Tesla Gigafactory Berlin

Clearing of pine tree plantation in Grünheide (Mark, Brandenburg) close to Berlin in early 2020 as seen by Planet Labs satellites in the centre right on the April image. The proximity to areas of nature protection like the Löcknitz value sparked discussion. Please, move the slider in the image below to the right and left to find more about it yourself.

The case

Generally, the tendency of conversion of natural lands towards sealed grounds for industrial and other commercial use is widespread and a global phenomenon, especially around cities. The widening of international value chains, increased consumption and the ‘outsourcing’ of urban functions previously found in the city centres are all reasons for this. Logistic facilities, being the real world footprint of the cyberspace, are transforming peri-urban space at high rates. Therefore, developments like the Tesla plant at the urban fringe can be either discussed as a drop in the ocean or as a development that needs to be stopped right away or somewhere in-between with careful evaluation based on up to date environmental data. While normally such cases get no attention, we wanted to shed a light on this particular development. Since we consider peoples interest in environmental developments as a corner stone for reaching more sustainable states in society and environment, we welcome the discussions and the media attention this project has sparked.

The Wider Picture

The Discussion

While soil sealing and the reduction of vegetation is obviously not a positive environmental development, we find many such developments in the City of Berlin. Prominent trends are for instance the continuos sealing in private gardens, creating so called ‘Gravel gardens’ or the widening of road and parking place infrastructure. Furthermore the ecological value of the pine plantations was limited. Creating for instance a forest as a compensation measure somewhere else that is better adapted in times of climate change could in the long run improve the environmental quality of Berlin’s surrounding. Nevertheless, we as citizens need to have the possibilities to hold Tesla accountable, follow the developments and check on their promises to reforest somewhere else, limit their resource use etc.. While a (heated) debate and attention is needed towards such developments in the ‘backyards of our cities’, we advocate for a balanced and non-violent discussion.

Read more about our findings concerning the development of Berlin’s vegetation cover in our publication at the Journal of Landscape and Urban Planning or the Accepted manuscript of the article with the same content only without the specific journal layout.

Our contribution