Posts Tagged ‘anti-nuke

My German Anti-Nuke Protest

- April 26th, 2011

SOMEWHERE NORTH OF HAMBURG — I took part in a German anti-nuclear protest yesterday.

Not that I was planning to, of course.

What I was planning to do was take a leisurely toodle on a sunny Easter Monday afternoon around the neighbouring countryside on the ancient, eccentric motor scooter which putt-putts me through Schleswig-Holstein when I am here.

I was stopped at what passes for the main road in this neck of the woods (if there were woods of any substance in this neck) when the flashing blue light of a police car (Polizeiwagen) hove into view — slowly.

It was followed by a procession of eight buses and a scattering of private cars sprouting a variety of yellow, red and black flags. At the end of the convoy, two other police cars with flashing lights nipped at the heels of the buses like sheep dogs.

At first I thought it might be an especially large horticultural club on tour, but that was unlikely since there wasn´t a garden gnome in sight and the passengers staring out the bus windows had on their best Very Serious Faces (VSFs) — something the  Germans do perhaps better than any other nationality in the world.

The purpose of the VSF is to indicate to observers that the body attached to the VSF is engaged in Very Important Business (VIB), which said observers are encouraged — nay, impelled — to expedidate/facilitate/assist/abet/admire. Usually the VIB can better be described as VSIB (Very Self-Important Business).

Ach so,  eight buses full of VSFs escorted by police sheep dogs. The clues were piling up, but the dead giveaway to the group´s identity was the banners waving from the cars with the buses. Most were a nitrous-oxide yellow  colour with a smiley red sun in the middle encircled by black words:

ATOMKRAFT? NEIN DANKE

(NUCLEAR POWER? NO THANKS)

atomkraft

Ooooo, one of the German anti-nuke protests I had heard so much about.

So, as the rearguard Polizeiwagen trundled by, I decided to tag along. At best, I would see a Deutsche eco-political action in action or, at worst, I would be led on a jaunt into unexplored territory.

Somewhere in the middle of possibilities was the opportunity to find out where the nearest nuclear plant was. It had to be close or why else would the convoy of VSFs come through my rustic, off-the-beaten-track area.

(I´m sorry to say I had neglected to take a camera with me, so there´s no photo travelogue to go with these words, although I might try to add in some images from the Internet later.)

What followed was a 20-km serpentine journey through the flat, fertile moorlands of Schleswig-Holstein as the lead Polizeiwagen sought out every secondary farm road and one-lane cowpath in the district. I´m sure the official reason for the circuitous route was to keep the main arteries from being clogged up with similar congregating convoys of protesters, but I think there must also have been a bit of officious power-tripping involved too: “See what I can make you do? Now jump through this hoop and you will be allowed to express yourself.”

We had twisted and turned so often I had no idea where we were. I actually thought we were heading vaguely north when, in fact, we were headed south from my starting point.

Our parade crested a bridge over a bigger, busier road and we left the farmlands behind for a Gewerbegebiet (or something to that effect), an industrial zone of  recycling plants and the like.

At this point, my convoy of buses was swallowed up in a flock of other arriving buses and I lost track of my VSFs.

But there was plenty of other activity to follow. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people were walking down the road from their parked cars and other hundreds and thousands were swarming in on bicycles. (And, of course, there were the lazy ones who parked their cars and unhitched  bikes from their car racks to pedal in the last kilometre or two.)

And a fine gaggle of Germans it was too: Frosty-haired grandparents who were probably veterans of the early 1970s German anti-nuclear movement, middle-aged folks — some hippie-esque, others nip-tuck tidy and proper — who might have come on board in the aftermath of 1986´s Chornoblyl (or Chernobyl or Tschernobyl, take your pick) disaster, plenty of earnest 20-somethings with eco-consciences newly awakened by Fukushima, and large numbers of teens and children — the ones who seemed to be having the most fun on this beautiful sunny afternoon and who had not yet been fitted for their personal VSFs.

Many of the congregants carried flags and wore costumes. The flags were predominantly the standard ATOMKRAFT? NEIN DANKE standard and the principal costumes were variations of yellow helmets, facemasks and plastic jumpsuits supposed to put one in mind of nuclear decontamination outfits — a poor, sweaty choice of costume, to my mind, for a hot, sunny day when T-shirts, halter tops and shorts would have conveyed a more positive and realistic message.

But who am I to criticize? Really. I was here as a curious gawker — a Nosey Parker — not to express my personal outrage and opposition to nuclear power in general and the Brunsbüttel AKW (AtomKraftWerk — nuclear power plant) in particular.

AKWbrunsbuttel

For the outskirts of Brunsbüttel was, indeed, where my bus convey had led me. I stopped to check a map and discovered I was down by the mouth of the Elbe River, the complete opposite direction from which I thought I had been travelling.

(A short aside on büttels: The world “büttel” essentially means the same thing as the English word “borough” — a medieval seat of local government. So Scarborough, for example, would be Scarbüttel — a rather fitting description in my jaundiced opinion. There are many büttels in northern Germany — Nienbüttel, Ottenbüttel, Westerbüttel, Oldenbüttel, Tensbüttel and so on, not to mention my favourite, Aasbüttel. Next door to Brunsbüttel there´s even a small town called simply Büttel — which is pretty much like naming a town “the Town of Town” or calling a cat “Cat” … showing either a serious lack of imagination or an excess of literal-mindedness.)

But Brunsbüttel was where we were, Germans in their hundreds and thousands parading down a tree-lined road toward a nuclear plant while I did my best to weave among them on my putt-putting, fume-spewing (but at least non-nuke-powered) mo-fa, as motor scooters and mo-peds are known here.

Lage_des_AKW_Brunsbüttel

North Germans have been congregating at AKW Brunsbüttel for decades, ever since it started operating in 1976, to protest against nuclear power. The fact that the Brunsbüttel operation was taken out of service 2007 has not seemed to dampen its attraction as a protest site.

Local authorities estimated the number of people at this protest as 6,000, but I wouldn´t know for sure: When I arrived at a polizei checkpoint that would not admit my mo-fa, I declined to carry my partcipation in the protest march/ride further. But I do think the number of protesters there was probably much higher than 6,000: I had counted about 300 people in my small bus convoy alone and there were many more bus convoys as well as the thousands upon thousands of people I had seen arriving by car and bicycle (and mo-fa).

aktionstag_banner_04

But I had decided to forego the ensuing speeches and other boring impedia of over-organized protest. I embarked on a demonstration of my own, a demonstration of the power and goodness of the sun, as best appreciated on a sheltered deck with a frothy cappucino at hand.

But I am remembering Chornobyl today, on the 25th anniversary of the start of that disaster, and wondering what we will think of Fukushima 25 years from now, a time when all nuclear power plants  are supposed to be gone from Germany. Gone but not forgotten, methinks.