Lützerath and the climate movement: More than an abandoned village

In Lützerath, the hope is leveled that the climate crisis can be solved with compromises. The eviction will change the way we think about politics.

Police officers evacuate a demonstrator

More than just a symbol: evacuation in Lützerath Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa

At the beginning of October stood again a stupid comment in this newspaper. The author claimed that the climate movement was making a mistake. In Lützerath, you cling to a place where nobody but the activists themselves can recognize a symbol.

The comment was from me. And I was obviously wrong. Because the outcry about the eviction is great. Internationally, the finger is pointed at Germany, which will have villages cleared for coal mining in 2023. And in this country, too, the outrage does not only come from the usual suspects. Why is that?

Lützerath is not just symbolic, as I claimed, but is built on brown coal in a very material way. Of course it is an exaggeration that this is exactly where the 1-5 degree limit is. But the escalation works. It shows the urgency that fossil life must not wait until 2030 to end, but that we must exit lignite immediately. Lützerath may only be a small hamlet, but the Rhenish lignite mining area is the largest source of CO2 in Europe.

Lignite is formed, geologically speaking, when dead plants are compacted under high pressure and in the absence of air. That happened in Lützerath many millions of years ago. Today, the political contradictions of the climate crisis are intensifying in the village.

Hope is leveled

Something is breaking in Lützerath that is bigger than a few old buildings. There is more than the bodies of squatters and police officers colliding here. There are two fundamentally different conceptions of politics.

In Lützerath, the hope is leveled that the climate crisis can be solved with compromises that hurt nobody – neither the activists nor the business interests of companies. The compromise that RWE has the right to dig up lignite and that phasing out coal in six years’ time will still be a success has been exposed as lazy.

Not only the Greens, but all parties stand for compromises with the climate crisis. The majority of society daydream and ignore the obvious. “Don’t be afraid,” said Annalena Baerbock in 2020, the “climate revolution” would be “about as crazy as a home loan and savings contract”. Lützerath shows that this is not true.

If the path of compromise has failed, the question arises: What is the alternative? Is there a majority for radical climate protection, also against the interests of RWE and millions of drivers? For a much faster phase-out of coal, whatever the cost?

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So far, no one has an answer, not even the climate movement. For them, the fight for the village is also a sign of their helplessness. She tried to influence the federal government with large demonstrations. Now she is thrown back to a few activists defending a place in tree houses.

that now Luisa Neubauerwho has organized demonstrations with more than a million participants and was invited to the Chancellery, believes that she must stop government policy with a sit-in, showing the crossroads the movement is at.

Invitations to the Chancellery and to talk shows have done little for the movement. Now she must try to enforce climate protection with power, not with arguments. In trade unions and parties it is not strong enough to build its own power.

It is too early to classify Lützerath historically. But the eviction will permanently change the climate movement and our idea of ​​politics in the climate crisis. I think I’m not wrong about that this time.

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