The Climate Rescue Station was built by Greenpeace volunteers and activists who worked constantly over 4 days to get it up and running
Gene Hashmi is the Communications Director for Greenpeace in India. He is currently at our Climate Rescue Station. He writes...
I barely sleep on the night train from Amsterdam to Poznan. Not like the journey's uncomfortable, mind. On the contrary. With a 180-degree bed, it's more like flying first class.
I barely sleep because I'm not sure what to expect when I get to Konin... it's like a long-awaited meeting with a lover, or a lawyer. You're never really prepared.
I get off the train and into the waiting transit van. Magda works with Greenpeace Poland, is a trained Zodiac operator, and can rattle off Konin's history in English while breaking the land-speed record, and talking on the phone in Polish, at times all at once. To get access to the coal mines, and the Climate Rescue Station, we drive on a road carved through the woods. I spot unidentifiable road-kill but don't stop to take pictures for fear I might become part of it.
Gene at the Climate Rescue Station
Konin is a mining town like any other in the world. You can smell the stuff miles before you see it. Some of the open pit mines on its outskirts are long since spent, the earth removed from them has been replaced, and the vain attempts of some naive "re-greening" department blight these arid mounds. The reforestation program looks magnificent on paper, but on the ground it's a different story altogether... thousands of saplings have been planted where the mines once were, but they're all dead. The soil is so toxic, it won't brook any life anytime soon. It's like a badly-grafted skin patch: you might get the skin back on a burned limb, but it won't grow any hair again.
Security is high as we pass the headquarters of the three power plants feeding off the mines. I feel a bit like the Tokyo Two driving past the HQ of the ICR. You'd assume Greenpeace isn't very popular here, and you'd be wrong. At the press conference launching the Climate Rescue Station -- a geodesic dome perched precariously on the lacerating lip of the Jozwin IIB open-cast coal mine, just a few miles upwind of Konin town -- all the benches are occupied within minutes. By the time I get in, it's standing room only. Most of the Greenpeace crew must stand out on the steps, while representatives of local community groups talk courageously and unflinchingly about their opposition to further development of the coal mines. "Sometimes you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know what damage coal can do to our planet," says one of them. "There used to be lakes here, and farming, and history, and tourism, and wildlife, we had incomes... and these mines took it all away." I'm reminded of the unidentifiable road-kill.
The odd thing is that the newest coal-fired power-plant that's come up can barely use the available coal, as the lignite being eviscerated from the mines nearby isn't nearly good enough to burn. Some say you must remove 50 tons of topsoil to get just 1 tonne of coal. It's the same story with tar sands and shale oil in Alberta, BC. It seems like the amount of energy expended to exploit these supposedly "clean" fossil fuels is more than what we'll ever get out of burning them. It doesn't make any sense, of course, unless your stock is being traded on Wall Street. Or the mental asylum.
On the very edge of where the earth lies disemboweled, three brand-spanking-new windmills stand still against the ashen sky. Rumour has it that the Polish government wouldn't grant the license for these to operate and feed the surplus electricty back to the grid. So they stand, the wind whistling shrill around them, their giant limbs bound to their sides like disenfranchised composite-glass-fibre scarecrows, waiting for the ever-expanding mines to reclaim them. Tomorrow, I set out to verify rumours of the Polish government's breathtaking idiocy.