Commentary on citizens and the coal phase-out: elephant with a kink in its trunk

Environment Minister Hendricks has a problem. She wants to get out of coal. The big animals will hardly help her. The many small flies will.

Elephants can even fly – if they don’t have a kink in their trunks. Photo: dpa

There’s this beautiful children’s book in which a blue elephant kicks a kink in his trunk. And so he goes to the other proboscideans, to the pig and then to the coati, and asks, "Kamfu help me?" But in the end, it’s two little flies that save the elephant. They tickle him in the trunk, haaaaatschi, and all is well.

You have to think of Barbara Hendricks, the environment minister, in a very similar way. This Ms. Hendricks now has a problem. She has brought home a nice piece of paper from Paris. But if no one helps her to implement the demanding task – namely to bring about the rapid phase-out of coal in Germany – then she will be left without friends, with a big kink in her trunk.

She could now ask the other big animals to help her, but it can be said: It doesn’t depend on them. The nuclear phase-out in Germany was the success of the little ones. It was an environmental movement that was active for decades and had both sound technical expertise and decent propaganda campaign work, with sit-in blockades in Gorleben and a socio-cultural participation model for thousands of outraged people.

This environmental movement, the army of flies, stands ready in the fight over coal. And it is important that this powerful army is aware from now on that its presence will matter in the German coal phase-out.

Hendricks could now ask the big animals to help. But it doesn’t depend on them

There are two places in Germany, the coalfields in Lusatia and the Rhenish open pit, that have what it takes to become the next large-scale arenas à la Gorleben. And anyone who still doubts this will be able to observe it in the spring of 2016. That’s when the flies will loosen the trunks of the big animals. Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks can look forward to this, because for her it means: everything will be fine.

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