Air polluted Ruhr area

Environment in Danger

Smoking chimneys, washing stained grey in coal-producing areas, stench and filthy water – for a long time, this was all a part of everyday life in our state. The economic growth of the post-war years heightened existing environmental problems and created new pollution.

In four large segments, this room will tell you about particular environmental challenges that the state and its people have faced. First we deal with air pollution, its measurement and purification.

“Shattered Nuclear Dreams” is the subject of the second unit. Nuclear plants face opposition from citizens’ initiatives, as the disposal of radioactive waste means a heavy burden for generations to come.

Near the windows, the next unit shows the consequences of lignite mining, such as the cratered landscape it leaves behind.

Lastly, at the back of the room, the final topic to be addressed is water pollution. Private initiatives and state water conservationists protest and draw attention to grievances with all their might.

All four sections show how pollution provoked criticism sooner in North Rhine-Westphalia than elsewhere. Scientists warned of dangers and civic associations protested vociferously. Urgent action was demanded from politicians. Initiatives for protecting the environment emerged and the state concerned itself with the problems. Conditions improved, destroyed landscapes were revived. Environmental protests challenged the state and called for more political participation.