In view of the Global Day of Action for climate justice and the COP26 happening in Scotland, two youth groups of MISEREOR and FASTENOPFER supporters (from Germany and Switzerland) lived an unforgettable four days experience in Cologne, to connect and to advocate for climate justice. The testimony below is about 4days4future!
Thursday, we started the long weekend with an enthusiastic reunion of the Misereor-volunteers, ready to getting to know the swiss youth delegation participating to the event as well. Madita and Johanna, two former Misereor-volunteers, introduced us to CIDSE, the umbrella organisation of catholic organisations in Europe and North America, who supported us for the organization and the implementation of the camp. Two years ago, former Misereor-volunteers were already at the COP24 in Katowice with a CIDSE delegation and the relation with the network is still ongoing!
After that, we had an online video connection to Bernd Nilles, the director of Fastenopfer (Switzerland) and former secretary general of CIDSE. His testimony focused a lot on the lignite mining in North Rhine-Westphalia, where the biggest lignite mining site in Europe lies with 2500 km2.
Even though the German government decided to withdraw from coal last year, RWE wants to mine 670 tonnes of lignite until 2038. Because of this, entire villages will be forcefully relocated and destroyed. One of those villages is Lützerath. Bernd Nilles informed us about the ecological impact and gave us his personal insight as his hometown is in close proximity to the opencast mine Garzweiler II. He eventually compared it to a dead moon landscape and we learnt how important the protection of his home region, nature and fertile land is for Bernd!
The visit of those lands was in the schedule for the following day!
We caught a train to the lignite mining site with our rented yellow bicycles.
Right after a short ride from the train station of Hochneukirch, we were speechless while standing at the edge of the mining site. It is simply unbelievable. Dead land as far as you can see: Bernd did not exaggerate at all!
While Anna was giving us some geographic information about the mining site Garzweiler, a very bizarre “hide and seek” game begun: security guards from RWE arrived and they sent us away from the viewpoint and downright followed us afterwards. Whenever we tried to stop at a place, where we would have a good overview over the whole mining site, the security guards were right behind us. Luckily, the guards were not invasive and we did not feel intimidated by them. In any case, we never did anything wrong! 🙂
Unfortunately, we did not have a chance to look at the mining site for a longer time, but our actual destination was not the mining site but the Eggerather Hof. On our way there we had a nice bike ride through the already half empty village of Keyenberg. The village is half empty because RWE bought the property of many residents to clear the area in the foreseeable future to expand the mining site. Currntly, it is like a ghost town. Trucks are speeding through the village – but other than that it was quiet.
How do the people living there feel about all this? Locals are losing their homes to coal, which is one of the main causes of climate change. Not only the people here are affected but in the Global South are, for example, the pacific islands about to drown because of the rising sea levels caused by climate change… how many of those islands would fit into the gigantic mining site?
On the Eggerather Hof, a family owned farm, Mrs. Schmitz happily welcomed us. She talked about her very personal experience: on how she was confronted with the possible loss of her home, the systematic destruction of the village, the trauma from demolition and expropriation. We then had a picnic on the farm among the chickens cackle and the kittens meowing. Straight up country idyll but the sad considering that an international corporation is just a few meters away.
Only one third of the valuable and fertile soil (it saves a lot of water and brings high yield security) would be retained after relocation if RWE gets a hold of the agricultural fields and enclose them into the mining site. Agriculture is already suffering under the opencast mine as the groundwater level is being lowered and pumping stations are put on fields everywhere.
Is that not irrational?! Taking fertile land, one of the most precious goods in times of climate change as it provides us with our most basic need: food. Just to generate energy in the filthiest way! You do not need to be a specialist to understand that this is not right.
Our next destination would have been Lützerath. We met Florian there, one of the spokespeople of the camp. He showed us the tent- and the treehouse-village, explaining to us the structures of the camp.
He talked about the step by step development of the camp and about Eckardt Heukamp, who is fighting as the last remaining resident of Lützerath against the demolition of his farm. His case will be decided in the beginning of January by the higher administrative court in Münster.
Florian explained to us how important the attention of the media is in political and economical decisions. What happens here needs public attention, he repeated several times.
It was quite impressive to see how the young climate activists are living together in tents on a field behind Eckardt Heukamps farm and advocate for a good life for everyone out of solidarity for climate justice. Today in small parts, tomorrow in large parts, said Florian, we in the global north have the responsibility – everyone decides for themselves how to participate in changing the world. With those words, Florian said goodbye and disappeared between the tents. He had to clean the toilets in the self organized camp today.
We biked back to the train station in the dusk looking like a living light chain. Internally we were agitated and left with a lot of impressions.
We started our third day with two different options: a group had a sustainable city tour through cologne, while the other group eagerly prepared a flashmob with a song, dance and costumes: “I tell you what I want, what I really really want… I wanna make a change!” Our version of the Spice Girls refers of course to the climate conference in Glasgow. “If you wanna save the future, you have to act right now…”. In front of the cathedral in cologne we premiered our flashmob – simultaneously CIDSE-youth groups in Portugal, Italy and Spain perform the flashmob as well. “Fight for climate justice, in solidarity we stand.”
In the afternoon, we then a call with CIDSE policy officers at that moment in Glasgow. Other CIDSE-youth groups were also there. In breakout rooms, we got the chance to talk to Annika Schröder, a Misereor climate advisor, who attended the COP26 as observer. She informed us about the current tough negotiations of the climate conference. Furthermore we learnt that the fossil fuel lobby, the delegation of fossil fuel corporations like RWE, are disproportionately large at the COP compared to representatives of countries most affected by the climate crisis. Obviously with this distribution interests are not measured the same. This made us angry.
In the evening then, we had a movie premiere! We watched the documentary “The future lies with youth” from the CIDSE-Initiative “Change for the planet, care for the people”. The movie was very inspiring and touching. Young protagonists from all around the world, including Phillipp, a former Misereor-volunteer, talk about how and why they are getting involved with climate justice. Phillipps scenes were taken in Lützerath – so with that the evening comes full circle.
On Sunday our 4days4future ended with lovely words of thanks and exchange about our impressions of the last couple days. What a valuable weekend!
We left with new courage, ideas and inspiration to fight climate change and its injustices.
A big thank you to everyone who helped make this weekend possible.
By Nadja Pitter, a Misereor-volunteer in Malawi 2018/19