Police action against an activist in Lützerath
Photo: Sebastian Mölleken
Police officers tearing human chains apart.
Stones and a Molotov cocktail flying in the direction of the emergency services.
The hamlet of Lützerath is to be demolished in favor of lignite mining.
Climate activists have occupied the site in protest and the police are clearing it.
From the perspective of the emergency services, the action is apparently taking place more gently than expected.
The images of the operation are nevertheless fatal.
Not only because they show chaos and violence.
But also because they once again present climate activists and the state as antagonists.
The demolition of Lützerath has been decided for a long time.
It is part of a deal between the federal government, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the energy company RWE.
The group is allowed to excavate Lützerath in order to develop the coal reserves below.
To this end, RWE has agreed to bring forward the phase-out of coal in the Rhineland by eight years to 2030.
RWE justified the need for the demolition primarily with the increased demand for lignite in the coming years.
However, there are reports that come to different conclusions.
According to a study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), it is no longer necessary to clear other villages to meet demand.
The data situation is therefore unclear.
RWE is still sticking to the eviction.
The hamlet thus stands for a policy that seems to focus more on the interests of industry than the concerns of many citizens, especially the younger ones.
This is also why the symbolic power of Lützerath is so great.
The failure of climate protection in politics and business is seldom as concrete as in this place.
The activists fight for goals that a large part of society has long since rallied behind.
According to a survey by the Federal Environment Agency, two thirds of those questioned consider the environment and climate protection to be very important issues.
Of course one can rightly criticize the methods of some protesters.
Throwing stones and Molotov cocktails in Lützerath is not peaceful activism.
Anyone who proceeds in this way not only endangers people, but also risks that the how of one's own protest drowns out the why.
But the often uncomprehending reactions of politicians to the climate protests are just as wrong.
Instead of understanding demands for more climate protection as a momentum, politicians have recently turned a deaf ear.
Instead of seriously asking why groups like the "Last Generation" resort to radical means, she met them with resistance and harshness.
Politicians are thus caught up in a misconception.
She believes that increasing the cost of protesting through fines or preventive detention while minimizing the benefits by ignoring the demands solves the problem.
"Don't let yourself be blackmailed," that's what politicians say.
But with this defensive attitude, the state is fueling the protests, it is actually radicalizing them.
Sticking to the sometimes massive penalties for protesters is like trying to fight fire with fire.
This deterrent will not work.
For most activists, the personal cost will always seem insignificant compared to the cost of the climate crisis.
"It's not about us, it's about a change," said Henning Jeschke, a co-founder of the "Last Generation," recently in an interview.
The way politicians have dealt with the climate protests so far can therefore only end in two ways, both of which are problematic: either the protests intensify and the rifts become even deeper.
Or they stop altogether because the activists give up, because they feel they are not achieving anything.
From a democratic point of view, this option would probably be even more fatal.
Because at its core, a large part of climate activism is a believer in the state, and the protests are always an appeal to politicians.
Hiring them would mean that a group of mostly young people have lost hope of being heard by the state.
Protest turns into disenchantment.
That's why the pictures from Lützerath are so problematic.
It seems as if the state there is defending yesterday against tomorrow with excavators and the police.
As if activists and the state were enemies fighting for different sides.
The opposite is the case: climate protectors are calling for goals that politicians have long been committed to, for example in the Paris Agreement or in their own federal climate protection law.
Resolving the conflict and removing the basis for the protests would not be difficult at all.
The state would neither have to fend off nor punish them.
He would just have to finally start demonstrably to keep his own climate promises.