In Western Germany, a court has decided that the remaining 10% of an ancient 12,000 year old forest can in fact be cut down to expand one of Europe’s largest coal mines. It is the Hambach Forest.
A legal complaint was presented by environmental group BUND, and it was shot down in Cologne’s administrative court.
According to Business Insider:
“The group said it would appeal the decision and seek an injunction to prevent energy company RWE from clearing the trees in the meantime.
Hambach forest has become a focus of environmental protests against the expansion of a vast mine that supplies much of the coal used in nearby power plants. The coal, a light brown variety called lignite, is considered one of the most polluting forms of fossil fuel. “
The largest open pit coal mine in Europe is already responsible for destroying most of the forest: the Hambach mine, a 33 square mile lignite, or brown coal extracting area. The corporation RWE, or Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk AG runs it.
For the past several years the Hambach forest has been the site of a dedicated effort to save one last strip of Europe’s natural diversity. Since about 2012, activists have been building tree-houses, setting up barricades, and camping in the forest to prevent the last 10% from being destroyed. The movement is huge, comparable to the resistance to DAPL last year at Standing Rock.
Activists trying to defend the forest have come out in support of the Standing Rock protests in the past.
Democracy Now interviewed the activists about a week ago:
But who is RWE? Who is morally culpable for the destruction of this invaluable piece of nature on planet Earth?
RWE is a German electric utilities company, which supplies gas and electricity to over 20 million electricity consumers and 10 million gas customers, through its many subsidiaries. RWE was founded nearly 120 years ago, in Essen in 1898. It survived in Germany through both World Wars.
RWE founded its own smart meter subsidiary in 2010, and they are pushing for them in Germany, the UK, and possibly more places. In 2013, you’d find headlines on smart meters in Germany saying such things as “Germany Rejects EU Smart-Meter Recommendations on Cost Concerns.” In 2016, the smart meter rollout really began in Germany, and RWE started providing smart meters to the UK. The government is a huge factor in the use of smart meters.
As you may know, smart meters can cause a wide range of ill health effects, as they pulse electromagnetic waves throughout a person’s residence at all times. Little option to opt out is provided in many American states, as described in this video.
The company seems to have a good relationship with a powerful bank that bridges both Western and Russian power: Alfa-Bank, the largest private commercial bank in Russia. It was founded in 1990, immediately after the Central Bank of Russia was created and the Soviet Union fell. Alfa-Bank is a true necessity to understand in the geopolitical rivalry between the US and Russia (or lack thereof).
The Russian bank’s founder Mikhail Fridman bought RWE’s oil and gas production unit RWE Dea. It was a $5.6 billion deal, requiring the permission of 14 countries from Europe, to the Middle East, to Africa.
Mikhail Fridman is a truly powerful figure. According to Wikipedia:
“In 1990 he co-founded Alfa-Bank, which is now the largest private bank in Russia.
Fridman has been a member of numerous public facing bodies, including the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, the Public Chamber of Russia, and the Council of Foreign Relations in the United States. Also a philanthropist and active supporter of cultural initiatives, he co-founded both the Russian Jewish Congress, the Genesis Prize, and the Genesis Philanthropy Group, supporting Jewish communities across the FSU.”
According to watchdogs from something called the Polaris Institute, some of the usual power players, some of the most powerful entities on Earth appear to be backing RWE, though details are scarce: I’m walking about the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. According to Global Policy:
“The impacts of World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs on countries in the Global South have been well-documented in the areas of health and education, food security and jobs. However, less is known about the impacts of the World Bank’s latest obsession — the privatization of water services. In country after country in recent years, the World Bank has been quietly imposing a for-profit system of water delivery, leaving millions of people without access to water.
The Bank is taking advantage of the “Washington Consensus” model of development now adopted by its donor countries and promoting the interests of a handful of transnational water corporations. Instead of using its massive funds to promote expertise in the public sector, thereby acknowledging that water is a human right and an essential public service, the Bank is forcing many countries to commodify their water resources and put them on sale to the highest bidder.
There are ten major corporate players now delivering fresh water services for profit. Between them, the three biggest — Suez and Vivendi [recently renamed Veolia Environment] of France and RWE-AG of Germany — deliver water and wastewater services to almost 300 million customers in over 100 countries, and are in a race, along with the others such as Bouygues SAUR, Thames Water (owned by RWE) and Bechtel-United Utilities, to expand to every corner of the globe. Their growth is exponential; a decade ago, they serviced around 51 million people in just 12 countries. And, although less than 10 percent of the world’s water systems are currently under private control, at the rate they are expanding, the top three alone will control over 70 percent of the water systems in Europe and North America in a decade. “
Hopefully the activists will continue to stand their ground and more people will pay attention to this.