The Hambach Forest in Germany’s Rhineland used to spread over 5,500 hectares. Now, only about a tenth remains.

Coal company RWE has been clearcutting the ancient forest to expand its monstrous open-pit lignite mine Hambach. Their plan is to cut down the last standing ancient trees to extract and burn even more dirty lignite coal.

Just as the special federal “coal commission” is planning the country’s coal phase-out, RWE is rushing through its destructive plans. The cutting could start this autumn.

But RWE has a problem: it’s up against a strong and growing movement of people from different walks of life, determined to protect the ancient forest and our climate. People from across Germany and Europe joined in protest with the local communities, who have long been resisting RWE destroying of their land and tearing down entire villages.

RWE’s coal operations in the Rhineland are the biggest source of CO2 emissions in Europe. The mines and plants have become a focal point for the climate justice movement in Europe and beyond.

For the past 6 years, climate activists have been occupying the Hambach forest. The first tree house was built in 2012. Now, about 150 people live in almost 60 tree houses in continuous protest against the destruction of the forest. The support of local communities and the broader public has grown immensely.

Following a legal challenge, RWE was forced to delay clearing the forest until October 14. But since early September, the police have been moving in to evict the occupation, using extreme force against the peaceful protesters, and cutting down trees to get heavy equipment onto the site. The camp infrastructure on the ground and the hand-constructed treehouses are being systematically destroyed, and many of the activists are facing arrest.

The pictures of the police and other special forces violently evicting protesters have caused widespread outcry in Germany and have started to make international news. Recent walking tours in the forest (a tradition established by some locals over the past few years) have attracted crowds from all over Germany and beyond. Since Day X was declared as the first tree was cut, climate justice groups in Germany have issued a call to everyone to come and protect the forest.

Aktion Unterholz has started daily civil disobedience actions, bringing large groups of people into the forest to build barricades and support structures for the occupation. Ende Gelände is supporting the actions and will mobilise its local groups from the beginning of October, culminating in a mass action on October 28.

“RWE is crossing a red line. The company is putting at risk the unique ecosystem of this forest, and the lives of people around the world. We will prevent RWE from evicting the tree houses and from clearing the forest, together with many people and as part of the global climate justice movement. We as Ende Gelände will protect the forest with our bodies against RWE’s chainsaws. It is absurd and irresponsible to destroy a forest in order to burn more coal and thereby heat up the climate crisis even more,” says Ende Gelände spokesperson Karolina Drzewo.

During the next few weeks it will be crucial to keep up the pressure on RWE and both the state and the federal governments in Germany, to highlight the absurdity of sending thousands of police to clear the way for RWE to destroy an ancient forest to burn more coal.

Here are some things you can do to help:

  1. Head to the area and get involved in local organising!
  2. Show your support by organising a small local action, or simply take a picture and post it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #HambiBleibt (Hambi stays!).
  3. Get together with friends and come up with a way to keep up the pressure on RWE. German groups from the region are demanding that their cities get rid of their RWE shares (DivestRWE), and just the other day a group of activists in Berlin symbolically occupied Deutsche Bank, demanding they stop funding the coal giant. Be creative!

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