German energy giant RWE has plans to cut down the remaining few hundred hectares of a 12,000-year-old Hambach forest in western Germany for coal surface mining. This, despite the fact that Germany is currently working on plans to phase out coal and invest more in renewable sources of energy.
Now Ecosia, a Berlin-based nonprofit search engine, is offering to buy the forest for €1 million and turn it into public land, using money from its advertising revenue. The nonprofit typically uses ad revenue to plant trees in deforested areas around the world. But it recognized that the Hambach Forest also made sense as an investment.
“Around 142 species live in the forest, and 13 of them are endangered, which is why cutting down the forest would be such a catastrophe,” says Jacey Bingler, Ecosia’s representative for North America. “The carbon dioxide that is captured in the forest would be released into the atmosphere to continue mining for coal, which is one of the dirtiest energy sources.”
RWE has owned the land since 1978, and only 10% of the original forest is left. “The rest is basically a wasteland,” says Bingler. For the last several years, activists have occupied the part of the forest that still exists to prevent logging, though the company planned to begin razing the remaining forest this month.