The Louvre museum is a unique place. It plays a vital role in helping us to better understand the vast span of human history and civilisation.
From tablets in cuneiform script to “Liberty leading the people”, from the Victory of Samothrace to the works of Leonardo da Vinci, the Louvre explores history in the making, in all its complexity. The history of the birth and collapse of entire civilisations. History that is as emancipatory as it is domineering, turbulent; as belligerent as it is harmonious and peaceful; and as violent as it is enlightening.
The antiquities and works exhibited in the Louvre are not only a demonstration of human creativity. They are also symbols bearing witness to a great shift, a change of era: through the galleries of the Louvre, the museum takes us from the relative climate stability of the Holocene, to accelerated global warming, marking the start of the Anthropocene.
The Louvre is not simply an external witness to this shift, it is, indeed, one of its victims. Global warming emphasises the frequency and force of violent climatic events, and there is an increasing risk of flooding from the Seine. Last May, the Louvre had to evacuate its reserves to save them from the rising water levels. Some artworks have come through more than 10 millennia of history, and are threatened by the intense coal, gas and oil combustion humanity has been submitting itself to for just under two centuries.
The Paris Agreement, adopted at the conclusion of COP21, draws a clear, red line: keep global warming to as close to 1.5 °C as possible to avoid plunging into climate chaos. To do so, the scientific consensus is clear: we need to stop using 80% of known reserves of coal, gas and oil if we want to avoid the collapse of our societies.
We are able to identify the victims of climate change. But we can also point out those who are responsible. And we can object to the organisational and strategic inability of fossil fuel companies to make the link between scientific knowledge and their activities.
The Louvre is not, in fact, a passive victim. It was directly affected given the risks borne by the works on display: by agreeing to accept corporate donations from companies such as Total, the Louvre museum is helping to foster the idea that we can continue burning fossil fuels without consequence.
The Louvre, by regarding the activities of Total as legitimate, is also condemning our future. By drilling even further and deeper, these companies are contributing to the destruction of the planet, of entire ecosystems and reducing the likelihood that current and future generations will live in a climate of justice and peace. Hundreds of millions of lives worldwide have already been devastated by climate change, and whole segments of life on earth and our common heritage could continue to rapidly disappear.
We believe that the Louvre Museum has a fundamental moral responsibility regarding the climate crisis, as a communication channel between civilisations and cultures, but also as a place of education. Its partnerships with Total completely undermine its role and its ambition to build bridges between past civilisations and current as well as future generations.
We now know: our common future is not compatible with the fossil fuel industry. We, therefore, ask the Louvre museum to put an immediate and complete end to its partnership with the fossil fuel industry.