This time next year, we’ll be living “mostly normally”, according to Christian Drosten, the Berlin virologist who became famous in 2020 for explaining science in the style of an authoritative but impatient hobbit. Maybe this time next year, we will all be able to get on with our lives and only weary journalists will remember who Christian Drosten was.
Also by this time next year, we’ll have a new German chancellor. The next Bundestag election will happen before the end of October 2021, and if the relevant parties get their coalition together, December would be about time they take office. What choices do we have?
For the conservatives, it might come down to Friedrich Merz, a neo-liberal chancer who nurses a burning grievance ever since Angela Merkel outmanoeuvred him for the CDU leadership back in 2002, or Markus Söder, the massively ambitious Bavarian state premier who unexpectedly caught Merkel’s favour by being the only state premier to take the coronavirus as seriously as she did.
Meanwhile, people like me, who are concerned about systemic self-destruction by human avarice (“left-wing” is too apologetic a word to cover my political position) will have to make do with Robert bloody Habeck. He’s the current co-leader of the German Green party and he seems nice, which is about the best you can hope for in a world leader these days. The Greens could of course put up the other leader of the Green party as their chancellor-candidate – Annalena Baerbock – who is also nice, but she’s not a man, so the conservative voters the Greens need on board won’t vote for her.
If the next chancellor is Robert Habeck (let’s face it, I’ll probably vote for him, suppressing my despair), by this time next year we’ll be drowning in a sickening wave of articles in the liberal non-German media about how “progressive” Germany is.
Back to now, though: The political movement I feel most empathy for – Fridays for Future – has just finished pleading with the Green party to oppose the Autobahn 49 being built in the state of Hesse, where the Greens are in coalition with the CDU. The extra 43 kilometres of motorway will mean the destruction of yet another German forest, the Dannenröder Forst.
Meanwhile, ahead of the Green party conference last month, protesters attempted to occupy Green party HQ and scientists were reduced to hoping that the Greens come up with policies that realistically give Germany a chance of sticking to its 1.5-degree climate targets.
I understand that compromise is part of democracy, and probably it’s no fun for the residents of all the villages of Hesse to have lorries pounding through their streets every day. But the other part of me thinks compromise is a dead end when you realise that the impending death of the Earth is a bigger and bigger factor in the arguments. Even if you don’t think that human systems are strangling the Earth yet, you must realise that building new roads isn’t always going to be the answer.
The Greens insist they have the same goals as Fridays for Future, and wag fingers warning that it’s counterproductive for the kids to keep protesting outside their offices. But how are they are supposed to get anywhere if they can’t even convince the people who agree with them?