Mud Wizard Monday: Serving corporate interests leaves German police stuck in the muck

So you probably haven’t heard about this, but it turns out that the climate is warming because of human activity. There are a number of factors, but the biggest one is carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, oil, and gas. Given that this temperature increase is already causing problems worldwide, and it’s expected to cause exponentially more problems as the warming continues, humanity needs to stop burning coal, oil, and gas, and use other sources of energy like solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, and so on. I felt the need to spell that out, because judging by the behavior of most of the world’s governments, it’s not clear that the people in charge are aware.

The U.S. is where I tend to focus, of course, but China is increasing its use of coal, and Germany, despite committing to end coal use within the next eight years, is now fighting to demolish a village to expand a coal mine:

Activists have for the past two years attempted to protect the village from being bulldozed to make way for the opencast lignite mine, in a standoff that highlights the tensions around Germany’s climate policy.

Environmentalists say bulldozing Luetzerath would result in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, but the government and RWE say coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security.

It always comes down to some form of “security”, doesn’t it? I understand the concerns folks in Europe have about nuclear power, especially if we’re focused on older reactor models, but I don’t know that coal is any better. Certainly, the potential risks from disaster and war are less, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good option, especially given that fully “exploiting” the expansion would take until 2045, 15 years after Germany will supposedly have phased out coal power. I should be clear – it has apparently been a couple years since the town has had residents who are not there specifically to obstruct coal mine expansion. That said, while evicting people from their homes for this would certainly add incentive to stop it, the fact remains that we cannot afford to keep extracting and burning coal like this, given that climate change is already killing and displacing people.

It’s good that wealthy nations are making any progress at all, I suppose, but it’s nowhere near enough.

And so people are using the one thing that people reliably have – they’re putting their bodies between the ruling class and the object of their destructive greed. It seems unlikely, to me, that these protesters will get their way, but as with so many other things, I hope to be wrong about that. It’s encouraging to see thousands of people showing up to stand against the German police for all our sakes.

“I’m really afraid today,” Petra Mueller, a 53-year-old local who had been at the site for several days, said from a top-floor window of one of the few remaining houses. Mueller said she still held out hope of preserving what is left of Luetzerath “until nothing is left standing; hope dies last”.

Environmentalists say bulldozing the village to expand the nearby Garzweiler coal mine would result in huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The government and utility company RWE argue that coal is needed to ensure Germany’s energy security.

However, a study by the German Institute for Economic Research calls into question the government’s stance. Its authors found other existing coal fields could be used instead, though the cost to RWE would be greater.

Another alternative would be for Germany to increase the production of renewable power, cut demand through energy efficiency measures, or import more coal or gas from abroad, the study found.

This is the point that climate activists have been making for decades. It has long been obvious that when it comes to “energy security”, and issues of war and politics in general, climate change is a “threat multiplier”. It creates resource scarcity, causes mass movement of people, and damages or disrupts infrastructure, all of which can lead to political instability. The advantage of carbon-neutral power has always been that its use doesn’t contribute to the climate problem. The advantage of things like solar and wind power is that they’re generally more resilient to climate chaos than power generation that depends on burning fuel to boil water to run a steam turbine. Dependence on oil and gas has long driven war all around the globe, and it’s a bit much for the German government to plead “security” now after decades of delayed action. To be sure, they’ve done more than the U.S., but that’s a low bar to step over, and not a standard I’m willing to accept.

If there was a genuine concern about security, rather than profits, they would have put far more work into renewable energy and next-gen nuclear power, rather than spending all these resources trying to expand a coal mine that, supposedly, won’t even be halfway to fully exploited when Germany supposedly will stop using coal. Or, just a thought, they’re not serious about meeting the 2030 mark.

Maybe they are, but I think it’s entirely reasonable for the protesters to doubt them.

I give full support to these protesters, and I’ve been delighted to see some of the footage that has come from this effort to oust them. See, while I’ll spare you any (further) porcine comparisons, it has been a treat to watch the armed and uniformed enforcers of fossil fuel interests rolling around in the muck while being mocked by a prancing mud wizard:

The image shows The Mud Wizard, dressed in a monastic habit, casting down the police who thought they would withstand the power of muck.

At risk of sounding too serious, I think there is validity to things that make cops look ridiculous, especially while they’re trying to use force to further business interests. I also want to underscore that while this video is very funny, the activists have also been setting themselves up in treehouses and wooden tripods, along with welded i-beam barricades and other bits of construction designed to make it as costly and difficult as possible for the corporations and cops to get what they want. The Garzweiler mine has equipment on hand that can make quick work of all of that stuff, but unless they want to commit mass murder, they can’t use any of it before removing the protesters.

And to remove protesters, they’re relying on the police.

I think that the act of using force to enable more coal mining, in the early stages of a global climate crisis (remember, it will get much, much worse without a change of course), is both evil, and inherently absurd. I’m sure the cops think they’re doing the right thing by just following orders, but I feel like we’ve had a lesson or two in why that’s not a great way to tell right from wrong. With a little luck, hopefully the powers that be will decide to accept a different world, rather than trying to escalate the violence to get their way, but in the meantime, we have mud wizards and Yakety Sax (It seems I can no longer embed Tweets properly, but I posted it below in case it starts working again. Thanks, Musk).

Thank you for reading! If you found this post enjoyable or interesting, please share it around! Due to my immigration status, my writing is my only source of income right now, which is why I like to “pass around the hat” now and then for people’s spare change. Supporting me on Patreon can cost as little as three or four cents per day, and when enough people join in, even those $1/month pledges add up. There’s not currently much in the way of patron-only content, but my $5 patrons do have the option to name a character in the fantasy novel I’m currently working on, so if you like my fiction and want to immortalize yourself, or someone you know, then giving me money may just be your best option!


  1. Dunc says

    I understand the concerns folks in Europe have about nuclear power, especially if we’re focused on older reactor models, but I don’t know that coal is any better.

    Coal is almost certainly significantly worse than any currently operating European nuclear reactor, the reactors that Germany has decided to shut down are (AFAIK) absolutely fine, and lignite is barely even coal. It’s almost the worst thing you can possibly burn to run a thermal power station, second only to peat.

    Germany’s decision to shut down its reactors early in favour of burning lignite is an astonishingly bad idea.

  2. Katydid says

    In the words of Marge Simpson, This is deeply concerning and also terrifying.

    A couple of years back, I read a hopeful bit of news that Germany was making solar power work in a surprising percentage of homes. I remember thinking if cloudy, overcast Germany could make it work, sunny desert places in the US such as Phoenix had no excuse.

    And now they’re going back to polluting?!?

  3. lasius says

    German Reddit curently has a great header featuring the mud wizard.

    Germany’s decision to shut down its reactors early in favour of burning lignite is an astonishingly bad idea.

    The Czernobyl disaster affected densely populated southern Germany much more strongly than most of the UK and those old enough (not me) still remember that children were not supposed to play outside and many agricultural products had to be destroyed. Mushrooms over there are still radioactively contaminated today. Those of us from East Germany still remember the lies of the pro-soviet gouvernment. Our country is small and densely populated and a nuclear disaster would be utterly devastating.

    Additionally no secure repository for nuclear waste is available in Germany. In iron curtain times it was basically dumped next to the wall by West Germany, but that didn’t turn out to be a good idea.

    Obviously lignite is not a good option either. My family comes form a region where lignite mining destroyed not just the landscape but much of local culture as well. I spent my summer vacations seeing one of German’y largest lignite plants looming at the horizon. But only reasonably clean renewable energy sources could hope to avoid the worst effects of global climate change.

    And now they’re going back to polluting?!?

    Germany never stopped. And much of our early lead in renewable energies was ruined by regressive policies during Merkel’s reign.

  4. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    The brute fact is that it’s impossible to replace fossil fuels with renewables. The large majority of climate scientists say so. For example, the preeminent climate scientist James Hansen said that believing renewables can replace fossil fuels worldwide is almost as bad as believing in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy.

    The claimed effects of Chernobyl on Germany were and are vastly exaggerated. More harm was caused by depression from excessive fearmongering of radiation in Ukraine than from radiation itself. This is a result of the UNSCEAR report or WHO report on Chernobyl. Further, nearly all of the Chernobyl exclusion zone is safe to live in now, and nearly all of the Fukushima exclusion zone supports growing crops with radiation levels within safe limits. I strongly encourage you to read the actual reports from reputable scientific organizations instead of the serial liars from Greenpeace and various Green political parties.

    One of the things that you will find that you have been lied to from the start, and that the Green energy movement worldwide is filled with liars, many of which are dogmatically committed to the idea that industrialization is bad no matter if we had a clean abundant source of energy or not because of mistaken ideas about the causes of overpopulation. The other thing you will find is interesting circumstantial evidence that the biggest funder of the Green energy movement worldwide are the fossil fuel companies because they know that green energy is no threat to their business model and green energy advocates make excellent warriors against their only real competition, nuclear power.

  5. says

    @lasius – thanks for the insights!

    @Gerrard – try to stay on topic. We’ve already covered that this is not an anti-tech blog, and we don’t fuck with that kind of overpopulation rhetoric here.

  6. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    @Abe Drayton
    Just responding to misinformation being posted re Chernobyl and renewables. Also, it’s not my fault that the Germany Green energy transition is primarily based on the work of someone who does that kind of overpopulation rhetoric, i.e. Amory Lovins. These are simple undeniable facts. Sources if you really need them. It’s impossible to properly discuss the German situation without mentioning these facts.

  7. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    How Amory Lovins is arguably the primary source and foundation of German Energiewende. Example sources.

    How Amory Lovins does do that kind of overpopulation rhetoric and anti-industrialization rhetoric. Example sources.

    But even if — contrary to most fusion experts’ expectations — fusion turns out to be a clean source of energy as advertised, I think we would lack the discipline to use it with restraint. If you ask me, it’d be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won’t give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the earth or to each other.

    This is the intellectual heart of the green energy movement and also the anti-nuclear movement. Safety and cost are red herring promoted disingenuously by people who think that industrialization is bad.

  8. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Have you read “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?” by Amory Lovins? Scroll down a few pages in this pdf to find it.

    This is what started it all. The guy is a left libertarian, it looks like. He views complex technology as an affront to human dignity, and centralization of power supply as a great evil that should be avoided because of the potential for tyranny of the electricity producing class (paraphrase) over the electricity-consuming class.

    the soft path relies mainly on small, standard, easy-to-make components
    and on technical resources dispersed in many organizations of diverse
    sizes and habits; thus everyone can get into the act, unimpeded by cen-
    tralized bureaucracies, and can compete for a market share through inge-
    nuity and local adaptation

    they [soft energy technology] can often
    be made locally from local materials and do not require a technical elite
    to maintain them; they resist technological dependence and commercial

    Perhaps the most profound difference between the soft and hard
    paths is their domestic sociopolitical impact. Both paths, like any 50-
    year energy path, entail significant social change. But the kinds of social
    change needed for a hard path are apt to be much less pleasant, less plau-
    sible, less compatible with social diversity and personal freedom of
    choice, and less consistent with traditional values than are the social
    changes that could make a soft path work.

    In an electrical world, your lifeline comes not from an understand-
    able neighborhood technology run by people you know who are at your
    own social level, but rather from an alien, remote, and perhaps humiliat-
    ingly uncontrollable technology run by a faraway, bureaucratized, tech-
    nical elite who have probably never heard of you. Decisions about who
    shall have how much energy at what price also become centralized—a
    politically dangerous trend because it divides those who use energy from
    those who supply and regulate it.

    […] For all these reasons, if nuclear power were clean, safe, economic,
    assured of ample fuel, and socially benign per se, it would still be unat-
    tractive because of the political implications of the kind of energy econ-
    omy it would lock us into.

    The most important, difficult, and
    neglected questions of energy strategy are not mainly technical or eco-
    nomic but rather social and ethical.

    And before you think I’m exaggerating, consider one of the other greats of the green energy movement has said. Helen Caldicott has on numerous occasions seriously suggested that we should use candlelight instead of electric lights. I hope I don’t need to list out all of the honorary awards and degrees that this person has won from numerous prestigious universities.

    The Green energy movement is intellectually rotten, coming from a small core of “enlightened” advocates who use nuclear cost and safety as arguments of convenience when their real reasons for being anti-nuclear are that they’re a bunch of highly ignorant, Luddite anti-industry anti-humanist Gaia-worshiping hippies who argue that everyone else should remain poor while they take private jets and live in lavish mansions.

    And again, one last quote again from the greatest human being to ever live, because if you’re not going to trust the greatest human being to ever live in his domain of expertise, who are you going to trust?

    World Bank fear of green political pressure in Washington became the single biggest obstacle to feeding Africa,” Borlaug says.[…]Borlaug’s reaction to the campaign was anger. He says, “Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.”

    Why? Because they’re against energy intensive industry, and fertilizer synthesis is one of the biggest energy intensive industries in the world, but without inorganic fertilizer, most of the world would starve, and people like Stanford Professor Emeritus Paul Ehrlich would rather people starve, and specifically the people of color in poor countries, because that’s what they did, and that’s what they’re trying to do.

    This strain of misanthropy seemed to appear again in biologist Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 runaway best-seller “The Population Bomb.” Ehrlich illustrated overpopulation with a scene of a Delhi slum seen through a taxi window: a “mob” with a “hellish aspect,” full of “people eating, people washing, people sleeping. . . . People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating . . . People, people, people, people.” He confessed to being afraid that he and his wife would never reach their hotel, and reported that on that night he came to understand overpopulation “emotionally.” By the evidence, what he had encountered was poverty. Ehrlich was announcing that his environmentalist imperatives were powered by fear and repugnance at slum dwellers leading their lives in public view. At the very least, he assumed that his readers would find those feelings resonant.

    See also:

    Paul Ehrlich: Developing fusion for human beings would be “like giving a machine gun to an idiot child.”

    Amory Lovins was already on record as saying, “Complex technology of any sort is an assault on human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it.”

    (Note, after an hour of searching, that first sentence attributed to Lovins appears to be a paraphrase of Lovins from another source which was based on the article that I cited above. It appears to be not an exact quote. The second sentence is an exact quote which I cited and quoted above.)

  9. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    One last point.

    Quoting Stanford Professor Emeritus Paul Ehrlich again, who apparently was a mentor to John Holdren, “who served as the senior advisor to President Barack Obama on science and technology issues through his roles as Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)” (quoting Wikipedia).

    Many of the conservation measures temporarily undertaken when the mini-crisis was in its acute stage—lowered speed limits, car-pools, reset thermostats, etc.—should be instituted on a permanent basis. . . . In the long run, energy should be made expensive, especially for large users, as an incentive to conservation.

    What ended slavery was not simply the ethical advancement of human culture. What really ended human slavery was the introduction of coal and industrialization. Slavery ended when it was cost competitive or cheaper to use automation instead of human slavery. I really do believe that we’ll get slavery again or something like it if we de-industrialize and make energy expensive. These people are completely wrong, and the only way forward to a fair, prosperous, world for all people is to increase energy usage and make energy clean, cheap, and abundant. These people are going to drag us back into the dark ages. That’s always what it’s been about. That’s what the American Green New Deal and the German energy transition has truly been about according to its authors.

  10. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Sorry, I am posting again because I just got so upset reading this. Sharing here. These are not random quacks. These are people in the highest levels of political power in our world.

    Overpopulation was an early concern and interest. In a 1969 article, Holdren and co-author Paul R. Ehrlich argued, “if the population control measures are not initiated immediately, and effectively, all the technology man can bring to bear will not fend off the misery to come.”[24] In 1973, Holdren encouraged a decline in fertility to well below replacement in the United States, because “210 million now is too many and 280 million in 2040 is likely to be much too many.”[25] (The population of the US was 327.2 million in 2018.) In 1977, Paul R. Ehrlich, Anne H. Ehrlich, and Holdren co-authored the textbook Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment.

    It’s many names that you know, including Al Gore, Ralph Nader, but also a bunch that you might not know which ares till hugely influential like Mark Jacobson. They hide their beliefs because they know the mainstream would reject them, but it’s not that hard to find out what they really believe if you just go looking for it.

  11. says

    I should say that “left libertarian” does not equate to “anti-tech”. We’re not all anarcho-primitivists 😛

    I appreciate the sources and info. I’m peripherally familiar with Lovins and that whole “population bomb” freakout, and I while I did buy into it at one point, that hasn’t been for a while. I’ve largely avoided Jacobson since you put me onto that time he sued people for criticizing his work.

    But no, I don’t really have a hard time believing that stuff, it’s just not super relevant to the branch of “environmentalism” that I’m on these days. The environmental justice movement, as I understand it, brings in the interests and voices of the people who the traditional movement might force off their land “for the environment”. It’s largely a rejection of that older paternalistic approach.

    That stuff feels like the environmentalist version of austerity.

    Edit: Having people like Gore on the list is appropriate, because it does seem to represent the neoliberal/capitalist approach to climate change and environmentalism. We HAVE to maintain the current system, therefor we have to cut back in some way that doesn’t threaten it. Guess it’s time to hurt poor people again.

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