How high do we need
to make our dykes? How can you protect yourself
from a hurricane? The effects of global warming
are becoming increasingly visible. How long must we wait before
taking real, serious measures? This isBacklight.
Welcome to our wet, rough future. Long, long ago, when people
still drank water from plastic bottles… …and went on holiday
four times a year by plane… …when we still threw car tyres
into the sea… …and bought clothes every few weeks,
in warm cosy shops… …when we ate meat every day
and were quite content… …that’s when glaciers still existed: thick
masses of ice on beautiful mountains. But that was long ago. The ice has melted and
we’re up to our neck in water. Hurricanes and tornados
have ripped cities apart. The mountains have fallen down
onto our villages. We knew it would happen. But most of us preferred
not to think about it. This story takes place
long before that day. In a time where people tried
to change the course of events. One of these people was Saul Luciano
Lliuya, a mountain guide from Peru. He took his battle to Europe. With his German allies, he wanted
to tackle the CO2 emission… …responsible for melting his glacier
and threatening to destroy his village… …at the source. Many people will support you
for your work. You can explain to them
what you’re doing and why. You’ll have a lot of people behind you. It’s important to get a lot of attention… …from the industrial countries. Developed countries like Germany,
among others. Saul felt powerless for a long time. The melt water from the glacier had
accumulated above his village. The dam was ready to burst. It would destroy his home and
flush away all the drinking water. The mountains have always been
part of our lives. They provide us with the water we use. If we didn’t have that,
that would be the end of us. If we lose the water, we’re finished. One day, Saul met a group
of German environmentalists… …during a hike in the Andes. They didn’t know how to protect
a village from a melting glacier. But they encouraged him
to fight the looming catastrophe. They became Saul’s guardian angels
and he became their talisman. Can we practice your speech? Say it in a clear, strong voice. ‘I’m from Huaraz, in the Peruvian Andes.’
Say it like that. Go on. Since I was a small child
I’ve seen it change. Just shouting that something
had to change, wasn’t enough. And so Saul, with the support
of the German environmentalists… …took the unusual step
to hire a lawyer… …and sue one of the biggest
polluting companies in the world: The German coal-fired
power station company RWE. Today we’re going to enter the court
the same way as last time. The judge sits in front,
we’ll sit on the right. And the defendant will sit on the left. We’ll sit down, and the names
will be recorded in the protocol. And then the court will
state how things will proceed. It’s your trial. Like last time.
You’re the plaintiff, you decide. It’s important to remember that. And keep your back straight. Chest out. We want to make sure you’re not at risk.
You’re fully in your right. All RWE is saying is: Everyone pollutes,
so we’re not responsible. I don’t believe that is justified.
We have the right to be there. What do you expect personally? We’re hoping to win today. If we lose, global warming will continue. But if we win, we’ll be contributing
to the end of global warming. We can’t imagine it now,
but one day everything will be gone. Our houses, our streets,
our libraries and beauty parlours. Our planes will be grounded. Grass will grow between the rubber
wheels, and moss on the seats. Cities will sink into the mud
and be flushed away by the water. Humans caused this. It has only just
begun and we’re unable to stop it. In the summer of 2017,
a Swiss mountain came down… …crushing the village of Bondo. The huge mudslide was the result of the
melting glacier just above the village. We were in the high side valley,
Bondasca. I was cooking in front of the house.
I’d made a fire with a cooking pot. Then Monica came too. It was 7.30,
she came to bring some meat. And then I got a call,
asking if Monica had made it safely. They were afraid
something would happen to her. So I rang Monica in the hut,
and I heard the hut manager cry: ‘The whole mountain is coming down.’ They filmed it, did you see?
– Yes, I saw that video. Barbara cried: Get out of here.
You see it coming towards us. We went outside,
but I couldn’t hear anything. But suddenly I saw
all these plants coming down. We ran away as fast as we could.
– Yes. To the little lakes?
– Yes, down to the little lakes. After 30 or 40 metres we looked back,
and everything was gone. There was just a big pile of rubble.
We ran 30, 40 metres through the field. Tragic. A helicopter took us away. I asked the pilot: Where are you going?
We’re from Bondo. We can’t go there, he said.
– Gosh. We wore the same clothes for a week. Because everything we had
in Bondasca was gone. I had nothing, not even slippers. You were in bad shape.
– Yes, I hardly had anything for a week. Eventually I could go back
and borrowed clothes from Dario. Normally it would come down 300 metres
and stay there. But nothing like this. Anyway, what can you do? When did life start up again in Bondo? When I opened up again.
– That’s when it started? How long after the landslide was that? 52 days. Were you lucky
that it didn’t hit your house? Absolutely. Checkpoint for the red zone. You can only go in supervised. OK, and the red zone is
the zone that’s still dangerous? It’s still inhabitable. Nature follows its own course,
it doesn’t ask people what to do. Was anyone killed? Eight tourists. Eight tourists. Where were they? They went into the side valley. They didn’t see it coming?
– No, probably not. It took them by surprise. Were those tourists ever found?
– No. They were buried in the rubble. We have to accept the consequences
and carry on with our lives. The question is also:
Who will return to Bondo? What did it look like?
– Deserted. Everyone was gone. Company ready. How can you protect your village
from a melting glacier? The rock under the glacier becomes
saturated with water and breaks off. Since the Bondo disaster, an alarm will
go off when there’s an avalanche threat. Residents will have exactly
four minutes to escape. There’s no alarm service in Peru. Global warming continues steadily. It’s the biggest threat
to the next generations… …and yet there seems to be a sort of
paralysis when we talk about it. What are we supposed to do?
Radically change our lives? Would it make a difference? Saul’s story captures the imagination. If his village is buried,
the consequences will be profound. But European glaciers are melting too. The environmentalists brought him to
Switzerland to show him he’s not alone. Can you imagine going up
this easily this in Peru? You’re from here. You must have seen the glacier
retreat over the last few years? A bit more every year. The mouth of the Lang Glacier
has collapsed. The mouth. It had become so thin
that it collapsed. This year?
– Yes, this year. In the Lötschen Valley. Do you have childhood memories
of the glacier? Yes, especially of the Rhône Glacier. The Rhône Glacier flows down to the
valley and the train goes right past it. And all the way up at the back,
a lake has formed. The melt water has formed a lake. Look at the horizon. You never know what’s going on
behind a mountain… …until you climb it. We’re at the Eggishorn,
2,900 metres high. We have a wonderful view
of the Aletsch Glacier from here. This year the glacier has lost at least
three to four metres in volume. Just this summer. That’s a lot. In this summer,
the summer of 2017… …the Swiss Alps… …more than three percent
of the total ice volume… …has melted away in one year’s time. That makes you think. When you’re here every summer
and you see how quickly it’s going. It has always fluctuated. But in the last fifteen years
it’s been going extremely fast. You’ve seen that?
– Yes, you see it happen. All you have to do is come to Eggishorn
and look at the glacier. It’s going incredibly quickly. What can we do about it? Yes, what can we do? All the fuel we’re burning… …with our cars, planes, heating… …that’s speeding up the process,
that is crystal clear. It’s a vicious circle.
You can’t change things overnight… …and get rid of all
the heatings, cars, and so on. The population is growing and more
and more fossil fuels are burned. That speeds it up, so it’s difficult. Many say it’s already too late. But nobody can truly imagine
what that really means. Have we turned our backs
on nature? And is nature now turning
her back on us? There is hope for the future,
but uneasiness prevails. Author Amitav Ghosh,
who’s writing a new book on Sicily… …was the child of climate fugitives
from Bangladesh. He thinks that the human desire
for possessions and comfort… …and our desire to live the good life,
will be our downfall. In Europe people are studying
permafrost in Sierra Nevada, the Alps… …and from Scandinavia to Spitsbergen. Because permafrost
is affected by climate change. Scientists need to know how the soil
temperature changes over the years. That’s what the house looked like.
Last year, not this year. The garden with the hydrangeas
and the roses here. Loss is part of life. Such a lovely rose.
– It was indeed. The mountain, the Cengalo,
more or less exploded. Even the specialized
geologists were surprised. What’s it like on the inside?
– It’s fine. No floods downstairs either?
– Nothing at all. People keep saying that: We should be
happy the house is still standing. We’ve been lucky. Everyone has accepted
his or her damage. Everyone deals with it their own way. The worst is obviously death. That’s the worst that can happen to you. But I have to now…
Next spring will be hard. There are far worse things.
Tomorrow things will be better. People are killed all over the world.
There are worse things than this. We’re still here,
we can talk to each other. We can have coffee together
and we’ll sleep well again tonight. There you go. There’s more poverty in Peru than here.
You can see that, can’t you? It’s almost like being home. Yes, Peruvian Switzerland. Yes, that’s what they say. I grew up in the mountains. I saw what happened to
the mountains with my own eyes. As I got older, I could see
the glacier retreat more and more. I could see it change. And because I worked
as a mountain guide… …I could feel and see
the changes straight away. The climate change,
the glacier retreating. It’s very sad to see
the mountains disappearing. You have to look at it every day… …and feel it and do something about it. Because it’s your nature,
your mountains that’s being damaged. You have to do something
to stop it. I’m hungry. At an altitude of 4,400 metres… …there’s a massive amount of water.
The town is down below. If there’s an avalanche or earthquake… …it might collapse and come down. In Peru we also contribute to pollution… …but relatively little. We’ve hardly contributed to pollution… …and yet we’re so badly affected
by the consequences. There’s bread and cheese in there. This is for the rubbish. This one’s better, it’s paper. You’re right, that’s better. My client has an acute problem. It’s a matter of time before
his house is flushed away… …by the imminent glacier flood
in the Andean Mountains. The problem isn’t new,
but it is a big problem. He wants to force measures
to prevent the tidal wave. In concrete terms this means a dam
has to be built and new drain pipes… …to make the lake safe. He says RWE plays a significant part
in global warming. RWE’s business model is based
on producing electricity with coal. That leads to CO2 emission.
That’s how they make money. So I want them to make sure
that my house isn’t flushed away. We’re not holding RWE solely
responsible for global warming. We’ve never suggested that. We’re saying:
For the emission you have caused… …you need to take
precautionary measures. RWE says: That’s impossible. To make a claim like that you’d need
to monitor each CO2 molecule… …and follow its effect
on the glacier in question. That’s impossible. Secondly, even if you don’t do that,
it’s completely unrealistic… …to pick one out of so many culprits. Even if you could,
it’s impossible to establish… …that our emission made
any difference to that one area. You need to know that RWE causes
the most CO2 emission in Europe. RWE emits as much
as the whole of Holland. Around 20% of Germany’s
total emission comes from RWE. RWE is responsible for 0,5%
of the total rise in temperature. That’s not negligible, it’s significant. You can’t compare it to
an individual car owner. Car owners have a collective effect.
RWE just on its own. Why do we need so many words… …to protect something
which everyone knows is vital? We’re aware of the consequences
and yet we pollute more and more. Meanwhile, all over the world… …people are busy cleaning up
the damage nature has caused. As if nothing happened. The step that Saul has taken
seems peculiar… …seeing as he lives in Peru,
and not in Germany. And German energy giant RWE
is not the only polluter in the world. We are all polluters. Hello. You live in the red zone?
Then I won’t hold you up. You haven’t been home for a month?
– Two months. We’re coming with you. We’ll walk. Good, good. Thank you. Aren’t you afraid of living here?
– No. Not now, but in springtime…
– Maybe in spring, but not now. Are you sleeping at home tonight?
– Yes. After two months. When we heard, we fled into the forest. We were picked up
by a helicopter later on. After half an hour, or 45 minutes. Because there was a cloud of…
how do you call that? He couldn’t fly because of all the dust. How did they know you were there?
– No. Yes, they did know. They were told. The people in
the village knew we were up there. You were lucky. Very lucky. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.
We wouldn’t have been carried off. They say it’s because
of the climate change. I think so too.
It’s because of the permafrost. But well… Should we change how we live?
– We should, but how? Difficult, isn’t it? We were at the Aletsch glacier. It has melted a lot. So has the Bernina. The Bernina is retreating
more and more. Will more mountains come down?
– Absolutely. If the temperature
continues to rise like this… …I think there will be
more places where… You can’t do much about it.
People are a bit… After a long session, a German judge
rules in favour of Saul. He can sue energy giant RWE… …for being responsible for melting his
glacier on the other side of the globe. The case is far from decided. You look happy. How did it go? It’s incredible.
It’s an overwhelming feeling. The court heard all my arguments. Now we can start proving that RWE… …is co-responsible for the rise in
temperature and for my client’s problem. It has far-reaching consequences,
but we’re primarily very happy… …that we were truly heard… …and such a clear decision was made. The trial will be continued.
My goal for today has been reached. How does your client feel? The mountains won. The lagoons are the tears
of the mountains. Justice has heard us
and ruled in our favour. Join our discussion
about the devil’s choice… …between a care-free life
and a melting glacier… …at our meet-up in Pakhuis
De Zwijger in Amsterdam. Or a meet-up near you, like
the Central Library in Utrecht.