Thursday, June 19, 2008
Stop the Madness - Stop Coal Mining
This picture from Google Earth shows Garzweiler, Europe's largest open cut coal mine. It is a deeply personal image for me. My forebearers came from the villages that lie in the path of a giant monster, set to destroy centuries of German history and architecture.
During my last trip to Germany, I went to visit my grandfather's birthplace. It is still beautiful. A quiet rural village in the heart of some of the best farmland Germany has to offer. Lush green meadows, rich paddocks. One would think that in times of climate change and a growing food crisis, all would rush to stop any further coal mining and the destruction of this beautiful and productive area.
Several of the buildings you see here are centuries old. They will all be destroyed within a few years. Some of the villages that have already made way to the mine went back to Roman times. Two thousand years of history sacrificed on the altar of greed. My forebearers' graves will be dug up and crushed under with no respect to the dead.
The mine operators Rheinbraun believe their "clean up works" will remediate the damage done to the landscape. Current plans are for a giant lake which will eventually fill the hole left behind by the mine. But of course no matter how serious Rheinbraun takes its remediation efforts, it cannot bring back the historic villages.
And the monster does more than "just" destroy villages and valuable farmland. It is digging up coal. Brown coal. Dirty coal. Coal is the most potent contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. 97 per cent of the coal from Garzweiler ends up in coal fired power stations in Germany. Germany likes to see itself as a global leader in fighting climate change but has consistently refused to look at the link between its own coal use and climate change. If we are to have any chance in stopping global climate change, we need to stop using coal. The crazy thing is that it does not even make economic sense. Germany pays large subsidies to support coal mining. This is money that would be better spent on renewable energy projects, more affordable public transport and better energy efficiency.
Environmentalists and local residents tried to fight the monsters that were threatening their villages, their farmland and their history, but eventually many residents ended up working for Rheinbraun and have been re-settled to new village developments. Green groups trying to stop the procession of the monster through the Court system have failed. The last attempt by German environmental group "BUND" was thwarted when BUND members were forcibly removed from a paddock with fruit trees owned by the BUND that was in the way of the mine expansion. BUND vowes to fight on, but there do not seem to be too many options left. The trees are gone, the mine continues. It breaks my heart in more ways than one.
Images: google earth, photos of village scenes taken by me, photo of large digger (apparently it is the biggest in the world) downloaded from Wikipedia.
More images of the destruction wrought by Garzweiler mine are here.