What’s Going On With The Protests At Tesla’s Giga Berlin Factory? Situation On The Ground

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Below is a Letter to the Editor from on the ground near Tesla Giga Berlin, by Madeindex Blog, with minor editing. If you’d like to submit a letter to the editor, please visit this link.

In this post, I would like to address the situation around Tesla’s Gigafactory in Berlin / Brandenburg — Grünheide. I have been following the construction and protests there from the start and visited in regular intervals throughout the process. I went there again last week to document the situation on the ground for non-locals.

Tesla’s factory & construction area is surrounded by:

  • North: Train tracks & a train station
  • South: An industrial zone (Trading-Logistics-Center Freienbrink) right across the road from Giga Berlin‘s main entrance. It consists of roads, train tracks, a variety of companies, and huge logistics center, with a multitude of truck loading bays each and hundreds of diesel trucks driving to & from them or parked all across the area. Some of the biggest companies there are Lidl, 2x EdekaDGLKnorr-Breaks, and GLX Logistics
  • East: Train tracks, pine tree monoculture plantations, and then a road
  • West: The main Berlin Ring A10 highway as well as highway ramps and bridges

The Protests

The up to 80 protesters are located northeast of the Tesla Gigafactory in Berlin Grünheide. They have set up an information booth next to the train station and a treehouse camp in the pine trees adjacent to the road. I noticed that they did not damage any trees with their treehouses, as they used only ropes and similar materials to secure their structures, which looks very elaborate and I found quite impressive as this is not always the case with treehouse protests. They are likely to be evicted from the property next week, although the protesters expected to be evicted by Monday the 11th, resulting in the protests lasting longer than initially expected by some.

There are different groups of protesters, some environmental and some politically motivated (e.g. Antifa is there).

They are protesting various issues, mainly:

  • The expansion of the Gigafactory and the necessary forest clearing
  • Protection of water reserves
  • Water pollution
  • Building within a drinking water protection area
  • Wildlife protection
  • Tesla employee exploitation
  • Privacy concerns related to Tesla’s camera data
  • Big corporations — in this case Tesla
  • Electric cars
  • Use of imported — critical minerals (lithium, cobalt etc.) for Teslas
  • Individual transportation instead of public
  • Luxury/unaffordable cars
  • Climate change
  • Elon Musk & his politics
  • Starlink
  • The government
Treehouse camp of the protestors inside the pine tree monoculture plantation to the east of Tesla’s main facility.

With this article, I mainly refer to the following points of criticism:

  1. The “forest clearing” (which is mainly the cut-down of pine tree monoculture plantations)
  2. Wildlife protection
  3. The matter of building within a drinking water protection area
  4. Water pollution

Forest Clearing at Tesla Gigafactory Berlin Grünheide

Map of the tree-structure around the gigafactory and the cleared land.

The area of Giga Berlin consisted and consists mostly of pine plantations. Conifer plantations are harvested at regular intervals. They are dry, prone to forest fires, and offer little value to wildlife. For many years the state of Brandenburghas been trying to replace this kind of pine monocultures with deciduous forests, which are more resilient to a changing climate, bind more water & CO2. Spruce and pine also are not natural in most areas in Germany and spruce should by nature actually majorly be growing in swamps or higher vicinities. Naturally most of the country should instead be covered by beech trees. I have also never seen a clear cut of deciduous forests but many cases of clear cut spruce and pine plantations during my hikes across Germany.

View of the partially cleared pine tree plantation to the northeast.

I would also like to note that in Germany, there are laws (e.g. Bundesnaturschutzgesetz) regarding the clearing of land and forests for commercial construction; a portion of the cleared area must be replanted or compensated for ecologically elsewhere. In Tesla’s case, the compensatory plantings seem to be mostly deciduous forests, which are in most cases much more ecologically valuable than pine tree monocultures. Tesla promised to replant 3 times as many trees as they remove, though it is noteworthy that the growth of the new trees takes time and it will be many years until they turn into a “real forest.” But that forest will be either not at all or only with restrictions commercially useable, which will also mean a higher environmental benefit, and the fully grown compensatory planting zones in other regions I have personally walked in seemed more diverse and healthy than any of the tree plantations.

Observations Regarding Mammal Wildlife

The entire area is in the flight path of airplanes taking off and landing every few minutes at Airport Berlin Brandenburg (BER). Everywhere on the property you can hear substantial noise from the airplanes, the numerous trucks on the roads (coming to and from the logistical companies neighbouring Tesla), and the cars on the highways as well as the trains regularly driving by. Considering the amount of truck & train traffic on all 4 sides of Tesla’s area and the plane traffic above it, one could argue it is safer for wildlife to avoid this area.

The Drinking Water Protection Area

The industrial zone to the south is located in the same water protection area (Erkner — Neu Zittauer und Hohenbinder Straße Zone III) as Tesla, and the companies building there highly likely also required the clearance of pine trees and the herewith related issues.

Map of the water protection area Erkner — Neu Zittauer und Hohenbinder Straße Zone III on which Tesla’s Gigafactory & the Trading-Logistics-Center Freienbrink are located.

Why did the protestors not equally fight the construction of the Trading-Logistics-Center Freienbrink, and are not now also protesting the companies located there?

There are train tracks and a pine tree monocultures east of Tesla, and the A10 highway next to Tesla’s west side:

Thoughts on the Water Pollution Issue

The groundwater in the area has been polluted for a long time with industrial wastewastewaterhuman waste (thrown from cars or left by pedestrians), exhaust fumesoilfine dust (diesel dust, tire and brake abrasion, etc.) caused by human settlements, the highway, the roads, and the industrial zone, among other things. Would the pollution really increase so significantly as a result of an expansion of the Tesla facility, and how has it already increased since the initial construction?

Conclusion Regarding the Situation and Protests

Aren’t there many much better targets to protest the concerns raised by the protestors?

These and many more questions came to me when I looked at the area around the Tesla Gigafactory Berlin Grünheide and the protests against the expansion plans.

I hope I was able to help you get a better impression of the situation on the ground.

Video about Tesla Gigafactory Berlin Grünheide

If you want to see more footage of the area surrounding the Tesla factory in Berlin, we have made a video summarizing all the findings from this article and recorded footage of all four directions from the plant. So now it is up to you to decide for yourself:

Is Tesla trying to protect the environment or destroy it?

Is GigaBerlin Mordor or is it Gondor?

Madeindex.org Team. All photos courtesy of the author. 


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