The raucous rattle of a low flying helicopter shakes me awake. It must be the Police. The sun hasn’t risen yet and the tent’s sides still smell of morning dew. I doubt I was the only one in this field who didn’t sleep deeply last night. Today is the day of action we have been waiting for Ende Gelände (Here and no Further) – 1500 people have pledged to enter RWE’s Garzweiler open cast coal mine, and block the gargantuan “bagger” excavators with their bodies, thus shutting down Europe’s largest source of CO2 emissions.
This is direct action as it should be. It’s not just a symbolic gesture that tells a story and makes an injustice visible, but an action which targets the very source of the problem and stops it in its tracks. Of course if the day is a success then its stories will work their magic, building confidence in the movements, being told around camp fires and cafés, buzzed through the social media sphere and printed as newspaper headlines. But the actual stopping of CO2 emissions themselves, the fact that the lignite coal, the dirtiest type of coal in the world, will not be dug out and burnt, is what counts. Ende Gelände is not a media stunt, it’s a collective act of resistance that for once feels proportionate to the scale of the emergency, catastrophic climate change, which is the size of the land, sea and sky combined. If all goes to plan, it will be one of the biggest acts of disobedience for climate justice ever. For many of those just waking up in this lush field, it will be the first time they have broken the law for their beliefs. The first time I took direct action was 20 years ago, but the nerves never go away and the butterflies are playing havoc with my intestines.
Thousands have been preparing for this moment over the last week at theKlima Camp. Inspired by UK Climate Camps which were born in the shadow of the Drax coal fired power station in 2006, this temporary model of an alternative society is set up a few kilometers from the open cast mine in a supportive farmer’s field. The complex operation is self managed via daily direct democracy meetings where issues such as how not to overburden the field’s WiFi, to organising the emptying of compost toilets are discussed. The organisation is impressive, there are solar panel points to charge up mobile phones, an onsite cinema, an ’emotional first aid’ tent for those going through tough times, rows and rows of identical white workshop tents and an entire circus marquee filled with toys for children.