Thousands Protest to Save What's Left of an Ancient Forest in Germany
Hambach Forest has become a symbol of the global environmental crisis.
Thousands of protesters gathered at Hambach Forest in western Germany on Saturday, hoping to save the ancient forest before it's felled for mining, DW reports.
The 12,000-year-old forest near the city of Cologne faces an imminent threat of being cut down as RWE, a German energy giant, plans to expand its nearby coal mining operation.
Hambach Forest has been a battleground between RWE and activists for years. However, the situation intensified in September when the energy company began evicting protesters and clearing treehouses. While a German court ruled to suspend forest clearance earlier this month, Hambach Forest is still at risk.
Environmental activists, some of whom have been camped out in the woodland area for as long as six years, continue to defend Hambach Forest. To raise public awareness of the issue, activists host Forest Walks every Sunday, along with larger demonstrations. his past weekend, they occupied the forest floor and blocked trained carrying coal.
RWE has owned the land beneath the Hambach Forest since the 1970s, but the company is required to preserve the forest as long as possible. Clearing trees is only permitted when it is seen as essential to mining operations.
Experts have estimated that the mining operation could continue without felling trees for another three years — some saying that the forest could be spared for another six years, DW reports. RWE argues that clearing the forest would take two years and should begin soon.
With only 200 hectares of forest left, the Hambach Forest has become symbolic of the global environmental crisis in which economic interests are prioritized over the health of the planet and those who inhabit it.
Deforestation affects ecosystems across the globe. More than 18 million acres of forest are lost each year, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Forests play a critical role in climate change mitigation by absorbing carbon dioxide. Deforestation results in 15% of greenhouse gas emissions
Today, clean energy alternatives that could dramatically reduce the need to burn coal and other fossil fuels are more readily available than ever. However, our global economy has not caught up with climate change.
In order to meet the demands of a changing climate, communities around the world, like those at Hambach Forest, continue to defend the environment and hold industries accountable for pollution and habitat destruction.