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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Activists against the Greens. Dispute over coal mining splits German environmentalists

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The German Greens emerged largely from the protest movements of the 1970s. Its founders initially came together in demonstrations for a better environment and against nuclear weapons.

But the Greens became a fixed part of the German political system. They are the second most powerful party in the federal government and have representatives in most federal state parliaments and governments, in addition to the national parliament. Even if they still rely on maladaptive views and behaviors, they have already paid the price for the organized and “sensible”.

Instead of the greens, the role of environmental rebels has been taken over by initiatives like Fridays for Future or Last Generation, mostly by young people. They also tend towards more radical forms of protest, such as clinging to public spaces.

Sometimes, during protests, there are cases when activists identify themselves from the Greens to politicians in power.

This conflict is currently taking place in the small village of Lützerath in western Germany. Forced by the original residents to leave due to the planned expansion of lignite mining, the settlement has become a stronghold of environmental activists in recent weeks. They have occupied the last few houses standing, have camped nearby, and plan to use blockades to force energy company RWE and officials to abandon the mine’s expansion.

On Sunday, about two thousand people gathered in the village for a protest event, and eventually some participants threw stones or fired pyrotechnics at the supervising police officers.

The situation may escalate further in the coming days. The police station in Aachen announced that from Wednesday or the next day, citizens should wait for the mandatory evacuation of the area.

But activists do not count on voluntarily leaving Lützerath, declaring that they will “fight for every metre”. More and more sympathizers from all over Germany are coming to the nearby makeshift camp. According to the organizers, the village in the Rhineland could become the “new hotspot of the climate movement”.

A massive demonstration is called for on Saturday, January 14th, with thousands expected to attend.


30 years ago, the people of Libkovice opposed the excavators and tried to protect the village from liquidation due to the planned but failed coal mining. At that time, their fight was recorded by documentarian Ibra Ibrahimović.

Green politicians, who in the past also advocated the destruction of human habitats due to coal mining, are on the opposite side this time. The expansion of the mine was endorsed by two green politicians – Federal Minister of Economy Robert Habeck and his colleague Mona Neubaurová from the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia, with RWE concern.

From the Greens’ point of view, this was one of the many difficult concessions the party had to make due to the consequences of the war in Ukraine.

Habeck and his partymates would certainly have opted to generate power only from solar or wind, but the limitation of natural gas supplies from Russia forced them to accept something they probably never expected – a reversion to coal or a subsequent shutdown of gas. Last working nuclear power plants.

However, this kind of pragmatism was not welcomed by young activists.

“The Greens are making a huge mistake,” said Luisa Neubauer, one of the main organizers of the Fridays for Future initiative, accusing the party of “calculating the undermining of Paris climate goals.” According to the analysis that Neubauer refers to, coal under Lützerath is not needed for energy security.

The leaders of the Greens refuse to admit that they will betray the original ideals. Also, according to election polls, the party is currently more popular among Germans than the SPD coalition. Still, there is unease among Greens about the extent to which activists on the ground have alienated them.

Earlier in the week, a party presidency meeting was held in Berlin to discuss how the Social Democrats (SPD and Liberals (FDP)) and the Greens in the three-member governing coalition could bring their environmental issues to the fore.

remind yourself

Germany originally planned to decommission all three nuclear power plants by the end of 2022.

On Monday afternoon, the two “green” sides of the dispute with similar names met. However, no progress was made from the meeting between activist Luisa Neubauer and the state Economy Minister Mona Neubauer. According to the Fridays for Future representative, the government of North Rhine-Westphalia is unable to present a plan so that coal under Lützerath does not need to be mined.

Their political rivalry tries to take advantage of the Greens’ difficult situation. Janine Wissler, leader of the left-wing opposition party, announced that she would personally travel to Lützerath to join the protesters there.

Source: Seznam Zpravy

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