Luetzerath bleibt - Germany vs Fossil Fuel
For over a decade, Germany has been rolling out their strategy for the “Energiewende”, the transition to producing all energy required for Europe's most populous country from renewable or low-carbon energy methods. And while some efforts and investments into renewables can be noted, concrete and actionable steps are still lacking and the Government has failed to live up to the promises made.
Germany has a long-standing war against nuclear energy, deeming it too risky and polluting. Nuclear power, a carbon-low means of producing energy, is sometimes favoured as it doesn’t release any carbon. This would be the ideal transition concept while gearing towards a fully renewable energy production system. Yet the country has long relied on different types of coal, present in abundance over a large majority of German territory, especially in the West. And of course, coal, next to petrol, is one of the largest polluters actually contributing to this climate emergency we find ourselves in today.
The German Government promised a complete faze out from coal burning until 2038. Yet they now find themselves granting a permit to RWE, a German energy giant, to extend one of Europe's biggest open-cast coal mines. Their reasoning? The current energy crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine made it necessary to rely on burning coal to produce electricity until things return to normal.
It is called “Garzweiler mine” and is located in the German Bundesland of North Rhine Westphalia, close to the Netherlands, in the West of the country. For this, a village named “Lützerath” has to be destroyed to access the valuable coal beneath it. Because of this, Lützerath has become a significant symbol in the fight against the fossil fuel industry. For years now, the abandoned village had been occupied by climate activists, promising to “Keep Lützi alive”, as the ever-growing pit symbolized an ever-growing consumption of fossil fuels. Activists built barricades and strung themselves up trees to make it as difficult as possible for the police to remove them. Two activists even went as far as risking their lives by digging a tunnel 4 meters under the village, with failsafe to slow down rescue/removal efforts significantly. Besides simply difficult access, against which the police started taking measures such as digging their own separate tunnel, Pinky and Brain (the activists in the tunnel) are willing to chain themselves into a concrete block filled with steel bars. All these precautions were made to ensure that the last remaining defenders stay as long as possible in Lützi, and slow down the expansion as much as possible. Because starting in Spring, German mining regulations dictate that no further digging may be done.
This fight culminated this Saturday, 14th of January, as the remaining activists strong-holding the village were joined by thousands of protesters and figures in the environmental activism scene to protest for a stop to the open mine and real action for a future free of fossil fuels.
According to Greenpeace, 35 000 people came from all over Germany and Europe to protest on the pit's edge, elevated by iconic figures such as Greta Thunberg or Luisa Neubauer. Braving the battling winds and knee deep mud, the voices were not to be silenced. Even when the police tried to stop the march, resorting to forceful means such as water cannons, the masses demanding an end to fossil fuel were heard all over the world.
Unfortunately, some police officers exaggerated and resorted to pure and straightforward police brutality, ending in several heavily injured cases. Thankfully for the enjoyment of the internet, protesters knew how to defend themselves and retaliated against the officers stuck in the mud.
This action shows the restless motivation and engagement of citizens who want a brighter, unpolluted future that cannot be stopped and will eventually be heard.
For a candid look into the protest, we were on the scene to report. More will follow in a separate video, out soon.