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  • https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/o­ct/04/activists-try-to-stop-autobahn-bei­ng-built-through-german-forest

    Seemingly the biggest story in Germany at the moment (I don't follow German news much) is that of the last-ditch attempts by protesters of stopping the continuation of the A49 motorway in Hessen. The first trees have now been felled. As often with such projects, this has a very long history, which is summarised here:

    https://www.bund-hessen.de/waelder/keine­-a-49-dannenroeder-forst-retten/

    The motorway is meant to cut through an old forest, the Dannenröder Forst, to reach Marburg. Here's a small map of the intended route:

    I think this is hilly country, which will necessitate the "Bauwerke" (structures, probably mostly bridges) to cross valleys. As we know, now that the usual 30-year lifespan for German motorway bridges has mostly come to an end or been exceeded, it is very costly to maintain or replace these, and I imagine they must be building them to a longer-lasting specification by now. Still, it would be better if they didn't build them at all.

    As ever with modern roads, this completely ignores the historically-grown lines of the land and of human habitation. People used to build with nature, not against it. Fragmenting a forest like this is terrible for wildlife; you may have been following the news stories about mountain lions around LA, some of whom have been so trapped by roads that their genetic diversity has taken a nosedive, and so that various ways of building facilities for them to cross roads have been considered, e.g. culverts or a land bridge.

    With their treehouses, the protests are very reminiscent of Newbury and other road protests, but I doubt that German politicians will be very rattled by them at all (owing to its very large car industry, a large majority of people in Germany are still in favour of automobilism). Such visible protest is a matter of last resort. The opponents tried to defeat the project in court but didn't win there, so now this is all they have left. Well done to all who worked against it.

    It was a very different story in Britain in the 90s, when road protesters managed to halt for more than two decades the large road-building programme planned. Of course, a new programme was meant to be resumed under the present lamentable Government when the coronavirus crisis hit. I don't expect that it will be stopped completely, at best slowed, but perhaps there's a glimmer of hope it may not be going ahead as envisaged.

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