German climate activists swap court date for Bali holiday

Protestors failed to appear before judge who was told they had flown to Indonesian island

Given a choice between a Stuttgart court date or a sandy, balmy beach in Bali, it’s clear how most people would decide.

Now Luisa and Yannick, two young radical German climate activists, are learning to their cost that they may have made the wrong choice.

Last September in Stuttgart the two participated in a climate protest by the group Last Generation, gluing their hands to a city street and blocking traffic beneath a banner reading: “Save oil don’t drill.”

When they failed to appear in court on Monday to face public order charges, the judge was told they had flown to the Indonesian island.


Germany’s Bild tabloid got wind of their travel plans and, since then, Luisa and Yannick are learning that it’s no holiday being a climate activist.

A Last Generation spokesperson told Bild: “They booked the flight as private persons, not as climate protectionists. That must be kept separate.”

Days of digital tarring and feathering followed, with other climate groups distancing themselves from what even they saw as double standards.

Even Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Friedrich Merz got in on the act on Thursday. When climate protesters slipped into a press conference in Mainz and glued their hands to his podium, he joked: “Nice to have you here, your colleagues are in Bali.”

On Friday, Luisa and Yannick hit back at their critics in an opinion for the left-wing Tageszeitung newspaper. Most important correction: “We are not lying in Bali in the sun, we’ve never been there ... we are currently in Thailand.”

“Before we began this journey, a lifelong dream of Luisa (22), we gave it a lot of thought,” they wrote.

Other travel options such as boat “lead to a cul de sac” while a land route would bring them through many “shocking conflicts” in Russia, Syria, Iraq, the Kashmir region and Myanmar.

They calculated their flight had produced 1.4 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person, equivalent to one third of an average car’s annual emissions. They now plan to travel home overland from Turkey after flying there from Thailand – “the last flight of our lives”.

While Bild has attacked them as “spoiled, hypocritical radicals”, even the left-wing Taz suggested “it would be best if they continued their glue protest and, ahead of their next court hearing, posted a photo from the train”.

It remains to be seen if the fuss will play a role when Last Generation protesters fan across Germany on Monday for what the group is promising will be its largest-ever wave of disruptions.

According to the website of Last Generation, a more radical offshoot of Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future (FfF), new members agree to “question our system, ourselves, our privileges, power structures, responsibilities and protests”.

It’s not the first time Germany’s climate movement has faced questions over privilege and responsibility. Two of the country’s best-known climate activists, Luise Neubauer and Carla Reemtsma, are members of one of Germany’s wealthiest families. For a century the Reemtsma’s owned Germany’s largest tobacco firm and, in the 1930s, were prominent supporters of Adolf Hitler.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin