One dropped out of college, the other quit his job: two activists from the “last generation” explain why they are stuck on German streets and airports in the fight against climate change.
The actions of the “Last Generation” are currently causing a stir and also hatred in Germany. The air-conditioning stickers are a massive disruption to car and air traffic. They want to draw attention to what they see as the great inactivity of the federal government in the fight against climate change.
Two of the activists have now spoken to the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” (NZZ) about their actions. Carla Rochel (20), who was recently a guest on the ZDF talk show with Markus Lanz, and Tim Wechselmann-Cassim (26). In the conversation, the two explain why they gave up their studies (Rochel) or their job (Wirtschmann-Cassim) in order to stick to the streets for the climate.
“We want to preserve our democracy, our state and our life as such,” says Wechselmann-Cassim. According to the “NZZ”, the 26-year-old studied economics in St. Gallen, then moved to Berlin for a consulting job. He had a “meaningful job” in which he “earned relatively well,” he says.
But before the 2021 federal election, he turned to activism. The commitment to “Fridays for future” was not enough for him, he says.
In March 2022 he stuck himself to the street for the first time. In the summer he quits his job. Now he works full-time for the “Last Generation”, giving online lectures. According to Rochel, more than 100 people are now working full-time for the movement.
Wechselmann-Cassim tells the “NZZ”: “I’m a rather easy-going person, and I don’t enjoy being in conflict with society, politics, the police and sometimes with friends and family 90 percent of the time.”
Of course his mother is worried. It was difficult for her when he told her that he ended up in a prison cell. Wechselmann-Cassim: “No mother would want her child to quit their job only to be in prison a little later or almost run over. But she now understands why I do what I do.”
After school, 20-year-old Rochel went to Heidelberg to study; political science and psychology. But she soon gave up her studies in order to become politically active, as she had been in school. So far, she has been involved in 40 to 50 road blockades, she tells the “NZZ”. She now does more press work than street activism.
She actually wanted to enjoy her studies as the “best time of her life”, she says. She tries to keep the bad news about climate change out of her life. But she felt increasingly helpless. “There were always moments when everything was so overwhelming that I sat crying in the hallway with my roommates and we asked ourselves whether we weren’t losing everything,” she tells the “NZZ”.
She hears a lecture by the “Last Generation” and shortly thereafter breaks off her studies. The explanation of the 20-year-old: “We can throw our degrees in the bin anyway if politics continues like this:”
Again and again, the climate activists are not only accused of the radical nature of their actions. Many also rail against their statements. Rochel and Wechselmann-Cassim have a clear answer: if politicians don’t act, there will only be “civil resistance”. And it is not “the primary goal to be popular”. The many debates would not generate sympathy, but reach.
Wechselmann-Cassim says: “Historically, civil resistance movements were never popular at the beginning.”