Ende Gelände: Here and no further
10 November 2017
‘Ende Gelände’ or ‘Here and no further’ were the words chanted by over 4500 activists in the days directly preceding the UN’s climate negotiations now taking place in Bonn in Germany. They marched through the small town of Elsdorf next to Europe’s largest lignite coal mine and planned to shut the mine down. Many residents waved out of their windows to the mile-long rally, just 60km away from Bonn.
Once out of the village and nearing the mine, the snake of activists wearing the civil disobedience group Ende Gelände’s iconic white boiler suits, diverged into several ‘fingers’. Photo credit: Anoushka Carter
Ende Gelände is a German phrase which gives its name to these demonstrations against Germany’s dirty secret and Europe’s largest hole in the ground: a coal mine 85 kilometers wide and 400 meters deep. At the front of the march were groups, alliances, and delegates including the It Takes Roots alliance, the Indigenous Environmental Network, and La Via Campesina all of whom have poignant testimonies about how climate change is affecting their ability to grow food as peasant and small-scale farmers.
Delegate from La Via Campesina, Mali speaking on behalf of peasant farmers during the occupation of the coal mine. Photo credit: Anoushka Carter
Treehouses in Hambach Forest. Photo Credit: Max Juan-Balch
The Hambach lignite open-coal mine; Europe’s largest hole. Photo credit: Line Skov
An Ende Gelande activist. Photo credit: Line Skov
This mine is a hole in a physical sense, but it also stands as a gigantic crack in Germany’s pretense of being a leader in addressing climate change. Over 40% of Germany’s electricity production comes from coal and about half of that from the dirtiest type, brown coal.
Germany is nowhere near reaching its target of cutting emissions by 40% by 2020. Emissions in Germany have remained virtually unchanged since 2009. Ende Gelände is part of an expanding ‘Blockadia’ movement that reclaims the spaces where fossil fuels are produced to demand that countries meet their responsibilities as signatories of the Paris Accord. People are travelling to march and occupy in solidarity with those who are exploited worldwide by fossil fuel extraction projects.
Banner in the Hambach forest
Not here, not anywhere: a solidarity movement
At the People’s Climate Summit (PCS), a counter conference to the UN negotiations, a delegate from WoMin- an African feminist movement against the violence of natural resource extraction- spoke of how environmental protectors in the Philippines are demonised and vilified by the state when they resist against large mining projects in their communities. This type of narrative features significantly in North and South America where water protectors are resisting against the construction of oil pipelines. A recent Global Witness report shows that 2016 was the deadliest year for activists defending the environment, with 200 people murdered for speaking out against extractive projects.
Ende Gelände is part of a movement which maintains that we must shut down coal mines, other dirty fuel extraction projects, and all exploitative energy projects, wherever they may be. We must speak directly to power by going to its source.
Photo credit: Line Skov
The process of shutting down coal mines must also emphasise the interconnectedness of campaigns against fossil fuels. As Ruth Nyambura, an activist from Kenya stated in a workshop at the PCS: “We cannot just say: you will not do that here…” we have to make our movements entrenched in solidarity by saying: “Not here, and not anywhere!”
Workshop led by WoMin, La Via Campesina, and the Gaia Foundation at the People's Climate Summit
A struggle for liberation
Marking the beginning of the climate negotiations with civil disobedience was crucial. At the PSC, a member of the Climate Liberation Bloc in the Netherlands spoke out about what Ende Gelände represents: “What good is it if you have only freed just one limb? We need our whole bodies. We cannot just think peaceful thoughts, that is not how the system of power is set up. Fossil fuels have always been a tool for exploitation and oppression… When the law supports injustice, resistance becomes duty. We say to the state who try to repress our activity: ‘We defend justice, you defend crime.’”
Activists shut down an excavator in the Hambach coal mine. Photo credit: Line Skov
European nations will remain climate criminals if they continue to extract and use fossil fuels at the rate they do. Ende Gelände activists are demanding liberation from climate change through system change. The fight against coal and all other fossil fuels is one of liberation. It is liberation for those oppressed by the colonial nature of fossil fuel extraction and liberation from the current economic model that treats nature as a commodity.
We need to transition rapidly to an energy system that is democratic and decentralised and one which functions to serve the many and not just profit the few. The future of our climate is non-negotiable. In the words of the Pacific Climate Warriors: “We are not drowning, we are fighting!”
Anoushka Carter is a Global Justice Now activist, she's been part of the youth network group in Falmouth and is now in Bonn for the UN climate negotiations where she is meeting other activists, reporting on what is happening out there and taking part in the movement for climate justice.