Discredited “elites” dither and blather at COP 23 while nearby, activists take direct action against the largest open pit lignite coal mine in Europe. Relayed from their website:
THE FOREST The Hambacher Forest is counted among one of the last remaining mixed forests with their unique ecosystems in Central Europe. Of its original 5,500 hectares, less than one tenth remains today. The Hambacher Forest was once called a ‘citizens’ forest’. Its history goes back several thousands of years – to the end of the last Ice Age, 12,000 years ago. With its diversity of flora and fauna, the forest offers a habitat to a multitude of species including tawny owls, bats and dormice. In the remaining parts of the forest you will find Hornbeam and English oak that are over 300 years old. Many migratory bird species use the forest as a resting place on their journeys.
DEFORESTATION The energy company RWE (back then Rheinbraun) bought the forest from the surrounding parishes in 1978. Since then the forest is being cleared to make space for lignite extraction. Less than one tenth of the once 5,500 hectare forest remains today. Whereas deforestation is only permitted between October and March, RWE has been clearing forest illegally outside of this period in the past years. If the mine continues as planned the remaining forest will be destroyed within the next three years.
RESISTANCE And this is where economic, political, and the interests of companies meet with resistance. Some people remain in the houses that RWE wants to bulldoze. Others occupy trees and plant vegetables in the soil designated as overburden. During nightly strolls, signage disappears and machines are freed of their electronics. Resistance has a decade-long history and includes projects against forced resettlement, surface damage and fine dust pollution. People interested in their environment and activists are standing up against the destruction with art exhibitions and bike demonstrations, orchard and meadow occupations and blockades of coal trains. This lead to a wave of repression against international activists. From searches to taking of DNA and imprisonment. Resistance continues regardless.
Now comes a voice from the forest, relayed from Amy Goodman and Democracy Now, a voice that embodies the urgency, courage and resolve that has been largely absent among those engaged in the “official” conference:
RWE is a multi-international company, producing energy from lignite mining, traditionally, but they also have stone coal that they export from, for example, Colombia or China, where it also causes enormous damage also to indigenous people. They also have nuclear power plants. And now they have part of the company that does renewable energies, since it’s where they can make money from now. And the whole thing just works out for them, because they don’t have to pay the costs, but—the costs of the environmental destruction happening because of lignite mining.
They say what they do is legal and what—because it’s like legalized by democracy, so they say what they do is right and what we do here is illegal. And so, they asked the police to evict us, what they have done in the past. But for us, that’s a strong sign that the problem is the system we live in. So, if it’s legal for a company to destruct our whole planet, that means that it’s time to also resist against state power.
I wouldn’t say I’m afraid, because I’m here to fight. So, from the first day I came here, I knew that police can enter all the time. So, it gives me motivation to go on.
Regarding the proximity to COP:
That’s really a sign about how absurd it is that we believe that the people who were actually part of the people who caused this disaster, which is global warming, that we trust in them solving it, even though they are profiting from how the situation is right now, and that, actually, just some kilometers away from there, there’s the biggest CO2 source of all Europe. And yeah, for me, it seems really [hypocritical]. They’re sitting there and talking about global warming and climate justice, because—yeah, it really shows me that it’s time that we take responsibility for our own lives and that we change something and that we create a world which gives us the power to act, instead of hoping that other people will solve problems.
I also don’t believe in technical solutions. I think, like, there is a lot of hope in technical solutions, and it can really help us, but we will not stop destroying this planet if we don’t overcome capitalism and domination. And yeah, it’s definitely no—not a good idea to replace lignite mining with nuclear power. Both cause enormous damage. And for me, it’s one struggle that’s really important for me. I’m not just fighting against lignite mining, but I’m fighting against exploitation in general, and that means fighting against capitalism, and that means fighting against domination. And that’s why I see this as one struggle.