Hambach Forest in western Germany has become a symbol of resistance to coal mining, but its days may well be numbered. Can protesters save Germany’s green image as an environmental and climate champion?
Hambach forest in western Germany looks like an idyllic spot, with a community of some 150 people living in tree houses and walking around barefoot. But appearances are deceptive. These are protesters who have set themselves the tough task of protecting the forest from being sacrificed to a giant opencast mine to extract lignite or brown coal, one of the dirtiest fossil fuels.
The energy company RWE plans to expand the nearby Hambach mine, already Europe’s biggest open pit coal mine. That means chopping down the forest, which has become symbolic of the battle between fossil fuel concerns and environmentalists.
After a long fight, RWE won permission to start clearing from the start of October. That would mean evicting the activists living there – and clashes with the police have already begun.
The activists want not only to save the forest, but also to send a message to the world. It’s time to phase-out coal mining, says Indigo, after sliding nimbly down a rope from a tree house. She uses the pseudonym when she talks to the media. Indigo is convinced we also need to abandon consumerism and show more respect for nature:
“We want to change the system we live in, because we believe that the roots of the environmental problems we have are based on how our society works,” she added. If the forest is destroyed, Germany’s green image could suffer badly.