Shutting down a coal mine on the road through Paris

Last weekend fifteen hundred people from across the world shut down one of the most destructive coal mines on the planet. Morten Thaysen was there.

August 19, 2015
4 min read

morten2

The view is breath-taking and strangely beautiful as we reach the edge of the giant open cast coal mine. The surrounding landscape has turned from fertile cabbage fields to a gaping wound in the ground with no signs of life. In that moment as hundreds of my fellow activists dressed in white boiler suits storm down the slopes towards the giant machines carving out the mine, I know we are achieving something great. We’re shutting down one of the biggest coal mines on Earth.

Last weekend I took time off work to blockade a giant coal mine along with more than 1500 other activists from 45 countries to deal a blow to the corporate fossil fuel industry and push for the change that the UN climate negotiations are failing to bring.

The Garzweiler lignite coal mine in the Rhineland in Germany is an astonishing sight: a full 17 kilometres of utter destruction. Surrounded by a strange mix of massive coal-fired power plants, eight-lane motorways and wind turbines the mine is emblematic of everything that’s wrong with the way we produce and consume energy.

The giant diggers (the biggest land machines on earth) extracting tons and tons of coal every hour are not driven by a demand for energy to heat our houses or power our computers. The driving force of this mine is an economic system that forces us to exploit any resource no matter the costs to create more growth and more profits for corporations. No matter how many windmills we build, it will keep going. And even if we all divest our pensions from fossil fuels, it won’t prevent the diggers from eating up the surrounding landscape and towns.

It is already obvious that the UN climate negotiations in Paris this December (COP21) are not going to do anything to challenge the systemic issues behind climate change. While the world leaders gather to negotiate a new deal for the climate, the diggers in Germany will be unhindered in extracting coal. And when the politicians and the media circus leave Paris, the mine will continue to expand till there is no more coal left.

Scientists have made it abundantly clear that we need to leave 80% of known coal reserves in the ground. If our governments will not make this happen, we have to take matters into our own hands.

That is why a thousand of us broke and drifted through dozens of police lines and suffered pepper spray, hits from batons and ultimately mass arrests breaking into the mine and blocking it for a whole day. Running for several miles through the mine chased by police and security is probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced. But seeing the police lining up in full riot gear to protect one of the most destructive projects on our planet made it all too clear that our governments are fully committed to protecting the fossil fuel industry, not only politically and financially, but also physically. There are very little signs of them bringing in the transition we need to stop climate change and create energy that works for people instead of for corporate profits.

The Ende Gelände (Here and no further) mass action was not just a blow to the already struggling fossil fuel industry, it was a massive display of people power for the movement against dirty corporate energy. As political processes like the COP in Paris are failing to bring results, we need to come together as a movement to develop alternatives from below.

The climate negotiations in Paris will not be the “moment or truth” or the potential solution to our problems, as some organisations would have us believe. Rather we will go to Paris this December to mark another milestone for the movement to reclaim the control of our energy system and bring an end to the profit-driven economy.

The protest in Germany was not just a group of seasoned activists of campaigners. For most people I spoke to this was their first act of civil disobedience. In Paris we have the chance to grow our movement bigger and continue building a new energy system that does not destroy the climate and meets our needs, not the needs of big business.

Morten Thaysen works for Global Justice Now. This post was originally published on their blog site.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency

Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.


25