LÜTZERATH, Germany — The yawning black-brown scar in the earth that is Germany’s Garzweiler coal mine has already swallowed more than a dozen villages.
Centuries-old churches and family homes have been razed and the land they were built on torn away. Farmland has disappeared, graveyards have been emptied. “All destroyed for coal,” said Eckhardt Heukamp, surveying the vast pit that drops away from the edge of his fields, 20 miles west of Cologne. But there’s still more under his feet to be mined: Six more villages are threatened.
A 56-year-old farmer, Heukamp is the last holdout in Lützerath, the next hamlet slated to be wiped away to allow more digging for coal to power German homes. He is fighting the forced expropriation of the 18th-century farmhouse his family has lived in for generations, which now lies just a few hundred yards from the mine’s edge.
As world leaders prepare to come together in Glasgow, Scotland, next month for the U.N. Climate Change Conference, the tiny community is on the front line in a battle to bring Germany in accord with its climate commitments — one of many such communities around the world, as countries struggle to keep up with ambitious pledges to slash emissions.
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