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Coal mine in Germany

A bucket wheel excavator is seen at the Garzweiler coal mine in western Germany on July 28, 2020. (Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images)

Uganda Climate Leader Vanessa Nakate Joins Fight Against German Coal Mine

An expanded Garzweiler lignite operation, she warns, "means people's cultures will be destroyed, people's traditions, people's histories of this place."

Jon Queally

Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate, a key leader of the international youth climate movement, was in Germany on Saturday where she joined opponents of the country's largest lignite coal mine to denounce its proposed expansion in the face of the ever-growing threat of fossil fuels and planet-heating emissions.

"With the expansion of this coal mine, it means people's cultures will be destroyed, people’s traditions, people’s histories of this place," she said of the mining operation known as Garzweiler and plans to destroy the nearby village of Luetzerath to allow for the owners, German utility giant RWE, to expand its already vast footprint.

"I came to see how much destruction is being done in Luetzerath with the coal mine and to see how much of this destruction is not just affecting the people in this place, but also the people in my country, Uganda,” Nakate said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Now in her mid-twenties, Nakate began a local climate strike in Uganda as a high school student during her teen years and, like Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, has leveraged her voice to urge leaders across the world to take much bolder action on the planetary emergency. Last month, as Common Dreams reported, Nakate and Thunberg teamed up to deliver a scathing rebuke to world leaders who they accused of utter failure.

"Our leaders are lost, and our planet is damaged," said Nakate during her keynote address at the opening of the three-day Youth4Climate summit in Milan.

"Why is it so easy for leaders to open up new coal power plants, construct oil pipelines, and extract gas—which are all destroying our climate," she said, "but so hard for them to acknowledge that loss and damage is here with us now?"

In conversation with local activists not far from the mine on Saturday, Nakate explained that while the challenges of the Global South are often ignored by the major newspapers, climate activists around the world—including across her country and the African continent—are working incredibly hard to change that reality.

Witnessing the German mine first-hand, Nakate told AP it was "really disturbing to see how much destruction is taking place."

Leonie Bremer, a local opponents of the operation, added that it was "absurd that my friend Vanessa has to come here from Uganda to show people that what we are doing here in Germany, that what RWE is doing here, that's affecting countries like Uganda."


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