Hidden away in the rural idyll of Lausitz, on the German-Polish border a global fight unfolded this weekend.
On Saturday ‘standing together’ took on a whole new meaning, as over 7500 activists from across 27 countries came together, stood shoulder to shoulder and linked hands in a human chain calling for an end of coal expansion in Europe.
Connecting two historic villages threatened by this expansion – Kerwitz in German and Gabice in Poland – the thousands of protesters crossed roads, fields and even the Neisse River that divides the two countries.
It was a stand that they were forced to make as more than 6,000 people risk being forced out of their homes by two huge new lignite mines proposed by utilities Vattenfall and PGE.
Each mine would be the size of Manhattan and anything standing in its way would be razed to the ground.
Described by the New Scientist as “a nightmare fuel” because of its high carbon footprint, this week’s protesters took their local fight global, as people from across Europe joined to draw a line in the sand.
Their message was clear: coal has no future in the world is we are committed to tackling climate change.
Video: Greenpeace Germany at the Human Chain protest
And traveling from miles around protesters got a chance to see the true destruction already inflicted on the Lausitz landscape by its existing coal mines from their bus windows.
Met off their buses with a pop up kitchen serving soup, tea and traditional German music, however, the atmosphere soon changed and later, as they were waited for the final links of the chain to come together, protesters were kept sustained by homemade cakes passed down the line by locals – a stark contrast to the desolation caused by Vattenfall’s mines.
Holding banners and balloons reading “Future instead of brown coal” and similar messages in multiple languages, the chain stretched on for miles.
And as protesters of all ages – from the very old to the very young – sung and danced you could almost forget the devastating reason why so many people had some together on the German-Polish border on a sunny Saturday in August.
But with NGO group members – including Greenpeace, WWF, and Friends of the Earth – intertwined with the local residents fearing for their future, what is at stake was clear.
The latest battleground for a clean vs dirty energy and for the past vs. the future, this week’s protests were about two 700-year-old towns, the 6,000 residents that live there, their livelihoods and their unique cultures.
But is was also about Europe’s role in fighting climate change, and bigger than that it was an international stand against those leaders who remain shackled to dirty interests at the expense of their citizens.
Exactly a month before world leaders meet in New York for the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit, it was a global call to governments to support climate solutions with “Action Not Words”.