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Environment

Mori and Mila, Germany

Mori and Mila, two daredevil activists, are occupying trees that face the chop.

Mori and Mila enjoy hiking barefoot through the forest, sitting in their tree house, playing the guitar at the campfire. Whatever little they have, they share it with their friends. Sound like a peaceful, quiet life? Not quite: they're among the most radical environmental activists in Germany.

The Hambach forest, where they live, has become Germany's fiercest environmental battlefield. Power company RWE wants to chop down the forest to make way for an open-coal pit mine - but a group of 20 to 30 activists are determined to save the trees.

So they built a camp right on the border of the forest. Big piles of wood now prevent machines and vehicles from entering the forest. And the activists are living in tree houses they have built, to prevent the trees from being chopped down.

Watch video 04:25

Extreme activism: Environmentalists in Hambach Forest

Protecting a unique forest

Hambach is not just any forest: It represents remnants of ancient forest from the last Ice Age, which once covered Central Europe. That makes Hambach around 12,000 years old, and very rich in biodiversity. But almost 80 percent of this has already been cut down.

Mori and Mila say their resistance is not just about saving the forest. The coal mine itself represents a greater problem: "It's one of Europe's biggest CO2, polluters so it's important to show resistance and make a statement," Mori says.

Living in the forest is already illegal, but some of the activists go even farther: Friends of Mori and Mila regularly chain themselves to coal excavators to stop the mining operation. There are regular conflicts with the police. Mori and Mila are also willing to go to prison, if they have to.

They have given up their old lifestyle. As the activism is a lifestyle, they don't go to work. The community lives from food that supermarkets or people donate, and most people there barely have any money or material belongings. "It's worth it," they agree. "We can't just sit around and do nothing," Mori adds.

The battle grows

Mila does not only strive for a coal-free society; she wants a society where people live in harmony with nature, and in harmony with each other. "We're not here to just hurt RWE - we want to show how things could be done differently," she says.

Power company RWE on the other hand points out that the Hambach mine is the largest coal mine in Germany. The coal extracted here and in neighboring power plants generates five percent of energy in Germany's entire power mix. Around 2,000 people are employed here, so it's an important pillar for the local economy.

Barefoot activists battlingGermany's second-largest power company: It's a story of David versus Goliath. But the activists seem to be getting more attention, and support: In August 2015, around 800 people participated in an international protest to occupy - and stop - excavators in a neighboring coal mine also run by RWE.

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