Environmental Germans slam Elon Musk for Tesla Gigafactory plan

  • Tesla is preparing to clear 740 acres of forest near Berlin, Germany, for its fourth Gigafactory.
  • But some Germans, who have seen their native forests threatened by drought and fire in recent years, don’t want the factory in their native land.
  • “I’m not against Tesla,” an activist told Reuters on January 18 during a protest. “But it’s about the site; in a wooded area that’s a protected wildlife area. Is it necessary?”
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

Tesla announced the location of its fourth Gigafactory in November: a village of less than 9,000 souls called Grunheide, about 23 miles east of Berlin.

The automaker is expected to clear 740 acres of forest for the factory, which will produce up to 500,000 cars per year. The factory will employ up to 12,000 people. Bloomberg reported that plans for the factory had already attracted more investment in the village of Grunheide; some developers exercised local leadership with 22-story skyscraper plans and huge shopping malls.

But the locals are pushing back. On January 18, a group of around 250 protesters gathered in Grunheide to clear up their disgust with Elon Musk’s plans.

“We are here, we are noisy, because Tesla is stealing our water,” the protesters sang, according to a Reuters report.

The protests were sparked by a report from a water association representing Brandenberg, a German state with 2.5 million residents. That report indicated that Tesla would require more than 300 cubic meters of water per hour, which would deplete local reserves.

Others fear that the factory could contaminate local drinking water, Deutsche Welle said. This inspired signs like “no factory in the forest” and “Tesla or drinking water”.

Tesla did not return the Business Insider request for a declaration.

“I’m not against Tesla,” environmental activist Anne Bach told Reuters. “But it’s about the site; in a wooded area that’s a protected wildlife area. Is it necessary?”

German criticism of the factory did not begin on January 18. Conversators have studied the potential risks of the factory since the site was announced in November.

Friedhelm Schmitz-Jersch, the president of the Nature Conservation Association (NABU) in Brandenburg, had previously told Business Insider Deutschland that the factory could threaten a bat species. “We have to start mapping out which species need to be considered,” he said in an interview with Business Insider.

A counterprotest also emerged, although much smaller. About 30 people displayed banners with messages like “build instead of frustrate” and “Elon, I want your car,” Deutsche Welle said.

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a pro-Tesla poster during an action in support of plans by the American electric vehicle pioneer Tesla to build his first European factory and design center in Gruenheide near Berlin, Germany, 18 January 2020. REUTERS / Pawel Kopczynski

A demonstrator holds a pro-Tesla poster during an action in support of the plans of the American pioneer Tesla, who builds his first European factory and design center in Gruenheide.


Germans, on the whole, are more concerned about the environment than Americans. A 2018 Pew survey revealed that 71% of Germans say that climate change is a “serious threat” to their country, compared to 59% of Americans and 68% of the Earth’s average.

And forests are a particular flash point for German environmentalists. A third of Germany is covered by forests – nearly 90 billion trees covering a country half the size of Texas. And the country is investing seriously to fight a recovery of drought, storms and fires that threaten those forests.

“In such an ecological system like the one here and with the background that the climate is changing, I can’t understand why another location was not selected from the beginning”, Frank Gersdorf, whose group “Citizens’ Initiative Gruenheide against Gigafactory “organized the protest, he told Reuters.

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