Sunday, July 4, 2021

Environmentalists Against Fighting Climate Change

European governments have decided that the way to reduce carbon in the atmosphere is to electrify everything. This requires, as we discussed a few weeks ago, massive new mines for lithium, cobalt, and other metals, and all proposals for these new mines have been fought by local environmentalists. It also requires new factories to make a lot of batteries, like the one Elon Musk is building outside Berlin. This is, however, not at all popular with many locals:

Walking along the edge of part of the site late last month , Steffen Schorcht, one of a group of residents fighting the Gigafactory, outlined some of their complaints. He says the company has not done enough to protect local wildlife and the environment. The factory is built on an area previously planted for timber and abuts a conservation area.

“Our critique is not against Tesla cars or the Tesla company,” he said. “Our critique is for them to use this area to build this factory.”

Having lost their battle to prevent felling on all but a tiny portion of the site, environmental groups lobbied for more to be done to protect and rehome hibernating bats, smooth snakes and ants.

When the first stretch of forest was cleared last year to make way for the factory, a solitary tree was left standing as some bats needed to be left until they woke from their slumber.

But now they have zeroed in on what they see as a potentially bigger environmental concern: the project’s water consumption and polluting potential.

They complain that Tesla has not been upfront during the planning process, only submitting for approval last month plans for the addition of what Musk says will be the biggest battery cell production plant in the world.

The factory has already been held up for a year and who knows how long this might stretch out.

Some environmentalism is based on more or less rational fears about what we are doing to the world, whether that is CO2 emissions, plastic in the ocean, or hormone mimicking chemicals. But a lot of it is frankly aesthetic, a preference for forests over factories and parking lots. Some is a revulsion against modernity in all its forms; this is where Greens meet Tories, both wanting to preserve villages and organic farms against intrusions of big business or the state. Some is very localized, a fondness for familiar woods and fields. The Germans quoted in the Post's story insist that they are not opposed to electric cars in general, just the building of electric cars in their neighborhood. Somebody else's woods should be cut down, somebody else's water taken. (Not that Berlin is short of water.)

But keeping a few hundred trees won't, at this point, help the planet much. We need bigger actions, bigger answers, and that's going to involve its own arc of destruction.

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