Lützerath is still alive

Lützerath, RWE, Braunkohleabbau, Klimaaktivismus

For almost two years, activists have been occupying Lützerath to prevent the advancement of brown coal mining by energy group RWE. In the beginning of January 2023, this occupation is supposed to be cleared illegally by the police. Our author provides an overview of the „Lützerath lebt“ (English: “Lützerath is alive“) initiative in the context of climate activism in Germany.

What is Lützerath?

In North Rhine-Westphalia the RWE-Power group operates the open pit mine Garzweiler. Even though the German government made the commitment to completely phase out coal as a fossil energy source, RWE continues to mine 280 million tons of brown coal in the following years and destroys whole villages in the process, Lützerath being one of them. In 2006 the forced relocation of the villagers began. In 2020 RWE startet the destruction of the houses in Lützerath, as well as clearing the environment. Farmer Eckart Heukamp started his lawsuit against the destruction of his property in the name of fossil industries in 2021. He was supported by the activists occupying Lützerath who also too a stand against the climate crisis. This occupation is supposed to be illegally cleared in the beginning of January 2003. RWE is the biggest Co2 polluter in Europe. Only when Lützerath lives, when we break the power of the fossil energy groups, we live. 

And the government?

Since the 2021 elections, Germany is governed by the so called Ampel-Regierung (English: traffic-light government, because of the parties colours), consisting of “SDP“, “FDP“ and “die Grünen“.  In their coalition agreement, you can read – in very muddled wording – about the switch to renewable energy sources, that will “ideally“ happen.

There’s hardly any discussion of the concrete steps necessary to accomplish the declared goal of a maximum global warming of 1.5 degrees. Instead, RWE is allowed to keep digging and – blessed by the government – mine everything the soil under Lützerath has to offer to then burn it. After over a year of a supposed green government it’s obvious once again: Politics is too slow!

Lützerath lebt!

The initiative “Lützerath lebt“ or “Lützi bleibt“ (English: Lützi stays) evolved from a vigil in 2020. The Vigil was registered right after an important road was destroyed by RWE. Ever since then, people are occupying the remaining houses of the villages in the name of the global fight for climate justice. On their website, the activists write about the importance of joining forces with other fights, especially by MAPA-activists (Most Affected People and Areas) and showing solidarity with people in the global south who are already experiencing the drastic consequences of the climate crisis. 

As one of the countries with the highest per-capita Co2 emissions, Germany carries the responsibility towards future generations, as well as the countries and people whose livelihoods are destroyed by the capitalist economy.
Thats why more and more young people take to the streets, get organised, get connected educate each other. They desperately fight for a future worth living, because the “grown ups“ won’t.

Picture: Markus Spiske

Fridays For Future

In 2018 Greta Thunbergs weekly strikes sparked a global movement. Under the label “Fridays for Future“ mostly students started protesting against the idle government, always looking towards the next tipping point threatening all of our lives. Always looking towards the suffering that fossil capitalism already causes in the global south. 

Called truants in the beginning, mockingly, outraged, the movement started gaining acceptance in the mainstream. Not eligible yet to vote, children and teenagers fought for their political participation and became an ongoing presence in German media. Their power is an emotional one: Mom, I’m scared, Dad, there’s no future, there can’t be a future if you don’t do everything in your power to stop this. Grandma, Grandpa, aunt and uncle: Help us. Now. 

Picture: Lukas Stratmann

Ende Gelände

Since the first mass occupation of the RWE mines in Lützerath in 2015, people all over Europe get together under the name “Ende Gelände“ ( a German expression meaning STOP), to stop the progressing climate crises with direct actions of civil disobedience. Ende Geländes main strength is the high number of participants.
Thousands of people get together in organised action trainings to prepare for blockages of Key places of the climate catastrophe. This includes dealing with repressions by the state and the police and educational workshops about your own privileges and responsibilities on a global level. Fossil capitalism, promising infinite growth based on limited resources is criticised: “System Change, Not Climate Change“

Picture: Letzte Generation

Letzte Generation

In August of 2021 seven young people aged 18 to 27 went on hunger strike. For maximum publicity, they did this in a camp in front of the Bundestag. Their demands included public conversations with the candidates for chancellor, as well as the convening of a citizens council considering immediate actions against the climate crisis. When none of the demands were met after twenty days of hunger strike, some activists went on a dry hunger strike.
The „Hungerstreik der letzten Generation“ (English: hunger strike of the last generation) turned in to the last generation alliance. Again, there are clear demands, that the Ampel-Regierung blocks:

Wholesale food distributors should be obliged to donate food instead of throwing it away. Fossil infrastructure, meaning lignite, natural gas and oil should no longer be government- funded. Instead, there should be investments into renewable energy sources, as well as measures to reduce energy consumption such as  better thermal insulation.
Since the fall of 2022 the Last Generation demands the reintroduction of the 9€-ticket and a speed limit of 100km/h on German highways, to drive the mobility revolution forward. 

The forms of action of the Last Generation vary. They give away saved food, block access to and turn off pipelines and, since the beginning of 2022 the occupation of highway accesses. Especially the highway occupations gathered a lot of media attention. During these sit-ins the activists don’t hide their faces. They look right into the cameras, with tears in their eyes and firm voices. They talk about their daily lives that they put on hold to fight this fight for a future worth living. They suffer repression and imprisonment by the German state to draw the attention of mainstream society towards the crises surrounding us. 

In May 2022, the activists of the „Letzte Generation“ occupied the Audimax of the University of Hamburg. You can read our article about the occupation here.

Picture: Instagram: @jensokuenstler

End Fossil

As „End Fossil“ young people in Germany are organised since October 2022. Together they occupy schools and universities. They are in support of “Lützi bleibt“ and demand a socialisation of energy companies longterm. Like the „Last Generation“ they want the 9€-ticket to be continued. They state: “We believe, that every group of our society, wherever they can should mobilise for a mass movement of climate justice. To accomplish our goal we’ll use the spaces we have – schools and universities – to organise this change in history. We’ll use occupations as a way to fight for our present and future. This is only possible if we stop using fossil fuels.“

End Fossil is an international movement. Activists from more and more countries occupy their places of education. Schools and universities have always been places of societal development. Political opposition has to start, where this development stagnates. And right now this opposition is gaining momentum.

Within existing structures

While the fights for climate justice work towards radical societal change as an end goal, the existing structures can also be used to further progress these fights. Food supply and donations allow people to prioritise their political activism over contract work and enables them to uphold the occupations for longer. Expressions of solidarity, taking a clear stand in conversations, regularly participating in demonstrations and rallies strengthen the movement and motivate more people to participate politically. On the website of “Lützerath Lebt“ everyone can order material for information campaigns, or download and print it themselves to mobilise on a local level. 

And even though the government acts too little, too slowly, it’s worth it to put pressure on politicians from within the system. Local politicians have telephone numbers, have E-Mail addresses, have an interest in keeping their voters. Petitions force the government to discuss certain topics. To use possibilities of (legal) participation, to bring your  own thoughts and opinions to the table is a prerequisite for a system change. A solidarity based approach to people who suffer from homelessness and poverty by offering direct help is anticapitalist praxis. 

Creating new structures

Alongside that new structures continue to be created. A KüfA (English: kitchen for everyone) is a space, where food is prepared for many people, who come and eat together, usually for a small donation, if you’re able to. Anarchist spaces, occupations, housing projects offer the opportunity to get organised and connect with each other.

Different ideas of lived solidarity are discussed again and again. An important part of that is education: Reading political theory together, organising and participating in workshops around anti-racism, global fights, consent.
The question, how we – now and in the future- want to live as a society is an important basis:  Fossil capitalism has an expiration date. Infinite growth with finite resources is impossible. We have to think now, how a future society should look like. 

Lützerath NOW

A clearance of the occupation in Lützerath is expected in the beginning of January 2003. The legal basis, according to the state is the “danger to energy security“. Studies show, that this is not factual, because the lignite that could be mined is not relevant to energy supply in the near future. Therefore the clearance is not legal, experts for climate law are preparing lawsuits.
To actively participate in the occupation and show support, it’s recommended to arrive before January 10. On the 14th of January, a national-scale demonstration is happening in Lützerath. In Hamburg, there’ll also be a strike the day before.

So: Show solidarity! See you in Lützerath.