Why we are still here despite the pandemic.

Disclaimer: This article represents an opinion of one person/some people and not of the whole occupation. There is no authorised group and no official body that could decide upon an ‘official’ group statement for the occupation. The people in the occupation and in their immediate environment have diverse and controversial opinions. This diversity of different stances is therefore not censored here, but differing opinions can be equally valid and have an equal right to be seen and heard. No text will speak for the whole occupation or is necessarily approved by everyone participating in the occupation.

“I beg you: Please refrain from any travel that is not really absolutely necessary […] Please stay at home, at your place of residence, whenever possible“, said Angela Merkel1 on 17 October in her podcast2. That day I got on a train, crossed a state border and joined the activists who, like me, came from several cities, states and countries in Europe to protect the Danni forest from destruction.

To come here to fight against a new motorway, isn’t it an absolutely necessary thing? Is it not urgent to intervene to prevent forests from being cut down so that even more cars can drive even faster?

Even in times of health crisis, we cannot allow ourselves to be locked up. The police and the loggers don’t take a break either. We must act collectively, either here or at home or wherever it makes sense.

Those who have economic and political power cannot claim that they put everyone’s health at the centre of their actions when they call above all for doing nothing and staying at home. We should not blindly obey them. Two examples, among many others, are clear proof of this: climate change and air pollution.

On climate change: How many people and animals in the world, in Europe and even here, die prematurely or are seriously affected in their lives by the causes and consequences of climate change (natural disasters, infections, drought and water shortages, heat waves3 …)?

It is clear to us in the occupation and at the camp that the Covid-19 crisis and the climate crisis are linked.4 Those who absolutely need a more intellectual discourse from a “bourgeois credible source” to convince themselves of the connection between Covid-19 and the climate crisis can read this article from Die Zeit5. Among other things, it is again mentioned that “global deforestation, for example, drought, global warming or the loss of biodiversity, is leading to […] increasing transmission of diseases from animals to humans.” Rather forest than asphalt, right?

On air pollution: How many people die prematurely every year in Germany because of air pollution? 120.000. In Europe? 790.0006. Apart from the deaths, there are millions of children, young people, adults suffering from asthma or diabetes, senior citizens who experience the last 5 or 10 years of their lives impaired by heart and respiratory problems or cancer.

Where does this pollution come from? Fine particles released by transport (cars, planes, trucks, cargo ships, etc.), energy production (lignite), intensive livestock farming, etc.

[Video with Max-Planck-Society Expertshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZyhuFllEok&feature=youtu.be]

What is the link between air pollution and Covid-19 deaths? People who live in areas with polluted air (near airports, motorways, coal-fired power stations or in areas with high concentrations of factory farming or in a “normal big city” such as Frankfurt) have a higher risk of developing heart and respiratory problems and therefore a higher risk of developing severe forms of Covid-19 disease. According to the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, 26 percent of German Covid-19 deaths are currently due to exposure to particulate matter from human sources, such as the combustion of fossil fuels and other anthropogenic sources : “Apparently, particulate matter damages blood vessels in a similar way to Sars-CoV-2 and makes it easier for the virus to infect cells in the lungs 7.

How those in power are trying to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The strategy pursued by the authorities is to restrict social contacts in order to prevent vulnerable people from becoming infected. In this way, the authorities are calling on the whole of society to mobilise, to sacrifice itself and to accept measures that have enormous social, economic and even health consequences8. Health workers who are already burned out have to cushion the blow while politicians and industry wait for a vaccine that will allow them to return to their usual routine (or “business as usual”). At the same time, public money is used to subsidise fossil fuels and companies like Lufthansa, to cut down mixed forests, to build motorways… Unfortunately, science will not find a vaccine against poor air quality, nor will it find one against stupidity.

I am aware that Covid-19 is a dangerous disease in itself, which can injure and kill people, even without strong air pollution. I also understand that restricting contact could alleviate the strain on the already fragile health system and could also reduce Covid-19 disease and deaths.

But it seems absurd to appeal to people to stay “at home” while so many are infected with sars-CoV-2 due to precarious working conditions in their jobs. It is necessary to repeatedly underline in public discourse the link between Covid-19 and the capitalist factors already mentioned, which not only cause and exacerbate the Covid-19 pandemic, but have and will have much more serious consequences on people, animals, the planet.

Another possible strategy

What if we acted together at the root of the problem by reducing conditions that favour severe forms of Covid-19 and other cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, the development of epidemics and climate change? The current « efforts » of governments such as the coal phase-out, which is taking place much too late, are not enough or are being cancelled out by other harmful measures (new airport runways, larger cars, the rise of electric vehicles, etc.).

If we really wanted to avoid these premature deaths and debilitating diseases caused by pollution and climate change, we would have to significantly reduce air and road traffic, stop intensive livestock farming, stop the destruction of villages for burning lignite in Lusatia or the Rhenish mining area9.

These measures would also have painful consequences for the economy, growth, the labour market and also consequences for our way of life: Some people would no longer be able to drive at 220 km/h in their SUVs, would travel less frequently to Mallorca and would no longer be able to eat liverwurst every day.

However, one could imagine a shifted economy where work, consumption and profit would no longer be at the centre of attention. An adapted way of life in which we would no longer seek a change of scenery on remote islands, but in our preserved forests. And also in the new, unusual landscapes that would be created on the ruins of abandoned motorways and airports.

Would this life be worse than the episodes of the sanitary lockdown that we are forced to endure? I don’t think so, but those in power are not prepared to make the necessary changes!

To conclude in the current dramatic style

[I am in favour of recycling and anyway I cannot write discourses as well as the aforementioned politician, so… if I just take her Corona-discourse and change a few words, I can make a nice lyrical conclusion :]

How hot and stormy the coming decades will be, how severe the air pollution and the related health problems will be, will be decided in these coming days, weeks and years. We all decide that through our actions. In this situation, it is no longer enough to buy organic products and ride a bicycle. We must now do everything possible to ensure that forests are not cleared for the benefit of money and power interests. Every day counts. Forest occupation is the most effective means we currently have to prevent habitat destruction.

I beg you, if you can, come to Dannenrod to support the fight for the forest. If you cannot, I am sure you will find actions you can take from your home.

Now it is more necessary than ever : forest instead of asphalt, Danni stays !

A forest squatter

1Together with BMW, Volkswagen and Bayer, Chancellor Angela Merkel is perceived as one of the most important political figures in the Federal Republic of Germany.

3See Wikipedia, Effects of climate change on human health https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_climate_change_on_human_health

8General anxiety, postponement of care, social isolation, widespread fear of contamination, confinement of children and the elderly, excessive sterilisation leading to skin problems, allergies and water pollution, exposure to indoor pollution, exposure to domestic violence…

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