German climate activists aim to stir friction with blockades

  • Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe, left, and her mother Solvig Schinkoethe, second from left, sit with their hands glued to the ground during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe, left, and her mother Solvig Schinkoethe, second from left, sit with their hands glued to the ground during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

  • Police officers carry away climate activist Lina Schinkoethe during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    Police officers carry away climate activist Lina Schinkoethe during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

  • Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe's hand is glued to the ground with a warning to police during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe's hand is glued to the ground with a warning to police during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

  • FILE - Police officers guard climate activists with the group Uprising of the Last Generation after they threw black paint on the wall of the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, June 22, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    FILE - Police officers guard climate activists with the group Uprising of the Last Generation after they threw black paint on the wall of the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, June 22, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

  • Police officers guard the chancellery after climate activists with the group Uprising of the Last Generation threw black paint on the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    Police officers guard the chancellery after climate activists with the group Uprising of the Last Generation threw black paint on the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

  • Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe with the group Uprising of the Last Generation poses for a portrait after an interview with The Associated Press in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, July 5, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe with the group Uprising of the Last Generation poses for a portrait after an interview with The Associated Press in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, July 5, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

  • Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe, center left, and her mother Solvig Schinkoethe, center right, sit with their hands glued to the ground with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe, center left, and her mother Solvig Schinkoethe, center right, sit with their hands glued to the ground with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

  • Ernst Hoermann, 72, has his hand removed from the ground after he glued it during a protest as part of the Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin on Monday, July 11, 2022. Hoermann, a retired railway engineer and grandfather who has been traveling to Berlin from Bavaria regularly to take part in the protests.

    Ernst Hoermann, 72, has his hand removed from the ground after he glued it during a protest as part of the Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin on Monday, July 11, 2022. Hoermann, a retired railway engineer and grandfather who has been traveling to Berlin from Bavaria regularly to take part in the protests. Associated Press

  • FILE - French gendarmes secure the road after climate activists stopped the race during the tenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 148.5 kilometers (92.3 miles) with start in Morzine les Portes du Soleil and finish in Megeve, France, July 12, 2022. Climate activists across Europe are escalating their tactics in a bid to prompt more government action on climate change.

    FILE - French gendarmes secure the road after climate activists stopped the race during the tenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 148.5 kilometers (92.3 miles) with start in Morzine les Portes du Soleil and finish in Megeve, France, July 12, 2022. Climate activists across Europe are escalating their tactics in a bid to prompt more government action on climate change. Associated Press

  • FILE - French gendarmes detain a climate activist after demonstrators stopped the race during the tenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 148.5 kilometers (92.3 miles) with start in Morzine les Portes du Soleil and finish in Megeve, France, July 12, 2022. Climate activists across Europe are escalating their tactics in a bid to prompt more government action on climate change.

    FILE - French gendarmes detain a climate activist after demonstrators stopped the race during the tenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 148.5 kilometers (92.3 miles) with start in Morzine les Portes du Soleil and finish in Megeve, France, July 12, 2022. Climate activists across Europe are escalating their tactics in a bid to prompt more government action on climate change. Associated Press

  • Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe, third from right, and her mother Solvig Schinkoethe, fourth from right, sit with their hands glued to the ground during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe, third from right, and her mother Solvig Schinkoethe, fourth from right, sit with their hands glued to the ground during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

  • A police officer uses cooking oil to loosen the hand of a protester with the group Uprising of the Last Generation who glued herself to a road in Berlin in protest against the government's climate policy on Monday, July 11, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    A police officer uses cooking oil to loosen the hand of a protester with the group Uprising of the Last Generation who glued herself to a road in Berlin in protest against the government's climate policy on Monday, July 11, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

  • FILE - A climate activist with the group Uprising of the Last Generation looks at his hand after it was carefully loosened by police from the ground it was glued to in Berlin, Germany, March 18, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    FILE - A climate activist with the group Uprising of the Last Generation looks at his hand after it was carefully loosened by police from the ground it was glued to in Berlin, Germany, March 18, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

  • A police officer talks to a climate activist during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    A police officer talks to a climate activist during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

  • Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe, right, and her mother Solvig Schinkoethe, second from right, sit with their hands glued to the ground during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

    Climate activist Lina Schinkoethe, right, and her mother Solvig Schinkoethe, second from right, sit with their hands glued to the ground during a protest with the group Uprising of the Last Generation in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The group claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Associated Press

 
 
Posted7/15/2022 7:00 AM

BERLIN -- 'It's absolutely crazy to stick yourself to the road with superglue,' admits Lina Schinkoethe.

And yet, the 19-year-old recently landed in jail for doing just that, in protest at what she believes is the German government's failure to act against climate change.

 

Schinkoethe is part of a group called Uprising of the Last Generation that claims the world has only a few years left to turn the wheel around and avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

Like-minded activists elsewhere in Europe have interrupted major sporting events such as the Tour de France and the Formula One Grand Prix in Silverstone in recent weeks, while others glued themselves to the frame of a painting at London's Royal Academy of Arts Tuesday. But Schinkoethe's group has mainly targeted ordinary commuters in cities such as Berlin who, on any given day this summer, might find themselves in an hours-long tailback caused by a handful of activists gluing themselves to the asphalt.

Their actions have prompted outrage and threats from inconvenienced motorists. Tabloid media and some politicians have accused them of sowing chaos and harming ordinary folk just trying to go about their business. Some have branded them dangerous radicals.

Schinkoethe says the escalation in tactics is justified.

'If we wanted people to like us then we'd do something else but we've tried everything else,' she told The Associated Press. 'We've asked nicely. We've demonstrated calmly.'

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She recalls joining the Fridays for Future protests led by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg which saw hundreds of thousands of students worldwide skip school and rally for a better world.

'I really hoped something would change, that politicians would react and finally take us and the science of climate change seriously," she said. "But we're still heading for a world that's 3 to 4 degrees Celsius (5.4 to 7.2 Fahrenheit) warmer.'

Such a rise in global temperatures is more than twice the 1.5-C (2.7-F) limit countries agreed to in the 2015 Paris climate accord. While progress has been made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, experts agree the goal is still far out of reach.

Scientists agree that the world has no time to waste in cutting emissions, but have tried to counter 'doomism' by arguing that the world isn't heading for one single cliff edge so much as a long, steep slope with several precipitous drops.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

'Each tenth of a degree matters,' said Ricarda Winkelmann, a scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research near Berlin.

'If we really start acting now and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, chances are that we can limit some of the most severe climate impacts,' she said.

Such messages are lost on many of those caught up in the blockades.

At two protests witnessed by The AP in June and July, several truckers got out of their cabs to berate the activists. One physically hauled two protesters off the road.

Other drivers, some of whom weren't affected by the blockade, also hurled abuse at the activists. A few expressed support for the climate cause but questioned the way the protests were conducted.

'They need to find a different way to do this than to block other people,' said one driver on his way to work, who would only give his name as Stefan.

Berlin's mayor has called the street blockades 'crimes,' while the city's top security official is demanding that prosecutors and courts mete out swift convictions. So far, no cases have gone to trial.

Still, Schinkoethe believes she has no choice but to keep going.

'We need to generate friction, peaceful friction, so that there's an honest debate and we can act accordingly,' she said.

That sentiment was echoed by Ernst Hoermann, a retired railway engineer and grandfather of eight who has been traveling to Berlin from Bavaria regularly to take part in the protests.

'We basically have to cause a nuisance until it hurts," he said as a police officer tried to unstick him from the road with the help of cooking oil.

Similar protests have resulted in weeks-long prison sentences in Britain, where the government has sought court injunctions to preemptively stop road blockades by the group Insulate Britain.

Hoermann, 72, said he isn't afraid of fines or the prospect of prison.

'Not compared to the fear I have for my children,' he said.

Last Generation has recently tried to focus attention on Germany's plans to drill for oil and gas in the North Sea.

Despite having the most ambitious climate target of any major industrialized nation, Germany's center-left government is scrambling like other European countries to replace its Russian energy imports and avoid painful fuel shortages in the coming years.

Schinkoethe says the number of people participating in the group's actions has grown from 30 to 200 in six months, and argues that the blockades follow the tradition of civil disobedience seen during the U.S. civil rights movement and the fight for women's suffrage.

'What we're doing is illegal," she said. 'At the same time it's legitimate.'

Manuel Ostermann, a senior member of one of Germany's police unions, accused the group of committing crimes while portraying themselves as victims.

'Where the process of radicalization gets going, extremism isn't far off,' he wrote on Twitter.

Members of Last Generation have tried to counter that, citing U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who earlier this year said that 'the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.'

"I'm going to keep going until the government locks me and the other activists up for their peaceful protests, or gives in to our demands,' said Schinkoethe.

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Follow AP's coverage of climate change at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

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Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP's climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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