Germany is cited by many as an example of what other countries should aspire to when it comes to energy. According to assclowns like Conrad Miller, Germany is doing the “Green” thing, phasing out nuclear energy and replacing it with wind power and other renewables. While it’s true that Germany has poured tremendous amounts of national treasure into wind turbines and other “renewable” energy systems, they also are continuing to expand their coal burning as quickly as they can. As this need for coal increases, another national treasure is being destroyed, one which has greater value than the billions of dollars that their epic failure of an energy policy has cost them.
Germany is a nation which has risen, fallen, been split and reunited. It is a nation which has a deep cultural history and a heritage that goes back for centuries. Much of the great structures of Germany were destroyed in the second world war and the cultural upheval of the war and the division and communist occupation of the country further impacted the cultural heritage and idenity of the nation. In light of this it is all the more tragic that the Rhineland, the beautiful heart of Germany is being torn to shreds. Communities which have endured for centuries, family farms and generations-old traditions are being scrabed away by bucket wheel excivators in the quest for coal.
Germany no longer has much in the way of anthracite coal left, at least not near the surface. But vast amounts of lingite and brown coal remain just bellow the surface. To feed the boilers of the massive mulit-gigawatt coal power plants, earth must be moved to get at the coal. When the earth is moved, so too are the structures which sit upon it and the people who live in them.
This is a large brown coal mine at Garzweiler. The mine is enormous, with just this portion stretching more than five statute miles from north to south. It is also being mined very heavily. The amount of land being torn up is apparent in this image, which is a composite of satellite images from between 2004 and 2008. So much ground has been moved that the imaging does not even stitch together properly. The older photos still show green ground while the new ones show only the mine.
But there was once something else here. The history of the village of Garzweiler goes back to the 1200′s. It was occupied by French troops during the Napoleonic Wars. By the 20th century, the community had a population of about 2000. Generations lived there, in a community centered around a village square and a neo-Gothic church. But in the 1980′s the coal mine began to creep closer and closer to the village. So, to extract the coal that it had sat upon for centuries, the town was raized. The homes were torn down to their foundation and the inhabitants forced to leave.
The German government forced the abandonment of the town, establishing a hamlet known as “New Garzweiler.” Only about half of the residents settled in the “new” community. In 2000 the community adopted the motto “Our village has a future.” Later the town dropped the part “New” from the name. It just goes to show, saying something doesn’t actually make it true. Some of the residents of the village stayed into the 1990′s, but today there is nothing left.
Here is a photo from 2000, showing the last corner of the village to be destroyed. The remains of a few homes can be seen:
But by 2004, the last traces had been obliterated:
It is, of course, inevitable that some villages and homes will be destroyed in a modern society, in order to build new infrastructure or to use the land for other projects. Yet the project for “relocation” of villages in Germany is not limited in scope or time. Indeed, like the mines themselves, the sheer scale of the devistation is gargantuane. Garzweiler is not alone – far from it; it is only one of the villages and towns wiped from the map by the insatable need for coal. Even the new village may eventually have to be raized, although not for another 20+ years. The autobaun may also need to be rerouted in the near future.
Many villages have been destroyed, many others fight for survival and as things stand, most will probably lose.
Via the New York Times: (2004)
Heuersdorf Journal; A Medieval German Hamlet Keeps the Bulldozers at Bay
Visitors passing through this lonesome hamlet in the coal mining region of eastern Germany can hardly miss the American flag next to the tidy town square: it flies upside down.
This is not a sign of disrespect, the friendly townsfolk insist, nor is it some kind of protest against the war in Iraq.
It is a way of signaling distress — something Heuersdorf has felt since 1994, when an American-owned mining company won approval from the German government to demolish this medieval village of 150 to get at the rich seam of coal that lies beneath it.
”Our goal is to safeguard our home,” said Bernd GÃƒnther, an unemployed mining worker who heads a group fighting the plan. ”It may not look like much, but this place is 700 years old.”
Old maps of East Germany bear the names of hundreds of villages that were bulldozed during Communist times to make way for strip mines. Heuersdorf, however, was one of the first to be marked for destruction after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the German government sold state-owned mines to American investors with a promise that they could expand the digging.
The town mentioned above may be surviving, staying off its own death sentance through a constant battle of appeals and lawsuits, but many have not been able to keep up the fight. No site is immune to destruction. If there is coal to be had, then anything is fair game. Those who live in the hundreds of threatened towns are not the only ones concerned, preservation organizations have expressed their own concens about the destruction of monuments and sites signifficant to cultural history. Even the great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche remains have been threatened by the expansion of coal mining. His grave is located in a town which is slated to be “relocated.” The town of RÃ?cken has hoped that the famous gravesite might be able to save the town from destruction, but at the moment, the plan still calls for the town to be leveled.
Just like homes, churches, schools and monuments, cemetaries are not beyond the reach of coal relocation. For those with relatives in relatively new graves, it’s often possible to yank them one in one piece and plop them down somewhere else. However, if it’s an older family grave, where the coffin has decomposed and the body has been reduced to a few fragments of bone and teeth, then chances are, you’re just going to have to deal with the fact that what’s left of your grandma is going to end in a pile of mine spoil. (needless to say, some families are not happy about this.)
But it gets worse. In addition to the destruction of individual homes and the uprooting of families, entire groups and cultures are being threatened by the relocation effort.
Germany’s Sorb Minority Fights to Save Villages From Vattenfall
Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) — In the deserted eastern German village of Haidemuehl, doors creak and slam in the winter wind. Neglected gardens overflow with junk: refrigerators, bottles, cassettes.
Viewed through a smashed window pane, pink teddy bears dance on a blue background, the torn wallpaper of a child’s abandoned bedroom. Behind the crumbling briquette factory, an excavator works in the rain, pulling down a warehouse piece by piece.
Haidemuehl will soon be destroyed. The last villagers left in 2006, resettled by the Swedish utility Vattenfall AB. It is one of more than 80 villages to be wiped off the map by lignite mining in the Lausitz region — Lusatia in English — since 1924.
The region, about 150 kilometers southeast of Berlin, is home to the Sorbs, a 60,000-strong Slavic minority with a language related to Polish and Czech. With 10 more villages threatened by Vattenfall’s mining plans, Sorb inhabitants are fighting back.
“Beneath us there is coal, and Vattenfall wants it,” Erika Petrick, 66, says in an interview in the endangered village of Rohne, part of the municipality of Schleife. She is dressed in the traditional Sorb costume still worn by the older women in the region — apron, thick linen pleated skirt, frilled blouse, bodice and white bonnet. “If Vattenfall’s plans come to fruition, then the Schleife Sorbs will die out. We want to stop them.”
More than 25,000 people — ethnic Sorbs and Germans — have been forced to leave their homes in Lusatia to make way for the mines in the past 80 years. They are victims of demand for lignite, or brown coal. It’s a cheap, homegrown source of power.
Lignite accounts for about a quarter of German electricity production, a proportion the Environment Ministry predicts may increase to 28 percent by 2020 as the government phases out nuclear power. Vattenfall digs up 60 million tons of coal a year from its four Lusatia mines, according to Hartmuth Zeiss, head of the company’s European mining unit.
“We expect to keep this level of coalmining in the long term, for the next few decades,” Zeiss said in a meeting at the company’s Cottbus office. “What would be the sense of cutting back on lignite mining here, when worldwide it is climbing?”
Lusatia straddles the states of Saxony and Brandenburg. The Sorbs arrived in the sixth and seventh centuries. The written language dates back to the Reformation and only about 20,000 still speak Sorbian as their mother tongue.
“With the loss of these villages, language areas have disappeared, areas of distinct Sorb identity have vanished and our traditional costumes are going, too,” says Heiko Kosel, a deputy for the Left Party in the Saxon parliament.
The relocation program threatens to destroy all that is left of the Sorbian culture by destroying the communities that remain and dispersing the few who maintain the traditions. This is just another irreplacable loss to world culture from the German coal mine relocation program. This program, though little known, continues to grow and plans for the communities and sites to be destroyed already extend past 2040.
Oh yeah, but they’re installing solar panels are some of these mines, so that makesit all better (sarcasm)
This site on Flicker has links to several photo pools which document the destruction of several villages. Please check it out. It’s very sobering.
This is no energy policy to be proud of or for the world to want to emulate.
This entry was posted on Friday, April 3rd, 2009 at 8:48 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, Enviornment, History, Nuclear, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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