Thousands of climate activists Friday started marching toward a huge German coal mine they plan to blockade in a protest against global warming, an issue that has shot to the top of the European political agenda.
The “Ende Gelaende” (EG) movement’s activists were seeking to slip through police lines and launch non-violent acts of civil disobedience to halt operations at the massive Garzweiler lignite mining operation of energy giant RWE near Cologne.
“We are unstoppable, another world is possible,” they chanted as they walked toward the 48 square kilometre (19 square mile) open-pit mine where building-sized excavators churn through what resembles a moonscape.
The German phrase “Ende Gelaende” means something is irrevocably finished, similar to “end of story”, which is how the protesters feel about the fossil fuel age.
“Today we set out with thousands of people towards a future without fossil fuels, without exploitation and without this destructive quest for infinite economic growth,” said EG spokeswoman Sina Reisch ahead of a planned weekend of sit-ins and protest rallies.
On the same day in the city of Aachen, some 20,000 students from 16 countries were massing for what was billed as the first big international “Fridays for Future” demonstration in the school-strike movement started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.
Several hundred pupils started congregating ahead of the 1000 GMT rally, unfurling banners with messages that said “Why study if we don’t have a future?” and “If Earth was a bank, you would have rescued it long ago.”
The rallies were being closely watched in Germany, where surveys suggest global warming is now the public’s top concern, and where the Greens party is for the first time polling neck-and-neck with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.