants for the first time while we were doing some leafleting. And people began to recognise the pants!
Construction workers and truck drivers recognised the pink pants. And when I first got out of jail, so many people had questions such as ‘Oh, did Avril [Lavigne] touch your titty?’ or ‘Did you fight Avril?’ And realistically, it’s okay if people are focusing on the wrong thing, because at least they’re still talking about it. So yeah, it’s a part of shock value, but that’s how you get people’s attention.
When it’s when normal people are trying to get to work, or are just being inconvenienced, it’s really easy to disarm them with a big smile and titties. Yeah, they’re less likely to be violent, which we have seen in these movements, people can get very violent.”
“A lot of people will say that it dilutes the message and I’m being a bimbo, but really, I’m just trying to sugarcoat it. We’re in a really drastic situation, people. There’s an old saying: You catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. My thinking is when people go out and they start shouting ‘We’re all gonna die, you’re all gonna burn in the fire’, people don’t want to hear that. So, it’s easier to hear something you don’t want to hear when it’s coming from a lighter source, you know?”
“When I do these things, I’m fully prepared to get arrested—I’m not afraid of that part. Which is part of my privilege that I’m using at that moment, is that I’m not afraid to be arrested, even for a third time, I’ll do it.
I’m able to make some headlines with the privilege that I have. I can walk up into places and sit in jail and not experience what other people are experiencing, because it’s a very different experience when you’re white and you’re in jail.”
“We’ve tried everything else. There’s no right way to protest because we’re working in a corrupt system right now. I have spent too much time in jail for what I’ve been doing. My last act of protest in Ottawa, which I’m being charged with mischief for, I spent the equivalent of three days in jail for it. And the holding facilities are of such poor quality. Even correctional officers in Edmonton were saying ‘Why is she even in here, she didn’t break anything, she didn’t hurt anybody.’ Even those that work in the system understand how broken it is.
On2Ottawa is growing up real fast, and we’re so proud of her. Our trip to Ottawa this month [April] was only the very first wave. We’ll be going again in August when Parliament is in session. And this is going to be our big one. We’re hoping to load up a bus and drive across the country, doing actions along the whole way.
Everybody brings different things to the table. And that’s what has been so inspiring for me through this whole movement, because everybody feels helpless. Everybody feels like there’s nothing that they can do. But, everybody has a way that they can contribute. Even if it’s making meals for people that are going on the frontline, or you’re providing support for people who’ve been arrested. I couldn’t do the things that I do if I didn’t have such an amazing team of people from all different backgrounds, all different educations and all different age groups—it’s absolutely inspiring.”
“So, in Canada there is this group of government mercenaries, to put it lightly. It operates as a division of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and it’s called C-IRG, which stands for Community-Industry Response Group. The RCMP was actually created for the purpose of collecting native children and putting them into residential schools. And now, the C-IRG division is hired by companies that are putting in pipelines and cutting down old forests. They’re here to protect corporate interests, period. The C-IRG are the ones going onto the Indigenous Wet’suwet’en land and removing people from their homes by force.
It goes all the way to the top. This is one of the most important things that people need to know about around the world, because everybody still has this idea about Canada that nothing bad ever happens here and our politicians aren’t corrupt. In reality, this isn’t the case. Canada is an occupation and I think others need to understand, as well as the people that live here, that our home is on native land. We need to keep the RCMP off the Wet’suwet’en lands, stop the Trans Mountain pipeline, and save the Canadian Greenbelt.”
“All of these things I’ve just mentioned are why I’m involved with On2Ottowa, because they aim to involve all these groups who’re fighting for these causes. Sometimes, when you get involved in activism, every group considers themselves the most important and have different thoughts on which kind of protest is most effective.
But, when all those people come together, we are so powerful and we can demand to have a citizens’ assembly form and have our collective voices heard. We’re so strong in numbers. So, the idea is to bring everyone together and demand a citizens’ assembly. Every time that Parliament sits, we will be there. Although, not me personally because I’m not allowed in Ottawa right now…”
Any UK-based individual who frequents the world wide web will be well aware of the latest Just Stop Oil climate protest—you know, the one that involved two cans of Heinz tomato soup. Well, this latest form of activism subsequently resulted in the short-lived birth—and death—of a wild TikTok conspiracy theory.
In case you indulged in a digital detox over the weekend, let’s do a quick recap. On Friday 14 October 2022, two Just Stop Oil activists entered the National Gallery in the heart of London armed with super glue and tomato soup. Moments later, they threw the pulpy liquid over Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ painting and proceeded to glue their hands to the wall.
In video footage of the event, one of the activists, 21-year-old Phoebe Plummer, can be heard exclaiming, “What is worth more, art or life? Is it worth more than food? More than justice? Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting or the protection of our planet and people?”
“The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of the oil crisis, fuel is unaffordable to millions of cold, hungry families. They can’t even afford to heat a tin of soup,” Plummer continued.
According to The Guardian, not long after this, Plummer and fellow activist Anna Holland were escorted out of the museum and arrested for criminal damages and aggravated trespassing. It should be noted that the painting was protected by a glass screen—a factor that Just Stop Oil claimed they took into consideration.
While shocking to some, this may appear as solely an escalation in action among a series of Just Stop Oil environmental protests that have been popping up across the capital over the past few weeks. The UK-based organisation is a coalition of different groups and, according to its website, is motivated by its primary goal which is securing a government ban of “new licences and consents for the exploration, development and production of fossil fuels in the UK.”
Just recently, the group blocked a number of major London roads—glueing themselves to the tarmac and displaying banners which call upon the government to enact a moratorium on all upcoming oil and gas projects, as reported by The Guardian.
This most recent disruption at the National Gallery, however, sent shockwaves through the ether, particularly after certain netizens began claiming that the attack on the Van Gogh painting was secretly funded by Big Oil themselves as a publicity stunt to depict climate activists as evil, malicious… and supposedly anti-art?
In a recently uploaded TikTok video that has since been removed, a woman claimed that Just Stop Oil’s latest protest is nothing more than a facade, conjured up to portray climate activists negatively. Her evidence? The fact that the environmental activist group has, in the past, received large donations from Big Oil heiress Aileen Getty, the granddaughter of industry mogul, Jean Paul Getty.
Before we venture into the debunking of this conspiracy theory, it should be noted that, on the surface, it’s not insanely far-fetched. Getty does come from a dynasty of oil, her family having been involved in the industry for over a century. Therefore, it would not be completely absurd to consider the possibility that she funded Just Stop Oil—and its most outrageous protests—in an attempt to influence public opinion.
If we take a closer look, however, we can see that this just isn’t the case. Upon a quick Google search for ‘Aileen Getty’, you almost immediately come across the Climate Emergency Fund (CEF). This organisation specialises in funding and supporting disruptive protests and activists to have a transformative impact on protecting humanity and the living world.
Getty is the founding donor of the CEF and, as reported by NPR, contributed $500,000 to kickstart the organisation. While she may have foundations in oil, the heiress has gone to extreme lengths to support the climate emergency cause. The Aileen Getty Foundation has also shifted a bulk of vital resources to different organisations—such as Just Stop Oil—and individuals who are addressing the climate emergency.
As aptly noted by TikTok user Tom Nicholas, “Aileen Getty’s well-documented and well-publicised donations to climate action groups appear to be more the result of being someone who feels guilty of where her family’s wealth has come from, rather than any kind of attempt to undermine the climate movement.”
Only two years ago, in 2020, The New York Times credited Getty with acknowledging her family’s past impact on climate change and for taking steps to actively remove fossil fuels from her portfolio in favour of sustainable investments.
Just Stop Oil is a tenacious coalition of activists and as long as its protest tactics continue and catch nationwide attention, I’m sure that a cohort of ‘follow-the-money’ conspiracy theories will trail right behind.