As the German election approached, climate anxiety failed to translate into votes

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The charming brick house of Helmut Beser sits on the edge of a volcanic crater where eight houses and a field of wheat once stood.Two months ago, the image of Tiankeng became flood This pushed the destructive force of climate change to Germany.

Now there is only one week before the election to determine the successor to Prime Minister Angela Merkel. However, Beser can’t imagine voting for the Green Party to protest the status quo that he believes has failed on climate issues. He also has no desire to become a climate activist.

“Just say I’m not that kind of person,” Bessel said with a shrug. “Most people are like me-they sit there and say nothing.”

If Beser is not of that type, it is hard to imagine who it will be. He watched the house next door slip into the puddle. When helicopter rescuers lifted them off the roof, his wife and neighbor had broken bones.

The emergency plan for his flood-prone town of Elfstadt never envisaged a flood like July.However, even here, the once-rising Green Party in Germany is also struggle breakthrough.

Helmut Beser is outside his home in Erftstadt, next to the crater formed by the July flood © Marcus Simaitis/FT

For many people in Europe, this summer seems to be the time for climate action. Raging fire In southern Europe and Siberia, Italy set the highest temperature ever in continental Europe, and floods swept Germany, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands.

However, the impact of the flood, which killed 181 people, on the election was surprisingly small.exist survey, Most Germans call the climate Priority, But only 15-17% said they would vote For the Green Party, this problem is the reason for existence.

“We want something, but like the Germans say:’Wash my fur, but don’t wet me,'” said Ursula Monch, dean of the Bavarian Tutzing School of Political Education.

She cited a recent survey conducted by the southern state of Germany in which respondents stated that climate is the number one issue, even if they refuse to invest more in public transportation or sustainably produced food.

The devastating flood that killed 181 people in Germany had surprisingly little impact on the elections © Federico Gambarini/picture Alliance/dpa

Erftstadt is the epitome of the difficulty of transforming the reality of global warming into changing voting behavior. The Erft River meanders under the now-destroyed road, so narrow and calm, it is hard to imagine what kind of damage it will cause someday.

After the disaster, the victims are overwhelmed and can only survive. A woman is said to have committed suicide due to trauma and the town now provides weekly counselling services. Mountains of debris are still removed every day to make room for more space-from damaged building frames to uprooted trees.

“We are no longer just warning about the crisis, we are experiencing it,” said Marion Sang, a local green candidate for the Bundestag. “We must act now. I have a deep understanding.”

However, she never mentioned elections when interviewing residents. Instead, they discussed applications for restoration funds or looking for building inspectors—the entire country does not have enough resources to meet the needs here. The machine is still sucking water from nearby houses in the background.

Green Party candidate Marion Sand: “We are not just warning [climate] The crisis is no longer, we are living” © Marcus Simaitis / FT

Politically, the flood is the worst hit Armin Raschelt, Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrat candidate for prime minister, he was photographed laughing in front of the camera at a memorial service in Erftstadt. He is now behind Olaf Scholz of the center-left Social Democratic Party, who leads the polls with a 25% approval rating.

The CDU candidates in Erftstadt decided not to run at all, and the local Social Democratic Party politician Axel Busch was also cautious. He prefers to discuss the future: “A rare event in the past will become a once-in-a-year event. We need to work harder.”

However according to For the German Institute for Economic Research, his party’s program is seriously inadequate in fulfilling Germany’s commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees under the Paris Agreement—in fact, every party has done it, although the Green Party’s performance is the best. good.

Line Niedeggen is a local activist of the “Friday for the Future Youth Climate Campaign” and she said that she understands that locals are unwilling to participate in politics. Seeing her full of sandbags on the streets of Erftstadt, she was also shocked.

“People can’t think [politics] Now,” she said. “It is our politicians who failed to lead us. “

She accused the superficial media reports of focusing too much on the personality and mistakes of the candidates, rather than the policies. “We missed the conversation about the type of society we wanted.”

Barbara Niedeggen regrets how many acquaintances voted for the SPD or CDU as usual © Marcus Simaitis/FT

Niedeggen was also surprised that people’s emotional alienation from disasters in distant countries replicated so quickly in Germany. In Heidelberg, where she was studying, many people did not seem to have been affected by the floods a few hours away.

“We still have the illusion that we live in Germany, so everything will be fine-someone will take care of it,” she said.

Pauline Brünger, another young activist from nearby Cologne, believes that politicians’ support for climate protection in speeches and posters ironically makes things worse. “All parties have perfected the simulation of doing something,” she said.

Beser’s point of view supports her theory. He thinks he can support any political party and support climate action, but believes that the Green Party is showing “excessive anger” towards those who eat meat or take a plane holiday.

The residents of Erftstadt filled bags with sand to protect their town from flooding © Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images

Nicole Kloster, leader of the Erftstadt Green Party, called this a tricky balancing act. “For many people, it feels like a big change,” she said. “But for the kids, we [the Greens] too slow. With this fault line, we are trapped in the middle. “

Despite these setbacks, Germans under 30 will still vote for Green with an overwhelming advantage. But they only accounted for 8.3% of voters, while those over 70 accounted for 20.3%.

Sitting in her sunny backyard, Niedeggen’s mother Barbara lamented how many acquaintances voted for SPD or CDU as usual. “They worry about their pensions. Or they don’t want more refugees. Or they want the industry to continue as always,” she said, shaking her head.

When the raindrops hit the table in her garden, she looked up at the sky vigilantly-now the rain makes many Erftstadters nervous.

“It’s difficult for people to rethink everything now,” she said, “and don’t want things to continue in some way.”



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