Protestors' radical tactics are failing to win over the masses
“A red line has been crossed,” one member of the German parliament said, when it emerged that climate activists managed to break into Berlin Airport on Thursday and disrupt flight traffic for around 90 minutes.
While previous coverage of such incidents included supportive voices, this time the radicals have lost just about all sympathy, even in a country as keen to be green as Germany. Politicians from across the spectrum, climate experts and even the Green Party itself have now distanced themselves from the protests.
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Against this backdrop, the activists seem to revel in the disruption and dismay they cause. A live video shared on Thursday shows three of them crawling through a hole they cut in the fence at the airport. The post attempts to justify the disruption that followed by arguing that “Airoplanes are no mean of transport for common people. 80% of people never ever went anywhere by plane. Only one very wealthy percent is responsible for about of emissions caused by air traffic [sic].”
In Germany, the number of people who have never been on a plane is only 11%. Before the pandemic, well over 20 million Germans undertook plane travel every year, the vast majority for private purposes such as holidays. The activists’ disruption on Thursday alone affected nearly 4000 passengers.
Recognising that flying has long been a normal means of transport for millions of hardworking people and not just a privilege reserved for the elite, even the co-leader of the German Green Party, Omid Nouripour, sharply criticised the activists. “The limit is reached when lives are at risk and in times like these,” he said, “when […] people don’t have much money and for example spend what money they have to go on holiday.”
Some politicians, like Transport Minister Volker Wissing, have argued for more “decisive action” from security forces as “society cannot tolerate such behaviour”. The General Secretary of the liberal Free Democratic Party, Bijan Djir-Sarai, has also called for the “full force of the state” to be applied.
But more police action may well backfire. The activists largely believe that getting arrested is something of a badge of honour, and that it will help garner public sympathy. In a recent video shared, complete with a trigger warning for “violence against protesters”, viewers can watch police carrying activists off a road they were blocking. From the caption we learn that they feel such hardship must be endured in order to force people to leave the “fossil path of annihilation.”
In reality, Germany’s climate extremists are reaching very few with their antics. According to a recent poll, 86% of Germans think that such disruptive action is harmful to the environmentalist cause. Parliamentarians also aren’t in a rush to cave to the activists’ attempts at political blackmail. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser called the blocking of Berlin Airport “a renewed escalation and unacceptable,” adding that “these actions destroy vital societal acceptance for the fight against climate change.”
If Germany’s green radicals were really interested in furthering the cause of climate change, they would try working with an open-minded public and their elected representatives. But with every road they block and every journey they disrupt, they make it increasingly clear that their primary motivation is to draw attention to themselves, not to the planet.