From our special correspondent in Berlin
They are only twenty years old. Since August 30, young environmental activists have set up a camp on the lawn of Spreebogenpark in Berlin, a stone’s throw from the Chancellery and the Bundestag – the German Parliament. Surrounded by a support team, six of them have even started a hunger strike to put the climate issue at the heart of the federal elections this Sunday, which must designate the successor of Angela Merkel. Their demands: stronger measures for the climate or the establishment of a citizens’ convention. When we went to meet them, three days before the election, neither Annalena Baerbock (Greens), nor Armin Laschet (CDU-CSU), nor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had yet come to meet them. So it’s been 24 days since some stopped eating.
Among the supporters of the hunger strikers, we met Isi. At only 19 years old, this activist from Dortmund explains to us the demands of these demonstrators for the climate. Interview.
What climate assessment do you draw from Angela Merkel’s mandate?
For me, the government has never actively tackled the climate crisis. Angela Merkel has done a lot of greenwashing. She made decisions saying it was good for the climate and the environment. These were fairly symbolic measures and easy to understand for a large part of the population, but when you take the time to scratch a little, you realize that it is not very in-depth. Getting out of nuclear power was good, but there was still a lot to do.
Angela Merkel has had the opportunity to change things several times during her tenure. Ten years ago, already, it could have decided that Germany would use more renewable energies, that the country reduce the exploitation of coal and other fossil fuels. It could also have adopted a policy to force polluting industries to reduce their CO2 emissions. But she didn’t. The government has mentioned measures, but the country’s economy, growth and especially the lobbies have always had the last word.
Why did the young people here choose to go on hunger strike to make their voices heard?
What some are doing here is very dangerous, but so is the current situation. During Angela Merkel’s tenure, many of us went to demonstrate in the streets, stepped up actions of civil disobedience, climbed to the top of buildings… But that didn’t change anything. It was not enough. We got to a point where we no longer knew how to really make ourselves heard. Going on a hunger strike is one way of showing how desperate young people are. It has an impact, it affects people. We have a lot of older people and parents who come to see us at the camp because they are worried about us.
Why take this action now?
The change of government was the right time to shine a light on the climate crisis. This is our chance to have an influence. None of the candidate programs go far enough. We are living in a historic period, because it is now that we must decide our future. The time to act is now, not in several years, otherwise it will be irreversible. Germany is a country with influence and privilege. Here we do not go to prison if we demonstrate. So we, activists, also have this responsibility to make our voices heard.
No candidate has yet agreed to meet with you. What are you going to do ?
Some people who had been on a hunger strike from the start had to stop because it was becoming too dangerous. The others are really very weak. They lie down most of the day, they can barely walk a few meters. It is becoming urgent that the three candidates agree to meet with us and have a public debate. This is the only way to stop it.