Is it really radical?

Is it really radical?


Is it radical to glue your hand to the road or throw tomato soup on a painting behind glass? Heinrich Gärtner, co-founder and CTO of GP JOULE, explores this question.

The other day, a colleague quite clearly articulated what the discussion about climate activists and those who glue themselves to the road is actually about: it’s about a shift in perception. After all, it is not the demand for change that is radical, but rather sticking to the status quo.

Is he right? Change is the order of the day! We must react now and put the essential foundations of our being and belonging on a new footing. We must not continue to exploit our planet as we have done for the past 100 years. But does this mean that the activists’ actions can be considered “non-radical”? When people glue themselves to busy roads and risk serious injury?

Germany, Europe and the global community have long been aware that we must act. However, little is actually happening. Instead, many politicians stigmatise, almost demonise, those activists who point out that the state is failing to meet the climate targets it has set itself. Why? To cover up their own inaction? To distract from clinging onto fossil fuels? To cover up the gap between the propagated rapid expansion of renewable energies and the time-consuming bureaucracy behind it?

The inactivists are the “radical” ones

Demonising an inconvenient form of social protest is of course easier than facing up to responsibility and our own failures. This mechanism is nothing new. Many movements have had a similar experience. They have been labelled as radicals, defamed as nuisances to society and brought in front of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. But President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution Thomas Haldenwang had already made it clear that the “Last Generation” is not a terrorist organisation and that it is not extremist.

So, in the style of the self-appointed “guardians” of law and order, it is a perfectly legitimate question to ask: how radical is it to detain people for weeks for actions like those mentioned earlier and to call them terrorists? Because they are not fighting against society, as terrorists do. They are fighting for life. More precisely: for survival. This may seem strange to some. However, it is legitimate. Especially since no people were attacked, nor works of art actually damaged.

Stopping the climate catastrophe should actually be everyone’s aspiration. And in times like these, anyone who ignores the bringers of bad news, the admonishers and warners, and wants to change as little as possible is an inactivist and therefore a greater danger to us all.

Approval alone is not enough

Climate activists, organised in various groups ranging from local to global, have achieved a lot in a short time with relatively little budget and effort. They have thrust themselves into the public eye with such vehemence that many a politician is probably green with envy. They are consistently moving forward a protest that “Fridays for Future” set in motion a few years ago, but which now meets with largely sympathetic approval. But that acquiescence has lost it its most powerful lever: public outrage. Hardly anyone gets rattled about a schoolchild on strike here and there.

But if we all just sagely nod our heads in agreement – because after all, they are right, the young people – and then carry on as before, then it will take renewed agitation to attract any attention at all. There is simply no other means left to disrupt the lives of citizens and make their voices heard.

For those who cannot believe this, remember that we have known about the threat of anthropogenic climate change since the mid-1970s. Since then, scientists have been trying, persistently yet ineffectively, with all the means at their disposal to shake us up – i.e. society, the economy and politics. We are awake to it, that much is true. But are we also taking enough steps forward? And at the necessary pace?

Those who will not listen must pay

Meanwhile, people and businesses are feeling the pinch, or worse. The invasion of Ukraine has brought our dependence on fossil energy sources from other countries into the spotlight. We have already seen an initial preview of the effects of the climate catastrophe in this country in recent years with the flooding in the Ahr valley in western Germany, crop failures due to drought in the south and east, and rising sea levels in the north.

But where is the outrage about the lack of policy strategies? The political sphere is slumbering gently under energy price caps. It takes a lot of money to keep society living and thriving as it has been used to unperturbed. The same effect could be achieved if we switched our supply of electricity, heat and mobility to renewable sources. If we put the same financial and legislative effort into it as we have been doing up to now to subsidise fossil fuels and power plants, we would achieve this quickly.

Finally, many companies, sectors and municipalities are beginning to increasingly work on their green footprint. This is demonstrated by companies such as Airbus Helicopters, which has entered into a direct supply contract with GP JOULE and now obtains climate-neutral electricity from a nearby photovoltaic park. And municipalities are also demonstrating this, many of which are currently in the process of setting up their own local heating network. Human and entrepreneurial will is loosening political constraints where scientific warnings have so far been drowned out by lobbying forces. Every form of expression of will, whether it’s loud or quiet, adhesive or demonstrative, is therefore to be regarded as a legitimate way of confrontation.

We have reached a critical turning point. Perhaps the “climate gluers” will go down in future history books as a decisive spark for climate change. Who knows? Let’s at least give them the opportunity. Because they are not driven by hatred, but by the only important thing in these times: saving the planet. And that calls for radical change.

By the way, “radical” is not a swear word. It simply means to do something thoroughly, to tackle it at the root. And when it comes to our livelihoods and those of our children and grandchildren, this is a very effective means. It might also be the only one we have left.


Heinrich Gärtner

is Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the GP JOULE Group, with a focus on research and development and internationalisation. A graduate agricultural engineer, he runs his farm in Buttenwiesen in the Dillingen an der Donau district. This is where GP JOULE’s second largest company site is located – second only to Reussenköge in North Frisia. Heinrich Gärtner is active in various associations, including as a member of the executive committee of the BVES Bundesverband Energiespeicher (Federal Energy Storage Association).