Soon will be off to Germany to do a series of photo exhibitions – “EYES ON KILLING THE CLIMATE”.
A deep & unique photo exhibition about very brave people who decided to put their lives on the line and fight against the climate killer number one in Europe.
****** THE SITUATION ******
A 12.000 years old & once the biggest forest in the region, the beautiful Hambach forest is being completely destroyed because of the largest opencast mine in Europe—located in the west Germany, around 25 km west from Cologne [50.91061, 6.517956 http://goo.gl/maps/XIFoa]. The Hambach opencast mine „measures 85 sq km and contains 2.5 billion tons of lignite at a depth of up to 450m“. The responsible owner of this mine and many others in the region is the leading power company, the notorious RWE [http://www.rwe.com]. The process goes like this: They cut trees, dig out the earth couple of hundreds meters deep, then excavate the brown coal (also called lignite), transport it by trains to some of many power plants situated around the mine where they burn the brown coal to produce electric energy. So far I know, the Rhenish lignite-mining area, or it’s better to say RWE is the climate killer number one in Europe—achieving all the bad highscores.
To dig out they use the world’s biggest excavators which are 220m long, 96m high & weigh 13,500 tons. „Every day, they can extract 240,000 tons of coal – enough to fill up a football stadium 30m high.“ The most dirtiest & non-renewable way possible. What is left behind? A giant hole, actually the biggest on our continent & that’s not all.
People are being permanently evicted because of the expansion of the mines in the surrounding area and future greedy plans of the RWE company. I’ve seen three former villages where the entire life has been completely dislocated and merged into, let say, one new little town—the company moved everything, stuff from the churches, cemeteries…. everything. People’s lifes have been interupted as well as their former neighborhoods which will be completely destroyed as the mines around are getting bigger.
The radioactive fine/respirable dust coming out of the mine (more fine dust than all car traffic in Germany) is causing serious health problems to lots of people in the surrounding area. Because the excavators are mining 24/7 including the night time as well, the emission of loud noise is a big problem for animals in the forest and the strong light is polluting our sky (the mine at night looks like the surface of the Moon, but not that calm at all!). What also happens is subsidence and loss of aquifers which affects local farmers who have to irrigate crops more often. Of course there’s also a great amount of CO2 being emitted by RWE ‒ close to 100,000,000 tonnes per year ‒ and they are planning to build even more power plants in the near future. They just built the new railway for transporting coal and in cooperation with the road construction company they built a new section of the highway between Düren & Kerpen because the Hambach opencast mine is growing [official info: http://bit.ly/1bySwJc].
With its high proportion of oak, small-leaf linden etc. the Hambach forest is an ecologically valuable habitat for a host of endangered plant & animal species (for example rare speices of bat and mice) which are in danger since the Hambach opencast mine is active and their natural territory is becoming smaller. Once upon a time the forest covered an area of 5,500 hectares. Unfortunatelly, more and more trees are being cut down every year.
I’m worried that people’s relationship to the nature is being lost because RWE and such companies are irretrievably & greedily destroying everything on their way just to make more money. They calculate values in how many times per day the excavators are turning the big bucket-wheel, they calculate on how many vagons of coal they have transported each day etc. I keep asking myself: How RWE can do all this crime to the nature & people who live there, legally; and where is all this going?
****** THE STORY ******
I was shocked last year when I’ve heard what’s going on around the Hambach opencast mine. But, on the other hand, I was happy to see there’s also a group of activists in the forest next to the mine, struggling against its bad influences [their blog http://hambachforest.blogsport.de]. I’ve contacted them and decided to come and do a photo reportage about their activities.
On 14th of April 2012. a group of activist squatted a part of the Hambach forest which was threatened by clear cutting. They established an occupation camp there, built treehouses, installed hanging platforms and built wooden houses on the ground as well. This whole infrastructure in the camp was a new meeting point for people to connect, debate about issues of the mining area, but also a place for growing the culture of resistance. People there were horrified about the total destruction of life & nature and said „the current politics totally failed and keep on failing in answering the pressing matter of climate change!“. The activists are not only protecting the forest, but also asking a very important question: “What do we want our economy to look like in the future, if we do not want to destroy the climate of this planet?”. Burning fossil fuels is for sure not the answer and companies like RWE shall loose their „right“ of determining the future of our planet, unscrupulously destroying the local & global fundaments of life.
This is a story about very brave people who decided to put their lives on the line and fight against „legal“ destruction of complete life under, on and above the ground. I spent lots of time with the activists in the forest and around the mine trying to capture all more-or-less crucial moments of the struggle; struggle was my main focus. At some point I realised that I was the only photographer present in some of direct actions and that my role is becoming more important, role of documenting these historical events.
After some time direct actions became more effective and caused more damage to RWE, as on the other side RWE’s mining activities caused more damage to the nature as well. I felt like moving on a thin line between these two conflict sides and that’s actually what I summed up in a story for this unique photo exhibition.
In November it took 4 days for 500 police officers to evict the first forest occupation. That was the longest and most expensive eviction in Germany so far. During the eviction I was also arrested, unjustifiably, as the only journalist (independent photojournalist), the only who has some really important photographs of that terrible police event.
Since the eviction there exists the second occupation camp on the the meadow close to the forest. They have survived a cold winter and are still struggling. Fortunatelly, as before, they are gathering a big support from the local people.
After the whole experience, my photo story became very deep so I decided to come back again and finally exhibit.
****** WHY THIS EXHIBITION IS IMPORTANT ******
I believe my photographic documentation of this very specific activist struggles is very important as an awareness factor of delivering the truth direct to the people; as well as a celebration of past fights and inspiration for the potential future ones. I believe that the artistic language of my photographs means “change”.
The exhibition shows specific aesthetics, the beauty of “here & now”. It shows contents and ideas about the real world, nature, human beings & life. It has ethical base, moral weight and for that a deep humanistic nature. Documentary photography is here to communicate between the viewer and reality without any drastic post-production, just pure frozen moments. Photography as a medium can touch people’s emotions and awake their consciousness of the reality, which can inspire and motivate them for taking constructive actions or joining such a movement.
****** MORE RESOURCES ******
- Hambach Forest, the beginning of the occupation [en] http://youtu.be/BthIz6WRm78
- Hambacher Forest, summary and latest news [en] http://youtu.be/E3mllM8ImTA
- Latest Police Violence [en] http://youtu.be/Y8hIVnZuc8E
- Protests on the day of the eviction [de] http://youtu.be/Mgw8d67fwPQ
- Interview on my arrest [de] http://bit.ly/10K6qAV
came out of my broken minox 35 pl
on 13 january last year the initiative for independent social centre in novi sad was thrown out from the military barracks “dr arcibald rajs”. those 7.293 square meters, for which even military said they don’t need it, are STILL EMPTY :/