|Germany's largest open pit coal mine in the Hambach Forest; that white dot by the digger machine is a monster pickup truck.|
We started our trip at the Manifesta Biennial in Genk, Belgium, a green, historic coal mining region where the only hills are grassy slag heaps from the mines. The art show is in a giant abandoned building that used to house administration, equipment and locker/shower facilities for 4200 miners. Although we saw two coal-fired power plants on the horizon, over the last 40 years all the mines in the region have been shutting down. We were told, "It's cheaper to buy coal from China."
|"The True Cost of Coal" at Manifesta 9 in the closed André Dumont mine, Genk, Belgium|
|Light installation in old miners' transport tunnels|
|Climate Camp in downtown Zurich|
(More photos of Belgium and Zurich)
After Zurich we went to Freiburg and then did a number of events in the Cologne area near the Hambach Forest, as well as in the protest camp itself. The camp is a ten-minute walk from the edge of the mine pit, in an area scheduled for destruction within the year. To see the mine, you walk through a lovely, shady, relatively diverse forest full of singing birds, bees, dragonflies etc. Then you hit the clearcut and it's suddenly sunny and you're picking your way across an obstacle course of dead brush and trees. Then a little further on you hit big ridges of loose dirt. After climbing and sliding down a few of those you're looking over the edge down at skycraper-sized machines, sand, and a layer of thick coal, 300 meters down the hole. When they're finished digging, they promise, they'll turn it into Germany's largest lake.
|An old treestump in Hambach Forest|
|Lilies in a forest wetland|
|Clearcut at the mine's edge; coal-fired power plant in the distance|
|Three of the many diggers in the mine pit|
At the camp storytelling, and in the closest town, it was inspiring to be sitting in a big circle with scruffy direct-action squatters in earnest conversation with longtime locals who are concerned they'll be displaced as the mine continues to expand. (They took the parachuter scene as a starting point! Hurrah!)
Next we headed to East Germany to visit Leipzig and Cottbus, another old coal-mining region, then Berlin and Hamburg, then Amsterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands and DONE!
(More pictures) (And yet more pictures)
Unlike in the U.S., even energy companies admit climate change is happening, and that human industry is responsible. The Industrial Revolution is relatively recent and familiar history. (Theft of indigenous lands for resource extraction, on the other hand, is something that happened Over There.) In the countries we visited, coal mining happens in densely-populated areas in plain view, so companies have to work harder to convince people it's a good thing. But the tools of economic coercion and government complicity work there as well as here.
Our attempts to draw "solutions" in the far right of the poster are somewhat simplistic compared to the efforts already underway in some European countries--wind power cooperatives, for example. Utrecht, we're told, is constructing an underground parking garage next to its central train station, designed to hold 20,000 bikes. Amsterdam seems to have more bicycles than people. On the other hand, the Netherlands still gets a big chunk of its electricity from coal, and the gigantic port at the Hook of Holland is a major coal terminal for the rest of Europe.
|Double decker bike parking in Utrecht, Netherlands|
Speaking of, help spread the word! This summer, we know of three Climate Camps in Europe-- gathering places for skillshares, dialogue and action to stop climate change.
July 12-18: Take Back the Land: Douglas Valley action camp (Scotland)
Aug. 3-12: Klimacamp in the Hambach Forest (West Germany)
Aug. 11-18: Klimacamp near Cottbus (East Germany) >