My trip report was published originally on the Finnish Ecomodernist page (in Finnish).
The last Stand Up event of the year took place right after the UN climate meetings ended, in a country where a huge amount of emissions-free energy is scheduled to be taken offline prematurely in 2022.
Among the organisers were the environmental organization FOTA4Climate, German Nuklearia, and the German-speaking division of Mothers for Nuclear, a power-group of women who had participated in a string of demonstrations on site at each of the six nuclear power plants threatened with closure.
The month before, Britta Augustin from Mothers for Nuclear had joined the crowds at a climate strike in Berlin, organized by Fridays for Future, and experienced a violent attack. A man pulled her to the ground and ripped her sign in a striking demonstration of the prejudice shown toward nuclear power in Germany, where a “nuclear exit” next year is going to cause one billion tons of excess carbon emissions, laid out in a report published by the German Ökomoderne. This is the reason why it is critical for climate action that we Stand Up for Nuclear in Germany.
Having followed my fellow Mothers’ efforts at a distance in Switzerland, I was thrilled to finally have the chance to join them. On the eve of the demonstration, I packed my signs and materials and headed to a night train to sleep my way to Berlin.
The preparations began around noon on Pariser Platz in front of the impressive Brandenburger Tor. I found Britta already hard at work, doing a test-run of roller skating in a melty polar-bear costume. She handled it brilliantly!
I set out to unpack my materials, and although I had only spontaneously decided to join the event and had no part in its organization, I was promptly handed the responsibility over the tactical placement and content of the tents. My experience from organizing two previous Stand Up events must have radiated from within…?
The action itself began with Eric Meyer from Generation Atomic being a sports commentator to a fight between uranium-powered Melty the Polar Bear against two Fossil Dinosaurs, armed with ancient chunks of biomass and a piece of Nord stream pipework. As the other Melties joined in the fight, the Fossil Dinos were finally beaten. You can watch the showdown video here.
The star speaker of the event was the renowned climate scientist James Hansen. When he turned up, humbly helping to carry around banners still in need of hanging, I seized my chance to finally hand him a present of my favorite Swiss chocolate as a small personal thanks for his incredible 50-year climate efforts – I just missed him when I attended the UN climate meeting in Bonn back in 2017.
The media attention was considerable, with around ten outlets wanting to come by and cover the event and interview Professor Hansen. I also got surprise-interviewed by the CNN, to give my perspective for being there as a Mother for Nuclear. Fig below: Salma Abdelaziz from CNN interviewing Prof Hansen.
In his speech, Hansen underlined that the US, UK, and Germany, the three nations most responsible for global warming on a per capita basis, had a special responsibility to do what they could to ensure a bright future for young people. On the decarbonization efforts he said:
“The first to go should be the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive energy. Coal. The next should be gas. Gas is not clean. It’s total greenhouse effect including leaked methane is almost as bad as that of coal. Germany is attempting to have gas treated as a clean energy in financial rules of the EU and UN. If Germany achieves this preposterous goal for gas, young people worldwide will justifiably hold your nation in contempt.”
He argued that German politics has “contributed to the delay in development of modern ultra-safe nuclear power. Thus nations with emerging economies, such as China and India, were forced down the path of coal.” But added that he didn’t think the German public was to blame for this, noting that “Even the texts in schools demonized nuclear power and failed to point out that other energy sources were more dangerous to human life and human health.”
He didn’t mince his words in his conclusion:
“If Germany persists and succeeds in treating gas as clean and discouraging use of nuclear power by other nations, the eyes of history will be unforgiving. The eyes of innocent young people will be even more damning.”
You can watch his full speech on YouTube here. Afterward, he received a hand-drawn award from a little girl on stage, featuring a laminated drawing of a squirrel.
Hansen wasn’t the only one to offer straight-talk about German energy politics. Physics teacher Simeon Preuß poignantly contrasted the decision to remove six nuclear power plants worth of emission-free energy:
“If the German government decided to blow up every second wind power plant, or to throw all solar panels in the trash can & compensate for the loss by burning coal for longer, building new gas plants & opening a new pipeline to Russia, that wouldn’t make any sense would it?
This climate crime is happening before our very eyes.”
Two powerful women speakers at Berlin critical climate action came from Poland: Jula Galosh, Vice President of the Polish Youth Climate Council, and Agata Brzezińska from FOTA4Climate. They both talked about climate justice. Agata asked: “Is expensive electricity climate justice? There is no energy democracy without nuclear power.” I can see her point. Power should belong to all the people, not only to those fortunate enough to afford it.
Jula Galosh from Climate Youth echoed her sentiments:
“We have to ensure energy safety for millions of Europeans. They can’t be victims of the wrong plan for energy transformation.” […]
“We have to decarbonise fast and safely. Nuclear means stability not just for Germany but for the whole Europe. We need to ensure energy safety for Europeans whether it’s windy or sunny. This responsibility we have whether we like it or not. For developed and developing countries. For nature and biodiversity, they cannot defend themselves against anthropopression. Emissions do not care about borders.”
French Myrto Tripathi spoke of the close ties between France and Germany, but also of how France had decided to close it’s power plant in Fessenheim “as a sign of friendship” between their two countries, in the process devastating the employment in the community, and resulting in deployment of additional gas plants. How much should a friendship cost in health and environmental harm, she asked.
Matters like clean air, climate change, and stable access to electricity do not exist in a bubble. As Sarah Cullen from Ireland said: “Climate change does not respect national boundaries, and decisions made in Germany affect us all,” echoed by the Finnish Ecomodernist Ari Greus: “It’s not just about Germany, not just about Europe, but the whole planet.”
Reflecting the international nature of these problems, many event participants hailed from across the world – at least 17 different countries. Among the women standing up for nuclear power were even two speakers from different continents: Princy Mthombeni from South Africa and Shirly Rodriguez, a nuclear engineer from Peru.
Princy Mthombeni from Africa4Nuclear pointed out that 600 million people in Africa don’t have access to electricity. She spoke of the need for massive amounts of clean energy to help improve the lives and health of people still relying on coal, or things like cow dung, paraffin, and candles.
Her question just days before to a German diplomat at the UN climate meeting in Glasgow about Germany offering money to South Africa to close down coal, is particularly damning in light of Germany’s choice to close nuclear plants rather than to sacrifice their own coal.
Shirly Rodriguez from Peru said:
“Please invest in knowledge. This is all we have. Please follow the evidence, so that we can be better leaders for our countries. Thank you, and go nuclear!”
I agree. 💚 Without knowledge we are just stumbling in the dark.💡
It was terrific to get to meet so many people all over Europe, and even Africa, North and South America, all there to show their support for the important role nuclear has to play in climate efforts.
Lot of people passing by were genuinely curious to talk to us, they listened to our arguments and took our materials. We ran out of our copies of One Billion Tons to hand out.
The German media that has largely played along with the country’s glaring bias against nuclear power, grudgingly took some notice of our event, including a liveticker during the event in Berlin’s largest newspaper and a report about a “Demonstration against nuclear exit” in Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ), the largest regional paper in Germany. I love their interview of my fellow Mother for Nuclear, Lisa Rass: “I think nuclear power is the best way to preserve nature for me and my kids. I love nature and that’s why I love nuclear power.”
I will be interested to see what angles the CNN report will take (should be out in the beginning of December). There were other long interviews with Hansen and other participants of the protest also with the German television channel ZDF and the largest European newspaper Der Spiegel, and the prestigious Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.
In Berlin, Mothers for Nuclear also had the opportunity to meet Doctors for Nuclear from Canada – Chris from the Decouple podcast (he’s really tall!), and give lots and lots of scratches to the Dog for Nuclear 🥰🐶💚
This is a good place to continue. Before long, German decision-makers and the media must wake up to what is happening in their country: the people are beginning to realize the consequences of the German energy policy. It may have come as a surprise to many a few weeks ago, when the newspaper Welt Am Sonntag opened with a poll on its front page, revealing that half of Germans were in favor of exiting the “nuclear exit.”
If you are interested, you can read more under Climate and Energy and The Environment. If you would like to have a discussion in the comments below, please take note of my Commenting policy. In a nutshell:
1. Be respectful.
2. Back up your claims with evidence.