Climate activists take to the trees to save German village

Published November 13, 2022
A protester holds a flag reading ‘Stop Coal’ in front of the coal-fired power plant Neurath during a demonstration at the Garzweiler lignite open cast mine near Luetzerath on Saturday.—AFP
A protester holds a flag reading ‘Stop Coal’ in front of the coal-fired power plant Neurath during a demonstration at the Garzweiler lignite open cast mine near Luetzerath on Saturday.—AFP

LTZERATH: After the last farmer packed up and left in October, climate activists are the only people left in the village of Luetzerath, Germany, which sits above a rich vein of coal.

In huts perched six metres above ground in the trees, the young campaigners say they can hold out against the authorities if they try to clear them out.

They are there in an effort to stop the village being bulldozed to allow the extension of a neighbouring open-air coal mine.

They do not know when the police might come to force them out, but with Germany in need of more coal, most think it will be soon.

Europe’s largest economy has restarted part of its mothballed inventory of coal power plants to relieve the pressure on gas-powered facilities, following a cut to supplies from Russia in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

More than a thousand protesters descended on Luetzerath, now a symbol of the resistance to fossil fuels, to urge more action from participants at the COP27 conference in Egypt. Many had painted their faces with the words “Stop coal”.

Activists unfurled a huge yellow cross — a symbol against coal mine expansion — in a field. Alma, a French activist who uses a pseudonym, earlier said she did not know when the evacuation was planned.

“It’s a question of responsibility, one that is difficult to take for the authorities because it’s a huge operation, for which thousands of police officers need to be mobilised over several weeks,” she said.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2022

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