What Ende Gelände Activists are Reminding the Rest of Society

When market and politicians fail, citizens must rise up and act

Last weekend I went to Ende Gelände action. During the action, about 5000 people occupied a lignite transport railroad besides the mine for almost a day.

A month ago, I was also there, at the height of tension between activists and police.

Since the destruction of Hambacher Forst was halted, the necessity of this kind of mass action has been constantly questioned; like environmental organizations in Taiwan, Ende Gelände’s page is full of trolls.

Below, I want to make a case of why a continual push against coal mining is still necessary than ever, even in a time when temporarily victory has been gained.

The coal problem in Germany has long been discussed in detail in my previous articles; in short, there exists no real reason why we should still keep so much inflexible power plants on line, other than the profit large utilities are making by continuing producing electricity from them.

Sure, there has been an economic argument against lignite mining and power production, and the transition going on is eroding the profit margins of running conventional power plants; but it is still something profitable.

The profit of continuing running lignite plants remains such that operators would bid for negative prices on the electricity market temporarily, in order to keep theirs plants online continuously.

If we wait for the rule of market to wipe out all coal power plants in Germany on its own, we may have to wait until the mid-2040s. Humanity cannot wait that long.

This is 2018, we already know the solution: less energy consumption, more renewables. In this transition process, Germany doesn’t even need another Baltic Sea pipeline, as share of natural gas in primary energy consumption would also decrease.

The future could be bright; that is, if Germany phase out coal fast. It cannot be done merely inside the market based economy, so we have to urge for it politically.

I went to the coal mine during the action, and saw with my own eyes how enormous the baggers were. I could never imagine myself climbing up those monsters and tie myself up in the middle of the sky. How much courage would it take to do that!

I slept on the camp for one night in a tent, and felt for myself the coldness activists had felt for the last six years. I could never imagine myself staying for another night. How much perservence would it take to do that!

We might not be able to join all the decisive actions. But at least we should try to get the message they are sending to the public: when market and politicians fail, citizens must rise up and act.

Side Remarks

During the weekend I met many friends. About 300 people from Freiburg went to the action site, so it was very normal to see some of them. I also met some friends from the Leipzig climate camp.

Then there was also a Taiwanese friend who was a close comrade in previous environmental networks. This was the first time she joined a climate action in Europe, and like me she was very impressed by the autonomous spirit and motivated atmosphere at the camp.

We talked about the past and the present of environment and other movements in Taiwan. In an all time low for progressive politics (as three anti-gay and one anti-energy transition referendums are about to take place), we sang the once famous movement song “Island’s Sunrise” in a train 9000 kilometers away from our home.

The time will come when we make ourselves useful again on the island. For now, we will wait for the darkness before dawn to fade away.

Further Reading from Elaine Huang (in Chinese):

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Tony Yen

Tony Yen

A Taiwanese student who studied Renewable Energy in Freiburg. Now studying smart distribution grids / energy systems in Trondheim.