In Germany, Lützerath, last village before the mine

In Germany, Lützerath, last village before the mine

Alma, the climate activist accompanying us, climbed first. The wooden ladder is steep and rickety, the first floor is 4 meters high. To climb to the “Tower”, a wooden construction that sits in the middle of the camp, it is better to be light and not suffer too much from vertigo. From up there, about fifteen meters above the ground, cables are stretched in all directions, towards other huts hanging from the trees.

Alma, a French activist, has lived in Lützerath (Germany) since 2020.

These are escape routes. Or “air bridges”, in the jargon of the camp. The day the police arrive to evacuate it by force, to make way for the coal mine, climate activists will be perched in the treetops. And they will slide from hut to hut, clinging to their harnesses, along the cables. Until the last tree falls. “We don’t know when the police will come, Alma said. Maybe in a month, maybe next year. We are ready. We will not move. »

Welcome to Lützerath, the last hamlet before the 3,200 hectare Garzweiler open pit coal mine in North Rhine-Westphalia. For two years, “Lützi” has become a symbol of the climate movement in Germany. To block the advance of the mine, activists – between 50 and 100 people, depending on the season – permanently occupy the village. They set up camp on the land of Eckardt Heukamp, ​​the last farmer to refuse to leave the fertile lands of his parents. At the end of September, after a long battle, the courts finally authorized the transfer of ownership of his farm to the energy company RWE. For Lützerath, the end is near. On November 10, the group specified that the evacuation of the village must occur ” this winter “.

In this region, local residents have been living for decades with the advance of the mine. RWE digs the ground several tens of meters deep to extract lignite, a coal that emits a lot of CO2, intended to produce electricity. Usually, when a village is on the route of the mine, the company buys the land from the inhabitants, relocates them to new housing estates, transfers the cemeteries, then shaves the constructions and the vegetation, before moving the excavators forward. Dozens of villages have thus disappeared since the beginning of the exploitation of the Rhine mining basin, which has several mines the size of Garzweiler, many of which have been revegetated.

Lunar landscape

The energy company is a major economic player in this rich and industrialized region. On October 4, RWE announced the signing of a historic agreement with regional Green politicians and the Federal Minister for the Economy and Climate, environmentalist Robert Habeck: the company has committed to definitively cease the exploitation of Rhine coal in 2030, and no longer in 2038, as originally planned. According to RWE and the Greens, 280 million tonnes of coal will thus remain underground. And the last villages that were destined for destruction will be preserved. All but one: Lützerath.

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