I suppose in high-security, anti-chaos, pro-status-quo circles it’s common sense, but it came to me as a surprise. In Germany (and presumably everywhere where there are corporations cutting down trees and activists who prefer clean air and environmental stability to corporate profit), there is a special police force that is trained to deal with the removal of activists from trees.
Imagine that. “So what do you do?” “Oh, well, I specialize in removing dirty hippies from treehouses.” “Ummm, right. And how’s that working out for you?” Dirty work, any way you look at it.
While I was living in Dresden, activists squatted a several-hundred-year-old tree in one last attempt to stop the construction of a very ugly multi-lane bridge over a very beautiful, untouched stretch of river. Under the name of Robin Wood—an environmental activist collective—a group of people squatted the tree itself, housing several activists on a makeshift platform and populating the grounds below. The activist-tree-removal-special-police’s first attempt at removing the tree dwellers was unsuccessful due to the hundreds of protesters gathered below, but by and by public interest dwindled, and eventually the police were able to move their equipment close enough to remove the pesky tree huggers by force. The tree is long since cut, and bridge construction has begun.
Capitalism: 9,876,458,700, Activists: 0. Once again. (Insert loud collective, cynical sigh of disillusioned discontent here.)
Last night the flyers came in: the Kelsterbach Forest has been squatted. Kelsterbach—a small town on the Main west of Frankfurt— was, until recently, the finding place of Europe’s earliest anatomically modern humans through the discovery of a Cro-Magnum skull dubbed “the Lady from Kelsterbach.” What you can’t find out on wikipedia, eh?!
Now, due to the VERY highly intelligent decisions of the Lady from Kelsterbach’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great (and so on) grandchildren, the forest is due to be clearcut to make way for an additional runway and terminal for the Frankfurt Airport. Good job Fraport. Old Mama Kelsterbach would be glad to know that you’re doing such a swimming job blindly prioritizing your over-blown monopoly game over the well-being of the environment which makes your lives possible. Not to mention the quality of life for the people already living in the area. Here here. Crack the champagne. We’re going to need more than a few bottles before we start feeling good about this one.
This isn’t the first time Fraport has had to deal with protests against proposed expansion. In the 80s thousands, yes, thousands(!), of people occupied the Flörsheim Forest in an attempt to hinder the Startbahn West expansion project. A small city sprung up in the forest and lasted for approximately two years before it was finally, permenantly cleared. The protests—the largest of which is said to have included upwards of 10,000 protestors—culminated in the usual black blocks, police-activist clashes, rubber bullets, water canons and all the other demonstration banalities we’ve all come to know and love. The squatted city was forcibly evicted, and construction of Startbahn West was completed in 1984.
When I first heard about the latest expansion project, I used it as a debate topic in my advanced English classes. “It’s good for the economy,” one Postbank employee told our class. Most of the other students nodded in agreement. “And what about the pollution?” I prodded. It’s easy to play devil’s advocate when you already disagree. “And all of the people whose homes are going to shake with the roar of landing planes every ten minutes?” They made intelligent arguments against expansion, but, except for one student who had been involved with the protests, each argument ended with a shrug of defeat and apathy.
Fraport says that the new runway is good for the entire region. (Oh business people. They never seem to tire of that line.) Not only is the expansion good, they claim, it’s completely unavoidable. Written in the stars even. Bitteschön.
In their own words, “…demand for takeoff and landing slots at Frankfurt is strong. For this reason alone, rapid expansion of our airport is essential. In addition, air traffic will continue to grow. If FRA is to maintain its present significance in world air transportation, there is no alternative to the planned capacity expansion.” There’s demand! If we don’t expand Munich will, and we’ll lose our reputation as Germany’s biggest, bestest, fastest airport! We will create 100,000 new minimum wage jobs! Well yipee-ki-yi-yeah, doesn’t that sound like just what we need.
As for the environmental harm expansion will inevitably cause, well, Fraport has a quippy little answer for that one too:
“The operation of a major airport is inevitably associated with environmental burdens. Our company’s goal is strongly to reduce such burdens. Our environmental management system has been validated against the world’s most stringent standard, EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) and, beyond meeting the legal and official requirements, achieves far more in terms of environmental conservation. This commitment has meanwhile also been publicly recognized: The “Institute for Market – Environment – Society” in Hanover and the “Ethical Investment Research Service” in London both rate Fraport AG’s environmental management as exceptionally good. Such ratings are important, above all, to portfolio managers who decide on the acquisition of Fraport shares.
Protecting the environment while expanding means for us to minimize all burdens such as noise, loss of natural land and air pollution.”
They say it clearly enough themselves: “such ratings are important, above all, to portfolio managers who decide on the acquisition of Fraport shares.” Implied: such ratings are not important to those whose backyards will be cut or poisoned by plane exhaust. To those whose houses will rattle as planes approach overhead. Mine already does. I imagine it sounds something like it sounded just before your house got bombed in World War II. I hate to break it to you Fraport, but when you are sitting in a shaking house, when you have to stop conversations to wait for the noise form a passing plane to die down, those environmental certificates you have don’t mean shit. I’m pretty sure they don’t mean shit to the melting ice caps either, but I suppose you’d like to be able to sleep nights, huh?
The Kelsterbach tree squatters hope to be able to hold out against Fraport, the police, and the government long enough to force Fraport to back down. A proxy for Mayor Ockel visited the site on the first day of occupation and announced that the occupation would be tolerated until June 1. June 1 being a Sunday, eviction will probably begin in earnest tomorrow (June 2).
If you’d like to help, the Kelsterbachers are seeking donations of wood, polypropylene rope (10mm and 14mm), (vegan) groceries, tools, paper, and office materials. If you read this in time, you can stop by today (June 1st) for coffee and cake and find out more yourself. Donations can be transfered to the “Spendung and Aktion” account number 92881806 at the Volksbank Mittelhessen (BLZ 513 900 00), Subject: Waldbesetzung.
Forest telephone: 0175 833 59 58. Email: waldbesetzung (AT) riseup (DOT) net. Directions: The squatted trees are near the huts in the Kelsterbach forest. Drive to Kelsterbach, follow the b43 (Rüsselsheimer Straße) and turn onto the K152 (Okrifteler Straße). At the first parking lot (Mönchwaldsee) go through the forest.