- Tesla is preparing to clear 740 acres of forest near Berlin, Germany, for its fourth Gigafactory.
- But some Germans, who have seen their native forests threatened by droughts and fires in recent years, do not want the factory in their homeland.
- “I am not against Tesla,” an activist told Reuters on January 18 in a protest. “But it’s about the site; in a forest area that is a protected wildlife area. Is this necessary?”
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
Tesla announced in November the location of its fourth Gigafactory: a village of less than 9,000 souls called Grunheide, about 23 miles east of Berlin.
The automaker would need to cut 740 acres of forest for the factory, which will produce up to 500,000 cars per year. The factory will employ up to 12,000 people. Bloomberg reported that the plans for the factory have already attracted more investments in the village of Grunheide; Some developers have used local leadership with plans for 22-story apartment buildings and massive shopping centers.
But the locals are retreating. On January 18, a group of about 250 protesters gathered in Grunheide to clear up their dislike for Elon Musk’s plans.
“We are here, we are noisy, because Tesla is stealing our water,” protesters chanted, according to a Reuters report.
The protests were triggered by a report by a water association representing Brandenberg, a German state with 2.5 million residents. That report indicated that Tesla would require more than 300 cubic meters of water per hour, which would deplete local reserves.
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Others worry that the factory will contaminate local drinking water, Deutsche Welle reported. This inspired posters such as “there is no factory in the forest” and “Tesla or drinking water”.
Tesla did not return the Business Insider request for a statement.
“I am not against Tesla,” environmental activist Anne Bach told Reuters. “But it’s about the site; in a forest area that is a protected wildlife area. Is this necessary?”
The criticism of the Germans to the factory did not begin on January 18. The conversationalists have studied the potential risks of the factory since the site was announced in November.
Friedhelm Schmitz-Jersch, president of the Association for the Conservation of Nature (NABU) in Brandenburg, previously told Business Insider Deutschland that the factory could threaten a species of bat. “We need to start mapping which species should be taken into account,” he said in an interview with Business Insider.
There was also a counter-protest, although much smaller. Around 30 people held banners with messages like “build instead of frustrating” and “Elon, I want a car of yours,” Deutsche Welle reported.
Germans, in general, are more concerned than Americans about the environment. A Pew survey in 2018 revealed that 71% of Germans say that climate change is a “big threat” to their country, compared to 59% of Americans and 68% of the average land.
And forests are a particular flash point for German environmentalists. A third of Germany is covered by forests: almost 90 billion trees covering a country half the size of Texas. And the country is seriously investing in the fight against an increase in droughts, storms and fires that threaten those forests.
“In a system as ecological as the one here and against the background that the weather is changing, I cannot understand why no other location was selected from the beginning,” Frank Gersdorf, whose group “Gruenheide Citizen Initiative against Gigafactory” organized the protest, he told Reuters.