Banksy Delivers Heart-Breaking Jab at Industrial Polluters

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©. The latest piece of artwork by the underground guerrilla artist Banksy on December 20, 2018 in Port Talbot, Wales. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

A holiday artwork with an important environmental justice message.

From protesting deforestation to a climate-tinged graffiti war, world famous art prankster Banksy has been known to delve into environmental themes from time to time.

His latest, however, might be one of this most explicitly green-themed works and, I would argue, one of the most poignant. The art itself features a kid playing in the "snow", but closer inspection reveals that the snow is actually ashes from a dumpster fire that's painted just around the corner. But what really brings this art into its own is the video in which it was introduced to the world, which ends by panning out to show the industrial landscape that is Port Talbot, a South Wales town in a region that has been named by the World Health Organization as the most polluted area in Britain.

Here's the original Instagram video to give you a sense of what the artist is getting at:

As someone who grew up on the other side of the water from South Wales, and in and around Bristol when Banksy was surreptitiously creating a name for himself there, this piece feels particularly meaningful to me. While there's been much environmental progress in the region—indeed, I look across the water to see wind turbines dotting the industrial South Wales coastline any time I visit home—there is little doubt that entire communities have been left behind to deal with the aftermath of carbon-intensive industrialization.

That's why any serious mobilization on climate change must also include a focus on environmental justice, economic opportunity and a just transition for communities that have borne the brunt of business-as-usual.

Thank you to Banksy for driving that message home (and for including a tiny taste of an awesome South Wales accent that made me feel more than a little homesick).