Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Chanting 'Keep It In the Ground,' Thousands Descend on German Coalfields

"We want to fulfill our historic responsibility. That's why we go to the coal mines, to protect the climate there."

Jake Johnson

"Germany's lignite mines are among the biggest coal mines in the world," Zane Sikulu, a Climate Warrior from Tonga, said in a statement. (Photo: Code Rood/Twitter)

Demanding an end to coal and all forms of dirty energy extraction, over 4,000 activists descended on the Rhineland coalfields in Germany early Sunday in a mass demonstration just a day before COP23 climate talks are set to kick off.

"This it what we aim for today, when we are going to block coal infrastructure in the Rhenish coalfield." 
—Dorothee Häussermann, a spokesperson of Ende Gelände  

"On the international stage, politicians and corporations present themselves as climate saviors, while a few miles away, the climate is literally being burned," Janna Aljets, a spokesperson for the environmental alliance Ende Gelände, which helped organize the action, said in a statement. "We do not want to be world champions in extracting and burning lignite anymore. We want to fulfill our historic responsibility. That's why we go to the coal mines, to protect the climate there."

"Fossil fuels must stay in the ground," Aljets added. "We are here at the scene of destruction to send out a clear signal for climate justice. Together we are many, together we are determined and strong."

Remarkable images and footage of the mass action quickly spread on social media, with environmentalists hoisting signs calling for "system change, not climate change" and chanting "keep it in the ground!"

The Rhineland mines have long been targeted by activists due to the millions of tons of carbon dioxide they emit per year. Activist and author Naomi Klein has called the coalfields "an existential threat to humanity."

"Germany's lignite mines are among the biggest coal mines in the world," Zane Sikulu, a Climate Warrior from Tonga, said in a statement. "If we don't shut them down, we have no chance as Pacific Islanders. We're here to protect our land, our culture and our identities as Pacific people."

As Common Dreams reported on Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump is looking to use the COP23 talks as a platform to sell fossil fuels—and coal in particular—as necessary and beneficial.

Demonstrators sought to make clear that any concessions to the fossil fuel industry and to the Trump administration are unacceptable, and that ambitious solutions must be pursued in the face of a rapidly warming planet.

"At the U.N. climate summit the fossil lobby sits at the negotiating table. By contrast, the voices of those who are already suffering massively from the consequences of climate change have too little weight," concluded Dorothee Häussermann, a spokesperson of Ende Gelände. "We have to push for real solutions ourselves. This it what we aim for today, when we are going to block coal infrastructure in the Rhenish coalfield."

While many images depicted demonstrators engaged in a peaceful stand-off with police, photos that showed police deploying pepper spray against sitting activists soon began to spread.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Total Devastation' as Hurricane Ian Tears Through Florida

"Always remember that climate breakdown is only getting started," said one climate scientist. "It will keep getting worse so long as the fossil fuel industry exists. Cause, effect."

Jake Johnson ·


Truss' Tories Plan to Slash Public Spending While Clinging to Chaos-Causing Tax Cuts

"When the IMF tells you, 'hang on guys, this is going to be so bad for inequality it needs a rethink,' you've got a serious problem," one U.K. activist said of the new mini-budget.

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders, Kaine Hail US Senate's Passage of Brazil Election Resolution

"It is important for the people of Brazil to know we're on their side, on the side of democracy," said Sen. Bernie Sanders. "With passage of this resolution, we are sending that message."

Brett Wilkins ·


Highland Park Victims Sue Gun-Maker, Stores Over Negligence and Deceptive Practices

Lawyers argued that the "shooter was the type of a young consumer susceptible to Smith & Wesson's deceptive and unfair marketing, and was enabled by his father."

Julia Conley ·


NC Dems Plead for Cash as Beasley Deadlocked With GOP Opponent in Decisive US Senate Race

Democratic nominee Cheri Beasley has a one-point lead, but Trump-backed U.S. Rep. Ted Budd is getting more support from the Republican Party.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo