The home and the climate

The small village of Lützerath rarely had more than 100 inhabitants. Nevertheless, it has become internationally known and a symbol for climate activists. In the Rhenish lignite region, Lützerath is probably the last of several hundred places to fall victim to lignite excavators and the hunger for energy.

Der Ort Lützerath besteht aus sieben Häusern / © Foto: Georg Berg
The village of Lützerath consists of seven houses / © Photo: Georg Berg

While in other places the protest and sympathy was mainly for the inhabitants who had to forcibly give up their homes, now it is the climate. That fossil fuels have always been harmful to the climate was somehow clear, just not in the foreground in earlier protests.

Hängematte über der Spülstraße im Hüttendorf / © Foto: Georg Berg
Hammock above the rinse line in the hut village / © Photo: Georg Berg

The squatters of Lützerath also made themselves at home in their camp. The self-built huts and communal facilities in this settlement bear witness to this. All those who came here were able to participate in the realization of this idea: Lützerath seals a thick layer of lignite underneath it, which must not be burned. Because this is the only way to meet the climate target.

Polizisten versuchen, einen Klimaaktivisten aus einem Autowrack zu entfernen, in dem er sich zusammen mit einem Kanaldeckel festgeklebt hat. Das Autowrack ist mit einem stabilen Pfeiler als Barrikade auf einer Zufahrtsstraße nach Lützerath fixiert / © Foto: Georg Berg
Police officers try to remove a climate activist from a wrecked car in which he is stuck together with a manhole cover. The wrecked car is fixed with a stable pillar as a barricade on an access road to Lützerath / © Photo: Georg Berg

For all its determination, the resistance remains non-violent. Those who are here do not leave voluntarily but cause delays with a lot of creativity. The more elaborate the operation is and the longer it lasts, the more the question arises whether the political compromise is worth this price.

Auch wenn man auf der anderen Seite steht, kann man über Klimaziele durchaus einer Meinung sein / © Foto: Georg Berg
Even if you are on the other side, you can still agree on climate goals / © Photo: Georg Berg

For the most part, the activists’ conversations with the police officers involved are matter-of-fact. “I’m taking all this on myself for your kids, too.” The exchange of ideas that follows such statements makes many a police officer think.

Hoffnungsträger am Abgrund / © Foto: Georg Berg
Hopefuls on the brink / © Photo: Georg Berg

Only in places like Lützerath can you try to really understand some problems.

Activity against resignation

Seven years earlier, in the neighboring village of Borschemich, the situation was quite different.

Blick von Lützerath in die Grube des Braunkohe-Tagebaus Gartzweiler II. Dort stand noch vor wenigen Jahren Borschemich, das Nachbardorf von Lützerath / © Foto: Georg Berg
View from Lützerath into the pit of the Garzweiler II open pit lignite mine, where Borschemich, the neighboring village of Lützerath, stood just a few years ago / © Photo: Georg Berg

At the edge of the pit near Lützerath, there is a wide view of the open pit lignite mine. Where now the huge hole yawns, there were many villages whose inhabitants were resettled. Where the big excavator now stands, the former inhabitants of Borschemich, who have since scattered to build a new home, met on February 27, 2016. They had arranged to meet at the old village square to cut down the old village lime tree themselves.

Gruppenbild / © Foto: Georg Berg
Last reunion in the abandoned village of Borschemich / © Photo: Georg Berg

All the former villagers had to endure their own loss due to the relocation. Together, however, they did not want to leave the old lime tree, with which everyone had something pleasant in common, to be heartlessly destroyed by RWE. They met over soup and beer, exchanged memories and in the end one or the other took a piece of the old lime tree with them to their new home. The village trutz is felled.

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