The uprising for Hambacher Forst was not a pure eco-protest. The movement consists of different camps. That makes it strong.
Demonstrating for more than just a few trees: Celebrators at Hambacher Forst Photo: reuters
The protest at Hambacher Forst should not be misunderstood as a pure eco-movement. The 50,000 people at the demonstration last Saturday came from different motives, represented different world views. Some had complained, others again occupied trees. Most simply wanted to make a statement and celebrate the recent judicial decisions. One can participate in very different ways, directly on site, decentrally throughout Germany and even globally, including online. You don’t have to have a personal relationship with the forest to want to protect it.
It is precisely this openness that makes the movement strong. Because it’s not just about a unique ecosystem. Global warming is not just a "green" issue and not a matter of measurable emissions. It is a highly complex issue that must be thought of together with other political struggles. It is no coincidence that some people suffer the consequences more than others.
For a poor smallholder farmer in the global South – or even local drought-stricken farmers – climate change already means something different than it does for the privileged white person who can buy their produce in the supermarket. The slogan "system change not climate change," common at coal protests, gets to the heart of such connections.
Climate change is something so long-term and seemingly abstract that it is not easy to adequately politicize with it. Yet that is exactly what is happening at the moment. Young people in particular, who will be even more confronted with the consequences of climate change than aging leaders, are experiencing the protests in Hambacher Forst as a political awakening. Different camps – ecos and leftists, radicals and bourgeois – are joining forces.
And that is a good thing. Only in this way can a meaningful movement supported by the majority emerge and change something. Hopefully, this process will now continue just as powerfully as it did over the weekend.