The High Road: Taking A Substantive Look At The Concerns of German Environmental Groups

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The issue of environmental groups taking Tesla to court seems pretty simple on the surface.

Tesla, as we know, makes EVs. EVs are a net positive for the environment. If someone opposes EVs, that is generally bad for the environment. Because Tesla makes EVs, siding against Tesla must mean that you’re objecting to EVs, right? Thus, environmental groups who object to anything Tesla does (or possibly even anything Elon Musk does), must not really be environmentalists. Plus, if they ever took a dime from an oil company or “legacy” auto, that’s even further proof that they’re astroturfing environmentalism.

Checkmate, oil shills!

When I put it this way, it probably sounds ridiculous, but that’s what passes for commentary these days, even from one of my colleagues here at CleanTechnica recently. In both articles (and several others I’ve found), none of the specific concerns of the German environmental groups have been addressed. Simply opposing Tesla is counted as evidence of false environmentalism.

While I get where my fellow writers are coming from, I don’t think this makes the EV and Tesla communities look very good. At best, we look like cranks, and at worst, we look like cultists acting this way. If we have a problem with something or somebody, we really need to take the high road.

Making Intellectually Honest Arguments

A graphic representing Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement. Public Domain.

When we want to oppose the arguments of another, we need to try to be as high on Graham’s pyramid as possible. By making sound logical arguments that respond to the point someone is trying to make, you not only are more likely to actually win the argument, but you’re more likely to get the people you’re arguing with to actually change their ways. Things toward the bottom of the pyramid may make you feel good, but they only anger people and inspire others to mock them. Things toward the top inspire others to think further about things.

My fellow writers have been doing something between name-calling and an ad-hominem attack on the German environmental groups that oppose Tesla’s activities. If we want to actually climb higher up the pyramid, we need to look at what the environmental groups are actually arguing.

What Arguments Are The Groups Making?

It took a lot of digging to figure out why these environmental groups are opposing Tesla, largely because there were a LOT of articles that were bashing them just for opposing Tesla. But, on NABU’s website, I was able to use Google Translate to see what their actual arguments are:

    • “The future Gigafactory will be built in the immediate vicinity of the FFH area Löcknitztal. This very species-rich fen is highly dependent on the groundwater and very sensitive to disturbances and the input of substances. FFH areas are special European protected areas in nature and landscape protection that have been designated according to the Fauna-Flora-Habitat Directive.”
    • “The Gigafactory is located in a designated drinking water protection area. Over 1200 special concrete piles were driven into the ground. The immense degree of sealing and possible substance inputs can have a massive impact on the groundwater.”
    • “Many procedures and processes have not yet been clearly defined. It is still not clear how it can be ensured that the huge battery factory and paint shop do not have any negative effects on the water protection area.”
    • “The existing infrastructure is not sufficient for commuter and delivery traffic, so the factory requires further, sometimes massive interventions in the surrounding nature.”
    • “The size of the factory is a massive encroachment on the habitat of many species . Species that are not very mobile, such as sand lizards and smooth snakes, are particularly affected, for which adequate substitute habitats cannot be developed at “Tesla speed.””
    • “Even if you work quickly, the minimum standards of German law must be adhered to.
      Inadequate investigations: The (long-term) influence of the massive sealing on the groundwater flows cannot be foreseen. Since the site is located on a groundwater divide, irreversible impairments for source areas in the Löcknitztal cannot be ruled out.”

Further, NABU says that it doesn’t want to shut Tesla down. They only want Tesla to be more transparent, make sure surrounding infrastructure is planned in such a way that drinking water and biodiversity isn’t impacted as much, and that other projects are undertaken nearby to protect biodiversity and help clean up drinking water in the watershed.

For what it’s worth, they also vehemently deny that they’re against electric vehicles. NABU points to their support for banning gasoline and diesel-powered vehicle sales starting in 2030, among other things.

One Good Counterargument

The central point of NABU’s opposition to Tesla’s facilities is that they’re making impacts that should be mitigated and lessened. If we want to argue with NABU, we have to deal with this central point.

When it comes to mitigation, I’m really not going to be able to argue against NABU. They’re actually right about that. Tesla really should find ways to minimize the harms they’re causing when they build a factory, paint vehicles, etc.. When harms cannot be minimized, they really should be offset elsewhere when possible.

The only reasonable refutation of the central point is that environmental requirements do need to be reasonable. We can’t let NIMBYism and BANANAism (Build Absolutely Nothing Around or Near Anything) keep us from making advances toward renewable energy. In a place like Germany, with all of the green (compared to the desert I live in), just about anywhere is going to be in a watershed that is used for drinking water, and just about any site you can choose is going to affect insects.

Care should be taken, but not so much care that we don’t let anybody build anything.

Those Who Stand For Nothing Fall For Anything

I generally agree with Alexander Hamilton (who said the above). We have to remember WHY we support Tesla. If the idea is to save the Earth, we don’t get there by trading one problem for another or completely abandoning our principles.

When Elon Musk and Tesla do things that aren’t environmentally sound, we need to be standing with those who call for protecting the earth, and not make bad arguments or hide facts to defend Dear Leader. If someone is wrong in their opposition to Tesla, we should make sound arguments against them and not employ intellectually dishonest smear tactics.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

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