"Letzte Generation" (Last Generation) activists block a road under the slogan "Let's stop the fossil madness!" for an end to fossil fuels and against oil drilling in the North Sea, in Berlin, Germany, July 6, 2022. REUTERS/Christian Mang

It was a culture war that was taking place over the car. Psychologists recorded “strong latent tensions, unresolved conflicts, affective consolidations and readiness for combative arguments” in conversations about the topic. A “Spiegel” title even claimed that the drivers were “tied up”. We’re talking about seat belts. It was introduced in 1976 and continues to save lives to this day.

As a driver, it’s not easy these days either – especially in Berlin. Almost every day the activists of the “last generation” captivate you with their blockades in traffic jams. And then local politicians like the Friedrichshain district mayor Clara Herrmann also side with the blockers!

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The protests are, as they say in modern German: controversial. That’s good. And that’s how it has to be. Even for some “Fridays for Future” members, the disobedience of their radical relatives goes too far. In an internal position paper, they criticized their “blackmailing approach”. That speaks to the soul of many motorists.

But political action is always confrontational. This is how society works: There are conflicting goals within it. And this is how the planet works: It leaves us no choice. Practical constraints – conservatives in particular like to talk about them.

If the state did not restrict the freedom of the market through taxes, it could not build roads, for example. And should it prevent the earth from warming up by 2.7 degrees, as the UN climate report predicts, and that the whole of Brandenburg will soon burn down: Then this state, whose “traffic light” is notoriously yellow, must remind it with all its might that we need resolute climate protection. It also helps drivers.

False despondency when protesting is a German malaise. In France, personal discussion is a natural civic duty, and road blockades are a common means of doing so. Let’s take a look at the Bundestag: Are the car lobbyists there exercising restraint?

The “Last Generation” shows civil courage. She transforms the street from the scene of merely symbolic protests to a place of heated arguments; to a place where it becomes concretely uncomfortable; primarily for the activists themselves. They are not acting for fun or recklessness. Your work is sorely needed.

The excitement of many motorists is understandable. So why don’t Berlin’s governing mayor, Franziska Giffey, and interior senator, Iris Spranger, take them seriously? Instead of demanding tougher penalties for the blockers, they should campaign for a permanent 9-euro ticket – or free local transport.