“In August, Ende Gelaende posed as the biggest action of civil disobedience in the climate movement so far. 1.500 people occupied the open-cast coal mine Garzweiler. Many people took part in such an action for the very first time. Despite the police and RWE using extreme violence and threats of repression, we didn’t let them stop us and made the coal excavators stand still. Also, Ende Gelaende helped the paradox of climate protection and coal mining to be covered by German media. For many this has been a demanding, but encouraging experience that creates an appetite for more!”
Here is a little experience from one of us in Garzweiler, Germany.
“Just a few months ago I was really enjoying very spicy cooking during the Barcelona/Cerbère summer school2. So what happened since then?
In August, I was showered with pepper spray during a big non-violent action against open-pit mines in Germany. That is what we received as a response to our action against this most extreme form of extractivism that occurs in Germany: lignite open-pits used for electricity production. This type of mining is the most obvious demonstration that growth is materially manifested. . It competes in its disastrous effects on the environment with nuclear energy (which has completely different impacts). Perhaps to remind ourselves that resource exploitation is also about human oppression, we decided to do an action against this enormous mine, Tagebau Garzweiler, which is 12 km wide and almost 100m deep. It is not the only hole like that in the Ruhr area. These mines are extreme cases of humans showing off their ability to transform forests and fertile lands into desert holes–and the most extreme justification for degrowth. The extraction is done by these enormous baggers, which fill 2,400 train wagons per day and replace the work of 55,000 hand-workers (although it is operated by 5 people). Needless to say: with these types of machines, the capacity that we have to destroy land and exploit resources increases tremendously especially when all other limits are imposed by governments that do not want to disturb the way of living that they find comfortable, even if it challenges the conditions for life support. It is not only a question of climate change, it is also a question of pollution, respect of land, ecosystems and people, accepting that we do not control everything. Villages become ghostly and destroyed by the progression of these enormous baggers.
In front of this mine, with 1000 people trying to enter the mine in a peaceful way, we need to acknowledge the incredible power of active non-violence. We walked inside all together and we received violence by the police, as we passed and we walked directly inside. We gathered the attention of the police. We went inside with determination, there were three lines of police and we managed to pass. Several people got arrested already but we managed to continue. The police chains could not stand. Police had two things in their hands: big sticks and pepper sprays. I managed to close my eyes before the first pepper spray. A kind of police tank appeared and we decided to go around through the fields, we went down in the mine, and we could really see the deep cooperation between the police and the company RWE. The cars of the company full of robocops were used to pass us and block us further. We arrived in this mine which, in Mad Max fashion, was populated by two groups working together to defend the mad excavators and their prominent business. We could see before us these neoliberal adepts supported by “big brother” state powers. We continued followed by an army of trucks, and we ran through two more police chains. During what seemed like an incredibly long time, a police officer ran after me while spraying me over and over. He did not catch me because he was a bit slow with all his equipment, but he was able to give me a little shower. I was hit on my head, but when was that? I felt like I was going to faint. The last policeman was far behind, but the next police chain was in front of me–in my state I could only surrender. At this point a policeman decided that I was very dangerous and that he had to twist my arms as much as possible, attach my wrists so that it hurt as much as possible by cutting blood circulation, and leave me in the sun with pepper spray burning my skin. So it was a little torturous. After that I could not move, could not open my eyes, my cries for help had no effect. Two people arrested were bloody and transported to the hospital. We dared to challenge this insane mining and we had to be punished?
A woman allowed me to lie in her shadow. At this point the police became a bit worried, I really could not move, the plastic tights were blocking my blood circulation. But the police changed their behaviour, they decided to untie my hands and after recovering I could spend the rest of the day helping the rest of the group. Four other groups of around 200 people also had entered the mine, and we managed to block work for one day. The action demonstrated that non-violent direct action is amazing. When they are violent against non-violent ones, they lose.
This was happening in the follow-up of the German summer school on degrowth. And I think that it initiates a beautiful try out to combine climate camps with degrowth. This is diversified degrowth: coordinating and confronting different approaches.
There Is No Alternative… to degrowth, and the camp showed that it can allow us to live simply in a
multitude of ways (which is difficult in this growth society).