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6 years of coal protest coming to an end at Germany's Hambach forest?

Primal forest

At the heart of Europe, in western Germany, near the border to France and Belgium, a scrap of ancient forest holds thousand-year-old trees along with abundant wildlife. But there's another species living there in the forest as well — our own.

6 years of coal protest coming to an end at Germany's Hambach forest?

Life among the treetops

About 150 people currently live in what's left of Hambach forest, many in makeshift tree houses. Although living in a tree house may appear idyllic, many of the environmental activists have uprooted their lives for the better part of six years — living without electricity and running water — to protect the forest, and take a stance against the power of the fossil fuel industry.

6 years of coal protest coming to an end at Germany's Hambach forest?

Evictions begin

Several hundred police officers accompanied RWE workers for protection as they visited the forest on Wednesday, September 5, to expel the protesters in preparation for clearing. Although the operation was mostly peaceful, one activist was arrested after resisting police.

6 years of coal protest coming to an end at Germany's Hambach forest?

Nonviolent resistance

Activists joke about their "dangerous weapons," such as an empty fire extinguisher. Just days before the police action on September 5, Herbert Reul, the interior minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, warned that police and RWE staff in the Hambach forest were dealing with "extremely violent left-wing extremists." Members of the protest group have denied Reul's description.

6 years of coal protest coming to an end at Germany's Hambach forest?

Not the first forest confrontation

Over the years, police have clashed with protesters in the Hambach forest. In 2017, police employed pepper spray to disperse protesters in advance of planned logging. The looming eviction is likely to result in the largest confrontation there yet.

6 years of coal protest coming to an end at Germany's Hambach forest?

Trees for coal

Here is the result of a recent RWE clearing campaign, which ran from October 2016 to March 2017. In the background, the smokestacks of the Niederaussem power station can be seen. With a CO2 output of more than 29 million tons yearly, this is Europe's third-dirtiest power plant. Due to massive toxic emissions such as mercury and sulfur, it is also considered Germany's second-most-toxic power plant.

6 years of coal protest coming to an end at Germany's Hambach forest?

'Critical turning point' for climate policy

"Clumsy" has lived among the treetops in the Hambach forest since the resistance against the RWE coalmine project began in 2012. He believes the battle over the forest is a critical turning point for German climate policy, and the government's decision is one between "giving in to the lignite hardliners, [or] protecting our life support basis on this planet."

6 years of coal protest coming to an end at Germany's Hambach forest?

Small forest with big stakes

Only about 10 percent of the once sprawling Hambach forest has survived the mine's onslaught. What's left appears miniscule in comparison to the vast expanse of the mine, which already covers about 85 square kilometers (33 square miles). But environmentalists say the forest holds enormous ecological value, and is home to abundant and biodiverse ecology, including endangered animal species.

6 years of coal protest coming to an end at Germany's Hambach forest?

Ever-hungry coal industry

The Hambach mine, located between Aachen and Cologne, is Germany's largest open-cast mine. Here, RWE uses enormous excavators to extract brown coal, also known as lignite, from the earth. Lignite is among the fossil fuels that emit the most carbon dioxide when burned. What remains of Hambach forest is the last bastion in a long battle against the expansion of the mine.

6 years of coal protest coming to an end at Germany's Hambach forest?

Save the forest, save the world

Environmental activists have undertaken nonviolent resistance against the RWE coal mine expansion for more than six years. Through their actions, they claim to not only want to save the Hambach forest from destruction, but also send a message to the world about the dangerous consequences of prioritizing fossil fuel extraction over important ecological sites.

6 years of coal protest coming to an end at Germany's Hambach forest?

Global support

Activists from all over the world have supported the action by staying for days or weeks at a time. Over the past six years, activists have literally built up an alternative community within the forest. Although it is still unclear what exactly will happen in the struggle between the protesters and the fossil fuel giant, potential eviction is an ever-present possibility for the forest dwellers.

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Red panda truths

What's in a name?

Red pandas don't share many physical features with their giant monochrome namesakes, and their appearance is more likely to be compared to that of a raccoon or a cat. In fact the first published description of the animal referred to it as "Ailurus fulgens," which translates to something like "red shining cat." Taxonomically, however, they're part of their own unique family: Ailuridae.

Red panda truths

Which came first, the red or the giant?

French zoologist Frederic Cuvier first described the red panda on record in 1825, almost half a century before the lolloping black-and-white bears were first cataloged. Exactly how the two species came to be called pandas is unclear, but some claims suggest the name is derived from "nigalya ponya," an old Nepalese term for bamboo-eating animal. Figures...

Red panda truths

Dinner time

...since bamboo is a staple of both the red and the giant pandas' diet. So much so that they have extended wrist bones with thumb-like functions that help them strip the stalks. But the red panda, which has to consume 30 percent of its body weight daily, also eats bugs, fruit, eggs, bark and flowers. Pregnant females sometimes mix it up to include lizards, birds or rodents.

Red panda truths

Maternal instinct

Red pandas tend to be solitary animals except during the breeding season, which starts in the late fall. After a four-month gestation period, the female typically gives birth to between one and four young — paler versions of herself. During their first days in the nest, the cubs have her undivided attention. At 3 months, they're changing color and beginning to nibble bamboo.

Red panda truths

Growing up

The young remain with their mother in the nest for the first two and a half months, when she starts introducing them to the outside world and all the freedoms it has to offer. Though independent by the age of 8 months, the cubs don't leave their mother entirely until her next litter is born. Both females and males reach sexual maturity between 18 and 20 months of age.

Red panda truths

In the tree tops

When not foraging for bamboo, red pandas spend most of their time way above the ground, moving among the trees with agility. They tend to take frequent naps among the branches as a way of conserving energy, but they also breed up high. They're at home in the wooded mountain habitats of Nepal, northern Myanmar and central China.

Red panda truths

Surviving in the wild

With the number of animals left in the wild believed to be less than 10,000, and some suggestions putting the figure as low as 2,500, red pandas are categorized as endangered on the IUCN Red List. The main threats facing them are a loss of habitat and food sources as a result of deforestation to create space for agriculture and human housing. They are also hunted for their skins.

Red panda truths

Ripe old age

Efforts have been ongoing for several years to establish conservation areas and projects to protect these raccoon-like creatures with a weakness for bamboo. Those that manage to survive poachers and pressures on the land they inhabit can live for as long as 14 years among the trees of their mountainous homes.

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