In the past months, the world seems to have changed. More than once I thought: „Wow, I could not have imagined this happening a year ago.“ Most recently: Germany’s vote in the EU elections. Some media commentators think that climate protection was the issue that made all the difference for the German vote in the EU election. 2019 seems to be the dawn of the times of change.
About 1.5 years ago, in September 2017, the German national elections of the Bundestag went largely without the mentioning of global heating, extinction of biodiversity and the climate crisis. I remember the days after the election when media asked selected interest groups for their opinion on the results. Again climate and environment were no topics at all. The only time I heard the term “climate” was in a statement from the green party who said they would form a governmental coalition only with a party that was serious about climate protection. Obviously they went in opposition later.
The media-selected interest groups included: unions, employer associations and churches. No environmental organization. No youth representatives. No climate researcher. As if all that mattered in a world on the brink of ecological collapse were money and employment (partly in bullshit jobs).
Carbon Pricing: Now National Topic
Another astonishing change is the carbon price that has been discussed largely in media and society in the past weeks. Both, last year around this time and very recently, I talked to members of the German Bundestag about carbon pricing. While last year it seemed that our topic was quite exotic, this year we didn’t need to explain it much. Except maybe the difference between tax and price. And the idea of re-imbursement to people. Even prime time talk shows debated this issue, like Anne Will. Unthinkable last year.
Heat and Draught Sparked Change
The big heat set in around this time last year. Nobody knew yet that the high temperatures in Europe would stay for the whole summer and only drop in October. Since then, two world-wide protest groups have formed: Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future. The latter with students taking to the streets every Friday, skipping school and university classes. Many support groups have formed like Scientists for Future, Parents for Future, Teachers for Future and the like.
Rebellion Against Extinction
Extinction Rebellion announced a Declaration of Rebellion again the UK Government last October. The movement has now spread to other parts of the world. Young people fight against the extinction of human kind and of biodiversity. The first international rebellion week in April saw protests and speeches in the governmental quarters of Berlin. A bridge in Berlin was blocked and evicted by police (peaceful for a change). Activists “died” in public spaces like a super market and a mall. Still today there are gathering and actions of extinction rebellion in Berlin almost every day. The movement is growing rapidly.
Last but not least the interest of the public in the proceedings in Hambach Forest remains high. One year ago, only few people had heard of the forest that was supposed to be logged to expand one of Europe’s largest open-cast lignite mines. Laste September the local government (of the state of NRW) sent brutal police forces to help fossil fuel giant RWE evict the forest and cut hundreds of trees. The story even made it to the New York Times. People from around the world sent solidarity pictures via social media. Even from places as far away as Buthan or the small island states in the Pacific. Since then the world has an eye on the forest. Research institutions analyze the social dynamics of the movement. Wherever I go I meet people who have been to the forest at least once.
Solidarity among Activists spans the Globe
Solidarity among climate and environmental activist groups is high. Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, Ende Gelände, Free the Soil and many others refer to each other during their actions and support each other. I found a lot of sympathy and support for these organizations also among the ecovillages and communities I visited recently. Global cooperation between movements in rising. Looks like the European heat wave in 2018 woke many people up. The climate crisis is now an issue. Finally!
Threats in Times of Change
Despite these very positive developemts, some recent changes are very critical for the future of mankind: the past elections, both on German and EU level showed a worrying increase in the extreme right party AfD (Alternative for Germany). To name only one of many very problematic ideas of that party: They deny climate sciences and think an appropriate solution for global heating is to ask the sun to be less hot. Yes, really: We find ourselves in the year 2019 with students on school strike who know more about climate science than old politicians who are paid to represent the intersts of people who elected them.
Federal Courts against Civil Society
Furthermore, Germany’s highest financial court, the German Federal Court of Auditors (Bundesrechnungshof) ultimately renounced the tax-exemption status of the NGO Attac in February 2019. The organization that originated in France, and initially demanding a capital transaction tax is now active in many countries and critizises neo-liberal globalization. On the agenda are, for example, fair trade, ecology, basic income, democracy and solidarity as well as the criticism of consumption and corporations. The court now claimed that the actions of Attac were not in the public interest (gemeinnützig), which is a pre-condition for the tax-exemption status in Germany. Attac is now prone to financial difficulties which, consequently, make it more difficult for the organization to operate. This verdict is a blow in the face of many civil society actors in Germany and unworthy of a nation that urges other governments to follow the path of democracy.
Carbon Neutral Life
We are in times of turmoil. However, the recent developments with climate and environmental topics advancing in the agendas to more important positions, gives me hope to master the probably most difficult transition in human history: we have to create a carbon neutral world society by the year 2050 (preferably earlier) to avoid irreversible global heating and a self-perpetuating hot earth. We will have spent our remaining carbon budget in less than 9 years if we continue business as usual. After that we will have reached the point of no return. The world we once knew will then be no more. But if the speed of change remains as high as we have seen it over the past months we can make it!
How is the situation in your country? Is climate change an issue? Is society changing? What can we do to foster positive transformation? I invite you to write your ideas and comments in the box below.