Germany's Incredible Green Movement



How German activists made treehugging mainstream. 

This article originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence

While the United States’ congressional machinery was busy shoveling sugar into its own gas tank last month, politicians in Germany pressed forward on their ambitious drive for sustainability. Boosted by a fresh mandate in the September elections, German leaders pressed on with their country’s “Energy Transformation,” a campaign designed to ignite a renewables revolution and slash greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2050. As Germany begins powering down its coal plants and nuclear reactors one by one, solar stations and windmills are appearing around the country by the tens of thousands.

U.S. climate activists have been quick to valorize Germany’s recent restructuring. Bill McKibben of has called Germany the greenest industrial nation on earth. “Munich is north of Montreal!” he likes to point out, emphasizing that the cold and cloudy capital of kraut is already capable of generating half of its electricity from solar power — and that the rest of the world’s sunnier, windier and more seismically active countries no longer have an excuse not to follow suit.

There is good reason for painting Germany as the poster child of the possible. As McKibben has noted, a north European ski paradise isn’t the likeliest of places to be spearheading a global energy revolution. In 1945, just two generations ago, Germany was more or less a country of rubble, its population decimated by a genocidal war and its territory controlled by four increasingly discordant occupying forces. As recently as 1990, it remained bifurcated by the Iron Curtain, a quarter of its population residing in a Soviet police state with a dismal environmental record.

11/27/2013 8:50:44 AM

As a native German, now an American, i find this article mostly accurate. The most egregious error is the stereotypical comment referring to the former DDR (East Germany) as an "ecological wreck." Having toured parts of former East Germany in 1991, 1995, and 2013, i found the western propaganda characterizing the air as unbreathable and the landscape in ruins to be ridiculous. While the toxic brown coal used in the DDR surely caused Waldsterben -- forest death -- so did acid rain in large areas in the US, including the Appalachian Mountains where i live. It is not the political system that causes environmental destruction, it is industrialism, and all governments indulge in it as much as possible. Consider mountaintop removal in WV and KY, an abomination still occurring, visible from space as are several other destroyed parts of the US. It is unfortunate to see western propaganda repeated without justification. Many East Germans loved and protected their countryside and their forests with no interference. The German roots of environmentalism go back at least to the 600s AD, when Germanic tribes began enacting forest protections. Do your research and don't just accept old politicized propaganda without question.

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