The Forest Anarchists
Golden brown leaves dripped onto the concrete pathway, stretching through the parsnip fields and rural highway. Our ears crowded by the constant flow of trucks passing into the forest entrance ahead of us. Two young women, currently living in the occupation of Hambacher forest lead us through several kilometres of ancient forest towards Germany’s largest coal mine; the largest CO2 emitter in Europe. The two thousand year old forest, currently under planned excavation blanketed the first few mine sites from view. The peaceful walk through the forest, a reflection of nature’s beauty that used to drape the German landscape, was quickly disrupted by a coal truck driver, beeping their horn and signalling for our group to turn around and exit the site of the mine. We persisted, making our way through the silent forest walls. Barriers made from dead branches, secondhand tarp, human feces, and signs with handwritten threats, “RWE, respect existence, or expect resistance” lined the forest entrances. A week prior, several thousands of protesters spent their time in the occupation to draw attention to Germany’s greed-driven coal industry, and highlight the disgust in the cover-up of forest excavation for coal during the United Nation’s climate summit in Bonn. However, only 30 occupants remained for the upcoming winter months, as the mine extension efforts drew nearer to the camp.
As we introduced ourselves to the first occupants living in the guard treehouses, we began to understand the reasons behind the Ende Gelande movement. One forest protector, whose name cannot be stated for risk of police identification had only been living in the forest for 2 days. He and his wife spoke to us about their experience with the anti-RWE movement.
“We couldn’t just sit on the couch and do nothing when we knew this injustice is happening”.
However, the residents face threats of police violence, and forced removal of people from their treehouses with the use of cherry pickers. After witnessing the community’s determination, nonetheless, the resisting forces of RWE didn’t seem to collapse the activist’s spirits, as they continued to fill their ‘sh*t barricades’ and protest in groups of up to three thousand for over 4 years.
“It’s a war here: a constant battle that we’re fighting… we can never stop”,
stated one of our guides, a former university student from Northern Germany. After learning that she had dropped her university degree to live in the forest occupation, she began to tell me how the community defies the deadly capitalist system she once lived in. Without any income or source of finance, the activists’ lifestyle, ‘freeganism’ relies on food donations from local farmers, leftovers found in dumpsters, and water from the local graveyard well for survival. Special skills are put to good use in the creation of booby traps, housing, and community spaces. The occupation runs as an anarchist community with the ideals of equality and the elimination of hierarchy advertised as key drivers of capitalism. With an increase in demand for RWE coal from The Netherlands, Belgium and France, the extension of the mine provides a ‘stable’ economy for Germany. Yet, the nation’s implementation of wind turbines adjacent from the mine only seem to contradict the intentions of the government’s renewable transition to a coverup for the dirty truth. Despising this system, the occupiers decided to live an example of a balanced societal system, learning from Indigenous peoples — living as ONE with the Earth.
After seeing the excavated portion of forest already in progress, and realising how little of the occupied forest was left, I felt as though these people’s dedication was something hard to obtain by most. Our team, Green Generation was empowered as ever to take action in solidarity with the activists, and show our dedication by sharing our experiences in Bali and our home communities.
The extension of the coal mine threatens to spare only 3% of the forests in Germany and the existence of the forest occupation, still, the activists continue to resist against RWE and the coal industry in Germany. For RWE and the global fossil fuel industry’s dirty greed to be exposed across the world, we, as citizens of our planet must stand in solidarity with these people to demand the end of corporate greed, to act against corporate gluttony, and its’ destruction of OUR only home, Mother Earth.
RWE, Free our activists, Respect existence. Continue to expect RESISTANCE.