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student protests in Germany

Climate Change

Angela Merkel Supports Striking Students!

Students in Germany have been staying out of school on Fridays to urge their government to take bold action on reducing carbon emissions. They have been criticized by reactionaries, but Chancellor Angela Merkel says she supports their actions.

Okay, that headline may be a bit misleading, but we just couldn’t resist. At a time when knee-jerk reactionaries around the world are lambasting students for taking time out of school to militate on behalf of aggressive climate action, chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has stated publicly that she supports their activities.

student protests in Germany

Credit: YouTube

In Germany, the climate protests — inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg — are called Fridays For Future demonstrations. “I very much support the fact that students take to the streets for climate protection and fight for it. We can only achieve our climate protection goals if we also have support in society,” Merkel said last week in her weekly video podcast, according to a report by Süddeutsche Zeitung. (Translation by Google.)

Merkel is a politician, and a very accomplished one at that. She tempered her remarks by reminding the students that reaching a political consensus is a difficult process that often takes longer than some would like. “As a head of government, however, I have to point out that of course we have a lot to consider. We must reconcile jobs and economic power on the one hand with the goals of climate protection.”

Merkel is not wrong. Unless the needs of workers who will be displaced from their current occupations are considered, no climate protection scheme will garner widespread public support and no progress on climate goals will be possible. The pace of change may be too slow for some but at least Germany is making an effort to protect its citizens from the wrenching changes that transitioning to a low or zero carbon economy will entail. In the US, the government is making no such plans because it opposes taking any action at all to achieve lower carbon emissions whatsoever.

Germany recently announced a new consensus agreement between the government and more than 20 stakeholders that will get the county off coal within 20 years. It calls for investment of up to €40 billion over the next 20 years for job retraining programs, as well as compensation to utility companies that agree to shutter coal-fired generating plants ahead of schedule, according to a report by the New York TimesMerkel added that although 20 years may seem like a very long time to the students, “It will be very demanding and it is my job to understand that as well.”

For those hardliners who carp that students should be in school rather than parading around with banners and placards, we have this question. If the purpose of school is to teach young people how to be contributing members of a civil society, what could possibly be more important that helping them find their voice in the political arena unless your real objective is simply to train a bunch of Stepford citizens who passively accept everything their masters tell them to do and carry it out without question?

Actually, with people like Betsy DeVos running the alleged Department of Education in America, those questions are highly relevant. Power to the people! Right on!

 
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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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