The fight against coal in Germany that culminated in months of fierce protests to stop coal company RWE to raze the old-growth Hambach forest made headlines around the world.
The movement celebrated a moratorium on logging last year and the government has committed to a coal phaseout since, but the currently proposed level of ambition and timeline of the coal exit are, to borrow Greta Thunberg’s words, ‘shameful and unacceptable’.
Even under the weak phaseout scenario recommended by the government-tasked coal commission, the Hambach forest and the villages that are threatened to be eaten up by expanding mines, can be spared, as scientific studies have confirmed.
RWE has continued to demolish houses and chop down trees regardless. But the growing resistance and success of the anti-coal movement has given the inhabitants of the villages new hope.
In the short video above (in German) Marita Dresen who lives on a farm in the village of Kuckum, which is threatened by RWE’s lignite mine Garzweiler says:
“I had pretty much given up until about half a year ago. When the movement has halted the logging of Hambi for now, that has given me personally a huge boost.
I joined the fight in Hambi a few times as well and thought to myself, we have to put up the same kind of fight for the people here in these villages.
It gives me a lot of strength to see that it’s possible to protect our homes when a lot of people are standing with us and we show the public how badly RWE is treating us.”
Marita has joined a new coalition of people whose homes are threatened by coal mining around the country and climate justice activists. The name of the coalition Alle Dörfer Bleiben (‘all villages stay’) has become the new banner that the anti-coal movement is getting behind, building on the success of last year when the movement came together around the battleground of the Hambach forest under the slogan Hambi bleibt (‘Hambi stays’).
The coalition demands an immediate end to all demolitions, forced displacements, logging and the destruction of farmland, as well as a rapid coal phaseout in line with the 1.5°C limit of the Paris Agreement. They see themselves as part of the global fight for climate justice.
There are several mobilisations coming up over the next few months to keep the diggers out of the villages starting with a protest march connecting threatened villages in the Rhineland this Saturday, 23 March. Ende Gelände, the German climate justice grassroots coalition has also announced a mass action to block lignite mining in the Rhineland in solidarity with the local communities this summer from 19 to 24 June.
The reignited opposition by local communities on the frontlines of coal mining and a new movement of youths stepping up in school strikes across the country have built on the momentum of Germany’s anti-coal movement. They are standing together to make sure that no more trees and no more villages are sacrificed for the last breaths of Germany’s dying coal industry.
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Southern Africa is facing devastation this week.
Cyclone Idai ripped through villages and towns in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe over the last few days, taking over 1000 lives and leaving a trail of destruction. With winds of 195 km/h accompanied by lashing rains, Idai has already affected millions of people, causing floods, landslides and ruining crops and roads.
More than two million people could have been affected across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, and the real death tolls may not be known for many months as the countries deal with a still-unfolding disaster. The port city of Beira, in Mozambique, was hit the hardest, with nearly 80% of homes and public infrastructures destroyed.
For a continent already wracked by its severe impacts, this is another chilling reminder of the reality of the climate crisis and the urgency with which we need to phase out fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to a just, clean energy economy in Africa and globally.
The number of cyclones and extreme floods in Southern Africa is increasing due to the change in weather patterns caused by global warming. Despite knowing that the impacts of global warming are devastating Africa, fossil fuel companies continue to expand across the continent, treating it as an open field.
If you are able to help those affected by the cyclone’s devastation, you can donate here to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent who are already on the ground in Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and here to Doctors Without Borders, who are responding to the most urgent needs they see in the affected countries, and aiming to develop a better understanding of where assistance can have the most impact, and then scale up their help.
Header image: Volunteers bring donated goods to be transported to Chimanimani and other affected areas by Cyclone Idai, March 19, 2019. Credit: Columbus Mavhunga/VOA [Public domain]
Friday’s tragedy affirmed that in our fight for climate justice, we must confront this rise of racism. We know that climate change impacts black, Indigenous and people colour — particularly in the global south — first and hardest. And, we know that around the world, the same political forces defending fossil fuels are also escalating attacks on migrants and refugees. There is no justice for our planet without justice for people.
Hoda Baraka, Global Communication Director for 350.org, put it beautifully when she said,
“In a world being driven by fear, we are constantly being pitted against the very things that make this world livable. Whether it’s people being pitted against each other, even though there is no life without human connection, love and empathy. Or fear pitting us against the very planet that sustains us, even though there is no life on a dead planet. This is why fighting against climate change is the equivalent of fighting against hatred. A world that thrives is one where both people and planet are seen for their inextricable value and connectedness.”
Much of this has been already said by our colleagues in social justice movements, but again, some things we can all do right now are:
- In our workplaces, community groups, and social circles commit to upholding a Safer Spaces Policy (here’s 350 Aotearoa’s), so that everyone is aware of the ways in which we hold privileges and power, and to not use those privileges to impinge on other people’s space.
- Raise and amplify the voices of our Muslim community. Make space for the voices of the affected communities to be heard. Take on board their words, lived experiences and critiques.
- Talk with your friends about ways in which you can address, learn and combat everyday racism within ourselves and our communities. We must not be bystanders to “casual” racism because this only emboldens hatred and gives rise to violence of white supremacy. There are many resources available, but we’re looking at this handbook written by Muslim woman, Laya F. Saad.
- Call out all levels of racism and hate on social media, and call on social media platforms to be more responsible when it comes to hosting public conversations.
- Keep standing up for what’s right.
We hold great collective power when we stand united in fierce love with a shared commitment to building a better future. The student strikes are a tribute to the fact that even in the most devastating circumstances, beauty arises from unity and love.
Let’s demonstrate that kind of power again today.
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