Today the “Last Generation” are blocking roads again. The climate sticker protests are a complete success in terms of public awareness. But the group makes two mistakes in their self-perception

What do you actually want? What do the people who glue or chain themselves to the asphalt of a street in Berlin, to the railing of a conductor’s podium in Hamburg or to the goalpost of a soccer game in Munich want? What is their self-image? And how should a state and a society deal with this form of protest?

The protesters of the “last generation” are currently the ones in Germany who are particularly spectacular in drawing attention to what they consider to be a misguided climate policy. They call themselves the “last generation” because they believe they are actually the last to prevent climate collapse. According to them, it will be too late and the planet will rush towards catastrophic warming. To stop the development, they call for decarbonization.

Specifically, the group is concerned with an end to state financing of infrastructure for fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal, with the rapid advancement of renewable energies and with a mobility turnaround, which includes the nine-euro ticket and 100 km/h on the motorways. She also calls for an agricultural turnaround towards more sustainable agriculture and more measures to thermally insulate buildings.

She combines these anything but unusual proposals with a radical change in the political system. She refers to the “climate emergency” and imagines that parliamentary democracy in Germany will be replaced by a council system that the citizens should form, with the supporters of the “last generation” also thinking about it by drawing lots on the composition of the “citizens’ councils” to decide.

“Fridays for Future” star Greta Thunberg has demonstrated this development towards a left-wing anti-capitalism movement. For a long time now, she has been promoting not only climate protection, but also a “system change”. She recently described what that means during a performance in London: “What we consider normal today is an extreme system based on the exploitation of people and the planet.

This system is defined by colonialism, imperialism, oppression and genocide by the so-called Global North and pursues the goal of wealth accumulation.”

The “Last Generation” has only been visible with its actions since this year, but it ties in with the global movement that calls itself Extinction Rebellion and has the declared goal of using non-violent civil disobedience to force governments to act. Both groups are more radical interpreters of Thunberg’s “Fridays for Future” movement, which has died down with the rise of the pandemic and the accompanying ban on large demonstrations.

The group makes two mistakes in their self-perception. For one thing, their forms of protest are often more than civil disobedience. Sticking themselves to the street constitutes a coercion offense, which is why the activists regularly face complaints and prosecutions. If they even block runways, it is a dangerous intervention in air traffic, which is also a punishable offence.

Their second mistake is that they see themselves as a kind of Robin Hood troop fighting against a power that doesn’t understand them. That’s not the case. Their substantive demands to combat climate change are supported by a broad political alliance led by the Greens.

Other organizations are also on this line. “We are on the highway to climate hell,” said UN Secretary-General Guterres at the start of the most recent world climate conference. Annette Kurschus, supreme representative of the Evangelical Church in Germany, is firmly convinced that “the possibility of human life is being jeopardized”. A 23-year-old climate gluer was invited to the Synod of the Evangelical Church in November and received a standing ovation.

When dealing with the activists, politicians or some outraged observers from the media also make mistakes. So the accusation that the protest actions – sticking to a conductor’s podium, for example – have nothing to do with the topic, namely climate change, is unfounded. Even the request to skip school on Fridays had nothing to do with climate change.

However, both actions are extremely effective in terms of publicity, because they disturb the majority’s sense of order and justice so much that they get upset, but not so much that they provoke counter-violence.

In this respect, the protest is a complete success. The disparaging assessment that the demonstrators are “self-proclaimed” climate activists is also not correct. Protesters and their radical representatives, the “activists”, are always self-proclaimed, as long as there is no training or diploma for this kind of activity. Nelson Mandela was also a resistance fighter in his own right and that was his strength.

The most appropriate way of dealing with the protesters in terms of content is to contradict them in terms of content. Something like this: It is true that politics and business around the world have not yet managed to achieve the goal set at the world climate summit in Paris in 2015 of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees this century.

But according to the latest UN estimates, the best-case scenario that the measures introduced and announced so far can limit warming to 2.5 degrees. That’s progress, after all, because just ten years ago the world was heading for more than three degrees of warming.

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Europe, the USA and other countries have set themselves the goal of no longer polluting the atmosphere with additional greenhouse gases from 2050 onwards. In addition, companies and states are investing unimaginable sums of money to reduce emissions, to develop new climate-friendly technologies and to protect against the consequences of climate change. This market is growing rapidly every year. The system behind it is the market economy, which is now mobilizing enormous forces to ensure its own survival.

Without the investments and innovations of the economy, especially in advanced industrial nations like Germany, there will be a lack of technologies and solutions everywhere that a climate-neutral world urgently needs.

The article “Climate adhesives make two crucial mistakes during protests” comes from WirtschaftsKurier.