For the past six years, some men and women have been living in a small 250-acre forest on the outskirts of Cologne, near the town of Jülich in North Rhine-Westphalia, in western Germany. They eat, live and sleep on elaborate treetop houses perched 80 feet off the forest floor. They are squatters, but they are not homeless.
These men and women are occupying the forest to protect it from being swallowed by an open-pit mine operating right on the edge of what happens to be the only oak and hornbeam forest in this part of Europe. Since 1978, the German energy company RWE has been stripping away the edge of the forest to expand its operation which is already the largest open-pit lignite mine in Europe. Before the mine opened, the 12,000-year-old Hambach Forest was spread over more than 13,000 acres. Today, only 10 percent of the forest’s original footprint remains.
A treetop house in Hambach Forest. Photo credit: hambachforest.org