The Cost of Coal

5 October 2018 | By Alana Fiero, Hannah Boylan
Photo by: Johannes Fasolt

Germany’s Hambach Forest, known among locals as “Hambi”, is being devastated by coal mining; only 10% of the original forest still remains. Outraged citizens have formed a movement to protest the deforestation, engaging in activities from flyer creation and guided walks to physically occupying the forest for periods of time. 

According to National Geographic, German energy company RWE mines about 49.6 tons of brown coal from the forest each year. Aside from the toll mining has taken on the landscape, dust from the extraction process has also had a negative impact on air quality. Unfortunately, since natural resources have been extracted from this forest for centuries, Hambach does not receive the same protections as Poland’s Białowieża Forest. With that said, this ancient oak-hornbeam forest hosts numerous irreplaceable ecosystems. Current efforts highlight the existence of threatened species within the forest, much to no avail.  

Photo by: Johannes Fasolt

Sadly, forests in Germany have not historically been well-researched. As a result, many of the ecosystems in Hambach remain a mystery. Despite the efforts of advocacy groups to halt the logging (which they did successfully in 2017), the logging has since resumed. 

RWE claims to be sensitive to the environmental impacts they make, relocating wildlife and reforesting when possible. The reality, unfortunately, is that transplanted animals, insects, and trees will never replicate the original forest that once stood. RWE says that the coal is providing a temporary power source to fill in the energy gap left by closing nuclear plants, but at what cost?

Future plans indicate that a lake will fill the mined area for recreational use.

Photo by: Anna_Frodesiak

Recently, the police have moved into the forest to take down the protestors’ buildings, tree houses and barricades, to evict the protestors, and are continuing despite the death of a journalist in the last weeks.  Instead of making the protestors give up  they have redoubled their efforts and gained the support of people from all around the world. This has resulted in the current victory, where a german court has ordered the clearance to stop temporarily while it decides on the lawsuit the german branch of Friends of the Earth (BUND) have filed against RWE.

You can still add your support to these brave protestors defending the forest, if you sign this online petition.

Learn more about the Hambach Forest Occupation movement by watching their video here

Photo by: Hambinfo

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