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Aileen Getty, the rich oil heiress behind the attack on the 'Mona Lisa'

The Climate Emergency Fund, founded by the philanthropist, finances a dozen environmental groups around the world. Their attacks are becoming more and more extreme.

Composición con una imagen de archivo de la millonaria filántropa Aileen Getty y el momento en que dos activistas ecologistas tiran sopa a el cuadro de La Mona Lisa

(Cordon Press / )

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The French NGO Riposte Alimentaire (Food Response) claimed responsibility for the latest attack against a work of art in the name of environmentalism. Over the weekend, at the Louvre in Paris, one of the most famous paintings in the world, if not the most, was vandalized:

Riposte Alimentaire aims to "catalyze massive popular revolts in the coming years. ... Our demand is simple: create a Social Security system for sustainable food." The group is associated with Dernière Rénovation, which sought to pressure Emmanuel Macron's government to commit to renewing heating systems for homes. At the end of last year, it declared the end of this campaign. In this new year, there is new goal, which they seek to achieve with similar methods:

Though the group maintains the name Dernière Rénovation on its website, it is recognized as one of the initiatives of the A22 Network. This international network claims to have similar projects in a dozen countries. Behind them are names like Kennedy and Getty. The latter has been especially prominent in recent years: Aileen Getty is the heiress to Paul Getty's oil fortune.

Oil against oil?

The Getty granddaughter funds the international network of activist organizations through the Climate Emergency Fund (CEF). Her foundation, The Aileen Getty Foundation, which is founded and chaired by her, recognizes:

Aileen provided the foundational grant to establish the Climate Emergency Fund (CEF), an effort to support the activist voices demanding a more urgent response to the climate emergency.

The CEF has an article on its website by reporter Julian Wyllie which states that Getty contributed $500,000 of the $600,000 total donated to the fund in 2019, when it was taking its first steps. According to the same report, the other two founders are investor Trevor Neilson and Rory Kennedy, son of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and activist Ethel Kennedy.

The aggression by some of the protests organized by environmental groups led to speculation that some oil magnates financed these organizations to discredit the environmental movement itself. One of the founders of the institution resigned due to the unpopularity and harmfulness of an incident of activism, as he later confessed, that was increasingly extremist.

J. Paul Getty, Aileen's grandfather, became the richest man in the world after reaching an oil deal with Saudi Arabia, according to Forbes between 1960 and 1970. His children inherited billions of dollars through a trust at Getty Oil, a company they sold to Texaco.

In its report on the Gettys, Forbes cites Getty Oil as the family's "source of wealth." In 2015, it was ranked as one of the 60 richest families in the country, with its assets estimated at $5.4 billion.

Aileen Getty came to the crossroads of the theory about his supposed strategy to discredit the anti-oil movement: "People often come up with theories about my motivation to engage in the climate movement. My motivation is clear: I am fighting for a livable planet for my family and yours. I am not dwelling on the past. I am looking to build a better future."

In this way she defended her donations, or investments, depending on who's looking, in an article in The Guardian. She applauded ." Getty maintained that she does not "directly" fund the groups and does not control what actions they take. However, Just Stop Oil is one of the 12 organizations benefited by the CEF.

The questions about the philanthropist do not end there. Environmental circles themselves maintain that she does not do enough and criticize herlifestyle, revealed in headlines such as: "Brad Pitt swaps homes with Getty Oil heiress." The new mansion cost Getty $39 million, with the actor paying $5.5 million, according to a New York Post article.

The heads of the hydra

In the United States, the conglomerate behind these acts of vandalism is known as Declare Emergency. As its name indicates, the organization wants to pressure the president to declare a climate emergency.

In Italy, Germany, Canada and Austria, these groups are known as Last Generation, though each in their respective languages. In New Zealand, it is known as Restore Passenger Rail. In Switzerland, Renovate Switzerland, in Denmark, Nødbremsen (The Emergency Break), in Sweden, Återställ Våtmarker (Restore Wetlands) and in Norway, Stopp Oljeletinga! (Stop Oil Exploration). Perhaps the best known is in the United Kingdom: Just Stop Oil.

The repentant founder

Trevor Neilson resigned from his position at the CEF in 2021. "It’s become disruption for the sake of disruption," he said last year in conversation with the British newspaper The Times. It was the first time that the Californian explained his discontent with the activist organization he helped to found.

"I absolutely believe that it has now become counterproductive, and I just feel like that has to be said by somebody that was involved in the beginnings of what it has become," he said after arguing that environmental activism was harming the lives of citizens more than persuading them to join the cause. This, he acknowledged, was making groups like Just Stop Oil unpopular. A YouGov poll from last year seems to agree: 68% of respondents in the U.K. disapproved of the British group financed by the CEF.

Neilson continues to defend environmental activism, but believes the time for radical measures has come to an end. "Blocking bridges is a lot easier than building bridges, and that is what we need to do if we are going to succeed," he said. He then explained that he became committed to the cause when the fires in California put his home in Malibu at risk more than five years ago. That year, he met Roger Hallam, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil, and he called him "capitalist s***."

Since leaving the organization, Nielson has watched as the CEF became funded by increasingly extremist organizations, according to the same report.