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Soapbox: Friend of Hambach Forest


The Hambach Forest between Aachen and Cologne in West Germany has been a symbol of resistance to lignite mining, and the larger fossil fuel industry since 2012. The forest has been resiliently occupied by activists on land, and in treehouses, who have so far blocked the energy company RWE from felling the remaining part of the 12,000-year-old forest. Last week police commenced the eviction of activists from the forest. 

The following text has been contributed to Soapbox by a 'Friend of Hambacher Forst'. 

Bodenlos (“Losing ground”)

I am the ground and sometimes -  I must admit - I laugh at you people. You scurry about on me and think you are so high and mighty. Yes, it hurts that you violate me and don't appreciate my gifts, but you are the ones that will perish. I have existed for billions of years, always changing, and I will continue to change and continue to exist. With or without you.

We are encased in a green-shaded hammock, wrapped up in our own reality. Above us is the succulent canopy of the small trees, somewhat remote from the hustle and bustle of the camps. We are outside in freedom and at the same time snug in our cocoon. It is a place of timelessness, a place in which stories can be shared. Stories which are so powerful and fragile that they only dare to leave the lips of the storytellers in places like these. One such story is now on its way to my ear. And Momo - that's what I call myself here - listens.

“Were you there? Did you see it? The pit? This huge wound, gaping in the landscape? I was there. This morning. At the edge of the pit. This giant hole in front of me. The monstrous, cold machines which tear apart the skin of the earth and bore deep into her flesh in order to obtain brown coal.

And behind me is the forest, whose leaves rustle quietly in the wind. The birds, whose songs still tell stories of harmony. The trees, who wait patiently for their fate. In October the steel creatures will also tear away the soil beneath their roots. It's now the end of August already.

And as I stand there it is suddenly as though I am not standing between the pit and the forest, but rather: I am the pit and I am the forest. The wound gapes in my body, the fate of the forest is my fate which stands before me and against which I cannot defend myself. I sink to the ground. I can hardly breathe, my chest tightens, my body quivers. And then a river of tears breaks down all the dams of self-composure. I cry and cry and cry. I cry because I am not asked. I cry because this wound does not heal, but instead just gets bigger and bigger. I cry because I am afraid to feel helpless. What is happening to me? What for? Is it growing pains? Is this how progress feels? My tears water the ground from which no seed will sprout for a long time.

I could have kept crying. I do not believe that I would have been finished at any point, or that the tears would have run themselves dry. But at some point I managed to urge all the pain aside, to lock the feelings away again. To rebuild the dams of self-composure. To function again.

Do you know, the ground is patient. He was there for billions of years and still has lots of time to wait for the wounds to heal. To wait, until at some point another seed grows there, where there is now just a big hole. But what about us? When we cannot tolerate the pain that's alive inside of us because it would bear down on us when we have to block out our sorrow, our fear, our compassion so that we don't collapse - are we not uprooting ourselves by allowing these machines to tear open the ground? Are we not fleeing to a reality that no longer corresponds to the literal sense of ‘life’?

What I felt there, was not world pain. I had no concerns for the world. That was my pain. My pain as a part of the world.”

I look into your blue eyes which are now dry again and framed by laughter lines which I can subtly distinguish even when you're not laughing. It was as if you wanted to console when you say: it's no big deal. Just smile. It'll be alright. But your story dared to leave your lips and enter my ear. Your words have, one after the other, stabilised my fragile determination. There are still a few weeks until October. The end of August comes first. Enough time to build a treehouse and prepare myself to not leave voluntarily. I am afraid but I feel a little less helpless. Perhaps it is time to leave my hammock cocoon, the fate of the forest, your fate, to take my fate into my own hands. The birds around me raise an alarm as I emerge. I have an influence on that which happens around me. And if I move deliberately and have peaceful intentions, I can calm the birds and help restore harmony.


For updates from Hambach Forest: hambachforest.org/blog


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