The 2nd Degrowth Summerschool will take place on the Climate Camp in the Rhineland from the 19th to the 23rd of August 2016. “Skills for System Change“ will be the motto of a diverse programme dealing with alternatives to the current economic system. Right after the Summer School has ended, the Action Lab will take place from the 24th to the 29th of August. Melanie and Milan, who are involved in the preparation of the Action Lab, explain what it is all about and how one can take part.


1. What is an Action Lab? How did you get the idea?

The Action Lab is supposed to be a place where proven forms of action can be developed further and be adapted to new situations or surroundings. We want to disturb the coal infrastructure in the Rhineland coal field with various and diverse actions.
Last year, “Ende Gelaende“ was a very successful big action of civil disobedience we helped to carry out. The collective experiences people made there have made the climate movement gain a whole new momentum. To be successful as a movement we need many different forms of action, including actions, that can be performed by only a few people, or in their everyday life. Hence, with the Action Lab we want to create a setting in which other forms of action can be both tested and used.

2. Is there a larger framework the Action Lab is a part of?

To understand the bigger picture we need to point out that the main reasons for climate change are to be found in a capitalism that is based on growth. To push it back we need to live utopias, just like they are being developed in the degrowth movement. But we also need resistance to stop the fossil industry – because otherwise climate change will strip us of the perspective of a good life for everyone. Last autumn we as the climate movement came up with a plan for action til 2017 to actually accomplish certain steps, like a coal phase-out:
This year at Pentecost, Lusatia was the place where Ende Gelaende put meaning to the slogan „we are the investment risk“. In the summer we want to try out new forms of action at the Action Lab. In 2017 all the different forms of action are supposed to come together and happen simultaneously in different parts of the Rhineland coal field – just like people in the resistance against nuclear waste transports did.

3. Which forms of actions are supposed to happen? And which not?

It’s not only the climate movement that has been working on new forms of action over the last years, constantly improving them. We can learn a lot from anti-racist movements, from queer-feminist groups, globalisation-critical groups and many more – which is why we also invite people from other social struggles to come to the Rhineland aswell. Furthermore we hope for completely new ideas to be developed especially for the anti-coal movement. We’d be happy to see all kinds of creative action ideas emerging, and we’d also be happy to see groups, may they be small or big, block coal infrastructure effectively or disturb the operations running smoothly in another way.
What’s important for us is that no people are put in danger and that the local structures are being respected. There will also be a kind of action framework, a document explaining the social environment activists are then moving around in.

4. But it’s also about civil disobedience, isn’t it? Why don’t you rule out breaching the law? There are many legal ways to protest.

We live in a historic time frame. Although the Paris climate treaty has been widely celebrated its actual results won’t protect us from a self-perpetuating climate change. We need a deeper transformation of society to prevent it. When we take a look at past movements of resistance, e.g. the women’s movement or the anti-colonial liberation struggles, their success was also based on actions of civil disobedience. We remember that when we call for people to participate in direct action. We have the right to defend ourselves against the destruction of our future and of so many peoples livelihoods. When all legal means fail, like they do right now, breaching the law is legitimate.

5. Is it an experienced-activists-only space? Who will care for peoples safety?

The Action Lab most definitely is not only something for experienced activists. It’s mere idea is to make actions more accessible and dismantle barriers. That’s why there will be workshops about action basics at the Climate Camp. Additionally we invite people to announce their ideas for action beforehand, in order to find other people who might be interested in the same thing and help developing the idea further at the camp. It can be anything, a registered vigil, a flash mob, a direct blockade. Who acts out which idea each and everyone can decide for themselves, according to their own wishes and needs. Who defines who is experienced and who isn’t? Everyone has got something to learn from someone else!

6. Given one wants to participate – what should one bring along?

Solid shoes, robust and weatherproof clothing and a water bottle are no mistake to bring along. But the essentials are: curiosity, patience and ideas!

The interview was conducted by Christopher Laumanns, one of the press contacts for the Degrowth Summerschool 2016.
The degrowth web portal and the Degrowth Summerschool are neither organising the Action Lab nor do they encourage anyone to participate in civil disobedience. The Degrowth Summer School is bridging between the movements for degrowth and for climate justice and is hence reporting on the Action Lab.