Bonn The "Fridays for Future" movement has set up its climate camp in the Hofgarten. Their actions polarize, but are usually met with approval. Many Bonners support the pupils and students in their peaceful protest.
The black paint is still wet. Half an hour ago, the 20 plywood crosses were still on the tables in Bonn's Hofgarten. Now young people are holding them in their hands. Their eyes closed, motionless, on the pavement of the inner city. Only the firm grip around the crosses shows passers-by that they are still alive. "The sea level is rising," calls Michael Hindert into the megaphone. One after the other, the 16-year-old lists cities that would sink if climate change could not be stopped. The metropolises of New York and Rio are there - and Bonn.
"That's an exaggeration," says another 16-year-old who passes by the Fridays for Future group. She gets involved in a discussion. The environment is important to her, but does that mean you have to throw yourself on the ground? It seems as if the two parties are talking at cross purposes: Some are committed to the climate. The others, annoyed by the constant presence of environmental issues.
The movement has never been more present in Bonn than in these days. First around 15,000 people demonstrated on Friday, then "Fridays for Future" set up its climate camp in the Hofgarten. Every night 20 to 30 young people camp there, prepare demos, organise concerts and invite to workshops.
On Monday morning, the physical basics of climate change will be on the agenda. On the beer benches in the tent and on the sofa sit Cornelia, over 60, but also teenagers like Claas. The Bonn scientist Stefan Poll explained the "simple climate model" in 20 minutes. He doesn't need more than a few printed graphics for this. In a nutshell: The man-made emission of CO2 intensifies the greenhouse effect. The earth has been warming up since the beginning of industrialisation. "That's physics," Poll says dryly. "It gets really exciting with the tilting elements. When glaciers melt, for example, the lack of ice warms the ground even more.
While the group listens to Poll, Michael Hindert has been on his feet for several hours. He wears the discarded stain camouflage trousers and the old, olive-green Bundeswehr shirt out of conviction - "because the things have a good climate balance". Hindert is responsible for technology and logistics. You could say he likes to intervene courageously. When a garbage container burns on the weekend because passers-by apparently had thrown in a smouldering cigarette, Hindert stops it with the attached fire extinguisher. When Sunday night suddenly the lawn sprinklers on the courtyard garden meadow come on, he covers them - until he contacts the house technician of the university who switches them off.
Why he joined the "Fridays for Future" movement is quickly explained: "The point of the debate is that politics is so stubborn and supposedly unable to do anything about climate change. We are an economic nation with a lot of influence, we should use it and lead the way.“ He has very mature views. "It is clear that we cannot completely do without private transport. I'm from Wachtberg, I know what I'm talking about." But one should do without it if possible. "Everyone has to get out of their comfort zone. What matters is the price we pay if we don't."
I suppose that impresses his teachers, who support him. They know that he is skipping lessons for the climate camp. The deal: He attends the school lessons that are important to him. Maths and physics, for example, because the next two weeks will see exams. He doesn't have to worry about unexcused absences. "They are not entered on the certificate. That's a grey area, the schools decide for themselves.“
What Hindert particularly likes about the camp is the community. The participants cook and eat together, this time there are Asian noodles "with lots of oil". Whoever can, gives a small donation. Because some food has to be bought. But most of it comes from the organisation Foodsharing and from donations. The tables in the catering tent are amply set. There is so much that between 20 and 35 campers, including students, can hardly eat it themselves. That's why we also like to cook for our guests.
But the toilets become a problem. Those who don't want to use the compost toilets can use the sanitary facilities of the university. After midnight you can go to fast food restaurants - or hotels that are still open.
"We finance ourselves with donations," explains Fridays spokesman Luca Samlidis from Bonn. Aid organisations provide tents, the university has laid a drinking water pipe - in case the water wagon of the Stadtwerke Bonn can't come. From the city of Bonn, there is almost 5000 euros through the guideline for the promotion of youth work. "The big Friday strike even brought in several thousand euros. One of the biggest costs is the rented music system, which is used every evening for concerts or poetry slams.
There is a lot of support from the Bonners, who always bring something to the campers. Sometimes a vegan cake, sometimes vegetables from the garden. "That's a good thing, you have to support it," says the woman, who donates 20 hot-water bottles. "For the cold nights." Above all, however, it is admiration for the pupils and students. "I belong to the generation of 68. When I compare my young self with the young people here, they are much smarter than we were then. They acquire an incredible amount of knowledge. This knowledge is power," says Karla Götze.
Complaints are rare. When the traffic is blocked for several minutes during the demo on the Adenauerallee, a man steps on the gas while his car is standing - the answer to the request to turn the car off and listen. "I have an appointment and cycle thousands of kilometres every year. Such a behaviour is unnecessary," says the man. The police intervene in the Hofgarten on Saturday night - because the music is too loud. On Monday night the music doesn't bother anyone any more: the jam session lasts until 2 o'clock. Then the Fridays musicians get tired.
You can see the tiredness in the pupils the next morning. But also the unconditional will to continue. What happens after Friday when the camp is cleared? "Sleep late," says one activist. But not for long. Because at the weekend there is an event in another city. And the climate targets have not yet been reached either.
(Original text: Nicolas Ottersbach; Translation: Mareike Graepel)