My most important lesson from Lützerath? There can be no more “business as usual”.

“Seen from above” column

My most important lesson from Lützerath? There can be no more “business as usual”.

View of the coal mine.

Normally, I often drive home from climate protection demonstrations in high spirits: The feeling of standing up for the 1.5 °C target together with many others, of showing that things cannot simply “go on like this” usually makes me optimistic. After Lützerath it was different.

The signs, as I experienced the demonstration, initially pointed to hope. Arrival professionally organized; Tens of thousands of participants, despite the mud, rain and the difficulty of the topic, were in a positive mood and friendly to one another; Peter Donatus and Greta Thunberg impress with speeches on stage; Samba troupe, poetry slam and singing interludes even make for a little exuberance; and towards the end of the afternoon the sun even shines briefly. But I don’t feel optimistic on the way home.

Air conditioning check

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The pictures won’t let me go

This time, certain images just won’t let me go: here a lovingly designed garden with a trampoline for the children to jump on, and a few meters further the gigantic pit dug into the landscape with the huge coal excavators, guarded by police officers. It all seemed dystopian and totally out of time.

However, the gaze of a resident in Keyenberg, the neighboring village of Lützerath, which was also to be demolished, lingers in my mind. He stood at the open window of his house and thanked the passing demonstrators with a meaningful expression on his face, which made many – including me – become silent. As I found out later, in a documentary he and his family tell what it does to people who face the demolition of their villages for years. To stay or not to stay, to sell or to wait for expropriation? And then in the end it says: The village stands still. Only now many have moved away. What does that do to people? And how, I ask myself, is it possible for corporations to drive thousands of people off their property over many years – for profit and gain?

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Expropriations for coal mining are absurd

The reality of climate change is clear: we have assessment reports, scientific studies and even a Paris climate agreement. And yet in 2023 people who do not want to give up their property will be expropriated. The justification: The reduction of fossil fuels serves the public good. I beg your pardon?! Above all, one thing serves the global common good: the phase-out of fossil fuels, better yesterday than 2030.

You realize how absurd expropriations for coal mining are when you imagine the opposite case: an investor would like to build a solar park in a community, but cannot find a suitable site. No problem, then we expropriate, we have experience with that! In the current energy crisis, nobody denies that renewable energies serve the general public. Not convinced? Me neither.

The most important message from Lützerath: no “business as usual”

There can be no more “business as usual”. That is the most important message I took away from Lützerath. This applies in particular to politicians: it is unacceptable that, despite the Paris climate protection agreement, they allow corporations to brutally dredge up entire villages so that fossil fuels can be mined there, and at the same time show a willingness to compromise and understanding if there is the slightest resistance to a speed limit or wind turbines claim.

That needs to change. And now I’m quite optimistic: it will be. I’m sure of that after Lützerath.

Insa Thiele-Eich is a meteorologist and researches the connections between climate change and health at the University of Bonn. She has been training as a scientific astronaut for a two-week mission on the International Space Station as part of the “Die Astronautin” initiative since 2017 – and would thus be the first German woman in space. Here she writes every two weeks about space travel, climate change and the fascinating world of science.

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