“Tell me something that works better and hasn’t been done with little effect for 40 years, then I’ll do it…But I don’t see anything better than joining in the civil disobedience and resistance.”
Jörg Alt SJ shared this statement earlier and was recently convicted by the district court in Munich of coercion in connection with a climate protest in October 2022 when he joined climate activists from the Scientist Rebellion group on a road blockade and stuck himself on the Karlsplatz in Munich for one hour and a half.
Father Alt was convicted on 3 May 2023 along with Cornelia Huth, a biologist and member of the Scientist Rebellion, and Luca Thomas, a student, with the court imposing fines commensurate to their income. Father Alt was ordered to pay a small fine of Euro 10, while the fines for the other two defendants “added up to a low to mid-three-digit sum.”
In a report by The Limited Times during the October 2022 climate protest, Father Alt said that “the state government is compelling us to protest against their inadequate and wrong actions in the face of the climate catastrophe. The world is on fire and the government is locking away the fire alarms by putting scientists in police custody.”
The AP news report on the conviction of Father Alt mentioned that activists are accusing “the government of failing to do enough to put Germany on course to meet its goal of cutting emissions to net zero by 2045” and that Father Alt said that “he chose to join the blockade because he is worried about the huge impacts of climate change on developing countries.”
The Last Generation – That’s All of Us
In April 2023, Father Alt announced that he and his friends Henning Jeschke and Lina Eichler published the book Die letzte Generation – das sind wir alle (The Last Generation – That’s All of Us) that he said combined their personal insights into the reasons why they resorted to civil disobedience and civil resistance. The title alludes to the name of the German resistance movement Letzte generation (Last Generation) and the increasing efforts to imprison activists.
Father Alt said that the book’s “main purpose is to illustrate that there is nothing extremist in our thinking, just thoughtfulness and compassion. And that engaging for climate justice must be an intergenerational effort and certainly nothing which we should leave to the young generation alone.”
(See related interview of the authors in Feinschwarz.)
Parallel to this, Father Alt also worked with others in issuing an open letter to Chancellor Scholz to step up efforts in climate protection policies that obtained more than 400 prominent signatories from members of Parliament, Lord Mayors, climate science experts, churches, NGOs, among others.
The open letter is titled Unsere Generation – unser Job: Aufruf zur gemeinsamen Generationenverantwortung! (Our generation – our job: Call for joint generational responsibility!), with the hashtag #UnsereGenerationUnserJob (#OurGenerationOurJob). It is open for public signatures and can be shared.
This action refers to the civil resistance movement and the book while also emphasizing “that if we do the right things, there is no longer any need for activists to block roads.”
Father Alt again blocked a road in Berlin on 29 April, commemorating the Jesuit activist priest Father Stan Swamy SJ who died in prison on 5 July 2021, and used the opportunity to point to all those climate activists in the Global South who are paying for their civil disobedience and non-violent protest with imprisonment and death.
Without an alternative, Father Alt considers non-violent civil disobedience not only legitimate, but also necessary. “We still have it in our hands to avoid massive refugee movements. But we must finally start doing so, as the remaining windows of opportunity for action are closing.”
Father Jörg Alt SJ can be reached through his email firstname.lastname@example.org and his work can be accessed in the following websites: joergalt, jesuitenweltweit, Ukama – Zentrum der Jesuiten für Sozial-Ökologische Transformation, Wir Transformieren Bayern.
Related Ecojesuit article: Support for the peaceful German youth protest urging climate action