Structural change: viticulture instead of opencast mining – politics

Lea Diesner, 16, comes from Calau, a small town on the edge of the Brandenburg open-cast mining area. “In my eyes, Lusatia is the most beautiful region in the world,” says Diesner. This is astonishing because Lausitz is more of a dying coal region from which people are moving away. “At last Abitur and then gone”, Diesner also knows this attitude from her classmates. She herself wants to go a different way: “I stick to my region. I want to shape it.” This is one of the reasons why the young woman is now standing next to this flip chart in the youth hostel. “Young people shape structural change” is the main theme.

Around 40 young people from 16 to 27 met this weekend in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt. Financed primarily by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs and organized by the Leuphana University of Lüneburg, they were able to develop their ideas for the future of the German lignite regions. Because the days for Germany’s mining areas, the Rhenish, the Central German and the Lusatian lignite mining area, are numbered. It should be over by 2038 at the latest. But what comes next? How do you keep these regions alive?

Young people make energy policy: Lea Diesner from Calau does not want to leave Lausitz, but wants to help shape the future of the region.

Lea Diesner from Calau does not want to leave Lausitz, but rather to help shape the future of the region.

(Photo: Jan Heidtmann)

Wine growing on the slopes of the pits or the floating event platform on the flooded opencast mine are some of the more curious ideas. A total of 600 came together over the weekend, three handful of which were finally prepared for the presentation on this Sunday afternoon. Among them, for example, the Revier information portal, on which the widely dispersed state of knowledge about a mining area is to be collected: geodata, political decisions, economic indicators. Or the proposal to turn former open-cast mines into refuges for endangered species.

Most of the proposals developed, however, dealt with prospects for young people. Because at least in the east, the regions around the opencast mining areas are suffering massively from emigration. The ideas for this ranged from conference hotels as meeting places to a voluntary social year in former mining areas. One group proposed a youth center for LGBTIQ people under the title “Kreuz & Queer”. So young people should be “empowered to shape themselves freely”.

Measured against the problems of the opencast mining areas – including, at least in the east, high unemployment, high levels of dissatisfaction and the highest percentage of votes for the AfD – many of the proposals here seem almost cute. When the negotiators of the traffic light coalition recently mentioned that the phase-out of lignite could come eight years earlier, i.e. in 2030, the protest was enormous. Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) immediately called such considerations the “coup de grace” for the region. “Actionism and symbolic politics” – this is how 58 municipal representatives from Lusatia described them in an open letter to Olaf Scholz (SPD).

“The economy must submit to climate protection”

Lukas Müller sees the resistance quite relaxed. “You have to live with that,” he says. In any case, coal mining should be stopped as early as 2030. “The economy must submit to climate protection.” The 22-year-old grew up in Görlitz, a town on the Polish border. The opencast mine there was flooded in 2008. Müller is now studying software development in Berlin, “but my home is important to me,” he says. Like most young people here, he has long been thinking of the time after coal mining. And he believes that some of the suggestions from this weekend could well be implemented.

Young people make energy policy: Lukas Müller studies in Berlin, but because it is about his homeland, he came to Halle to discuss the future of the open-cast mining areas.

Lukas Müller is studying in Berlin, but because it’s about his home country, he came to Halle to discuss the future of the open-cast mining areas.

(Photo: Jan Heidtmann)

The chances of this are actually not bad. On the one hand, there is money for structural change, a total of 40 billion euros, and much of the money has not yet been planned. And in addition to the young people, representatives from four federal ministries are here this weekend, as well as government employees from the four federal states that are mainly affected: North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt. “Of course we want our proposals to reach politicians,” says Waldemar Stange, Professor of Social Pedagogy at Leuphana University.

For this reason, some of the participants are now working on a kind of report based on the weekend, which is then to be handed over to state and federal politicians. Many politicians have long understood that young people are simply “location factors” for the future viability of a region, says Stange. In other cases, the public helps: “You have to introduce yourself, there is a minister, the report and a camera. That works,” says Stange, who has been developing participation projects for young people for decades.

Lea Diesner also trusts in this. “That we can have a say”, that was what it was all about. “We want new projects and we want results.” Her group’s proposal consisted of an advertising portal for Lusatia via social media. But it would be her wish that all of the 600 proposals here would be implemented, she says with a wonderfully unbreakable optimism. “We look forward to the change.”

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