Wuppertal. Germany. In the night of July 14th to 15th, the alarm sirens howled over Wuppertal. Howling sirens, a memory of the monthly exercises during the Cold War in the Netherlands. But this time it was not an exercise. A few fragmented thoughts written down during a night of emergency in Wuppertal.
Since I already guessed what was to come, I had already brought a lot of things upstairs in the evening. To bring belongings to safety before a possible flood was nothing new for me, the last flood had hit Wuppertal in 2018. Back then, too, the flood was triggered by heavy rain, but this time it was different.
I decided to observe the scenery from our backyard. Sirens howled incessantly and several helicopters with huge spotlights flew over the Wupper river while loudspeaker vans drove through the streets asking people to clear the basements and first floors of their houses. Welcome to dystopia.
While I watched this 3D real-life dystopia movie from my backyard, my mind went back to the eighties. In 1982, hundreds of people occupied Amelisweerd, a forest near Utrecht in the Netherlands. Actions to preserve Amelisweerd began in the early 1970s, but on September 24, 1982, the forest was finally evicted and uprooted for the A27 highway (video below). It was a bitter defeat, yet I was still optimistic at the time that the struggle for Amelisweerd had changed something fundamental. A total misjudgement.
An unbelievable amount of land has been sealed since the 1980s, thousands and thousands of hectares of forest have been cut in Western Europe since then. In Germany alone, around 52 hectares are newly assigned for settlement and traffic purposes every day. This corresponds to a new land use of around 73 soccer fields. In just one day. The number of forest occupations at the moment in Germany shows that even today clearing for highways, spoil heaps and many other projects continues. Drought, flooding, nothing stops the capitalist logic. My optimism is meanwhile below zero. But that doesn’t mean that I have given up the struggle.
I’m still sitting in my backyard, talking to a few neighbors and trying to give confidence. However, I’m not doing a very good job. My thoughts keep wandering: What to do?
Every now and then, there is a partial success for the environmental movement, such as the struggle for the Hambach forest, where the last part of the forest could be saved for the time being. For the time being, because the forest is still at risk due to the “island solution”.
Increasing extreme weather events have been occurring for some time on the southern part of the planet, and now they are increasing in the north as well. There was hardly any solidarity with the victims of the climate catastrophe in the South. The responsible industrialized countries in the north continued to blow their dirty shit into the atmosphere and it can be assumed that there will be more greenwashing, but not much will to substantially change that. Instead of a massive expansion of public transport, the holy e-cars will be pushed. For the lithium in the batteries, new open-cast mining areas will be developed and for this, further environmental areas will be destroyed. In Chile, it is above all the indigenous population that suffers from the e-car offensive. Domingo Ruiz, a biochemist at the University of Santiago, says that lithium extraction has a direct impact on water reserves. Mining, he says, causes groundwater levels to drop, and river courses and wetlands to dry out. As a result, the local population, most of which is indigenous, suffers from water shortages.
TE-cars also always need new roads, because the deadly capitalist growth model will continue to increase the number of cars.
That there are still many people who think that they can stop the looming climate collapse through elections, petitions and ritual demonstrations is tiring. Time and again people fantasize that those in power don’t understand how bad the climate is doing and what the consequences will be. But it rather is the activists who proclaim this, who do not seem to understand what kind of society they live in. Capitalism has always walked over dead bodies, why should it be different with the climate catastrophe? On what analysis is the assumption based that those who are responsible for the whole mess will save the planet?
The climate catastrophe will make entire regions uninhabitable, millions and millions of people will lose their livelihoods, they will desperately try to get themselves into safety and the fortress policy of the wealthy states and regions will be relentless. A system that has not even found it important to evacuate at least all children from the Moria shithole will mobilize everything to secure the prosperity of the metropolitan elites in the escalation that will inevitably come. Whatever it takes.
The sirens of the fire department, ambulances and police permanently howl through the night. We are still waiting for the flood wave, which according to Wuppertal city authorities should reach the city between 02:20 and 02:50. I’m still sitting in the garden, but always ready to escape via the stairwell to the second floor. It will be a long night.
A few years ago I read Desert. I try to remember, but on this spooky night it is hard to recall. But I remember how I felt caught when I read that the earth will not be saved. That this is a perception that we, as people who are fighting against the existing conditions, do not want to believe.
The world will not be ‘saved’. Not by activists, not by mass movements, not by charities and not by an insurgent global proletariat. The world will not be ‘saved’. This realisation hurts people.
The decades-long struggle against the existing conditions has cost a lot of energy. The people have the energy they need for this, because they are convinced that another world is possible, or through hatred of murderous capitalism. Or from a combination of both. For a long time I am part of anti-authoritarian groups that believe that another world is possible. In principle, I still think it is possible, but it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the world will not be saved.
It is necessary to grasp the horizon of the present conflictuality. It can not be less, since not only our patience is finite, but for the first time also the time we have left to organize the final onslaught. We all know that the world in which we live is doomed. The only question is what will result from it.
The left has long since landed on the funeral pyre of history, many leftists just don’t know it yet, or don’t want to know. The chain of revolts, from Lebanon to Chile and Colombia, were not initiated by leftists. With the Gilets Jaunes, these kinds of revolts also arrived in Europe. The Corona pandemic made it clear that large parts of the left in Germany were not allies, they supported the authoritarian Corona policy of the ruling class. Only with the curfews in spring 2021 this changed a little, much too late. The protests against the curfews were not able to mobilize. Only a total of just over one, – two, – thousand people took to the streets throughout Germany. The field was left to far-right activists and conspiracy theorists for too long.
Extreme weather events will happen one way or another in the next hundred years, we have long passed that point. Self-organization was already important during the pandemic, and in some countries it has advanced. With the climate catastrophe getting worse, this will become even more important. The world will not be saved, but if we want to have any chance at all not to be driven into a kind of apocalypse, only one thing can be done; a radical break with the existing conditions on all levels. A permanent revolt against all structures of power. All investments of the old capitalist world should not be safe. No politician should be accepted any longer. This old world, which is doomed one way or another, must be smashed as soon as possible.
The Wuppertalsperre overflows, but the expected flood wave has not yet arrived in Wuppertal. Around 06:00 in the morning I realize that the flood wave will not reach the city. For many people who live near the dam or the Wupper river, this does not help much. The overflow of the Wuppertal dam has flooded their houses. They are standing in front of nothing. My head is empty after a long night full of emotions and fragmented thoughts. I move towards my bed.