Environmental activists are up against Tesla and the law as they try and stop the march of capitalism on their environment.
When Tesla announced it would build its new Gigafactory outside of Berlin, the decision was met with celebration within the country's parliament. But just a few miles outside of Berlin in the state of Brandenburg — also one of Germany's most impoverished provinces — the decision was met with resistance.
On a cold dark winter evening in Berlin, huddled inside a hall at an old left-wing bar, in a neighbourhood where the streets once saw running battles between the police and anarchists, is a coterie of activists.
They are charting their next steps to force Tesla to cancel plans to build its fourth 'Gigafactory' just outside the German capital.
They have already been dealt a blow - an injunction to stop felling a significant part of a young pine forest to make way for the factory was thrown out of court, the activists were told they cannot appeal the decision.
The activists had approached the courts seeking an injunction, but in Germany, once a court decides to grant an injunction or not, the decision is unappealable.
However, conservation organisations can still approach the courts challenging other facets of the Tesla Gigafactory project, but not the cutting down of the trees.
Tesla's contractors moved in fast, according to some estimates 56 specially engineered harvesters were used to clear over 300 hectares of forest within days.
In a hall at the corner of the bar, activists from various environmental groups are watching a PowerPoint presentation, complete with maps and points of interests highlighted, questions are being raised, answers and solutions pondered.
In the crowd, there is 37-year-old Jonas Baliani from the 'Interventionalist Left', and like many in attendance, Baliani too wears a few hats.
Environmental conservation isn't his or Interventionalist Left's only cause, but they are here to form strategic alliances with other groups, concentrate their efforts in a more streamlined manner.
In November last year, Tesla's CEO Elon Musk announced the fourth 'Gigafactory' would be built outside Berlin, initially producing 150,000 electric cars going up to nearly half a million while creating 12,000 new jobs in the region.
This 'win' was hard-fought, countries wooed Tesla with all sorts of incentives, and the German government was particularly delighted.
The felling facade
The state government of Brandenburg also sold Tesla 300 hectares (741 acres) of land for $46 million in the village of Grunheide.
Baliani says that very soon following the German government's decision to sell the land to Tesla, and without much warning, it all started.
German car giant BMW once faced similar problems with one of its proposed car manufacturing plants. BMW would have had to clear part of a forest, ensuing in a long legal battle, but gauging the resistance, BMW changed its plans.
Tesla, on the other hand, went all gung-ho says Baliani. He assumes timely legal advice to Tesla might have manifested in what happened in the village of Grunheide.
"They wanted to finish clearing the trees before March 2020," he says, and that's because the forest would then become home to thousands of migratory birds for nearly seven or eight months until October.
Baliani reckons that before allowing migratory birds to become a cause celebre and dragging yet more environmental and wildlife concerns before the courts, Tesla's contractors moved in and chopped down the trees.
The Grueneliga Brandenburg or the Green League of Brandenburg had petitioned a state court to stop Tesla from felling trees, this is when the story made international headlines.
The court briefly stopped Tesla to investigate the issue, but then allowed it to resume operations as Grunheide's wasn't an ancient forest but one planted more recently for eventual commercial use.
Tesla did also promise to plant three times as many trees as they fell in Brandenburg.
Though they still do not have the final permit to start building, the courts have given Tesla special permission to proceed with the preparations, however still, if it all comes to fail, cutting down trees and the larger environmental impact it would cause, would be Tesla's responsibility, says Micheal Ganschow of Grueneliga Brandenburg.
"We've been stopped from going to the site due to unexploded bombs and ammunition from the Second World War that might still be there in the area," says Ganschow, "but I think that's a lie."
Ganschow sees it as an attempt to stop further protests at the site.
Once the environmentalists had lost the fight to save the trees, they looked at the further environmental and social impact of the project.
Brandenburg has faced a drinking water shortage recently. According to the latest weather data, Berlin and Brandenburg have received 15 percent less rainfall in the last two years.
Consequently, the groundwater table has gone deeper which in turn has hit farmers.
According to a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report, farmers in the state of Brandenburg received around $81 million in state and federal funding due to the "extreme hardship" they suffered as a result of the 2018 drought.
And that drought isn't over yet.
The public-private owned water provider in the state has warned of serious drinking water shortages in the area, according to Baliani.
Residents have been asked to reduce their drinking water consumption.
Hydro and thermal power plants in the state have had to reduce power production due to the low levels of freshwater in local lakes and rivers.
With record temperatures in the summer and a persistent lack of rain, widespread forest fires ashen the skies of Berlin and Brandenburg.
The German government's self-imposed targets to cut emissions by 2020 have been deemed unachievable.
While Germany is a world leader in renewable energy while making a marked shift away from fossil fuels, conservation groups have labelled the German government's latest plans "unambitious".
The government's green credentials are currently being intensely scrutinised.
A recently agreed cross-parliament deal includes a new price for CO2 emissions, broader incentives for buying electric cars, higher road tax for trucks from 2023, surcharges on domestic flights and plans to give more money to rail operator Deutsche Bahn.
But in a tweet, the conservation group 'Friday for Future' criticised the plans for ignoring commitments made in the Paris Climate Accord, "our government totally ignores the 1.5 degree Celsius target."
Ten times less
Safe to say, it was drinking water that has got locals riled up.
Baliani explains the issue: "A Tesla electric car factory uses 372 cubic meters of water per hour in its production processes. After our protest, Tesla said they could reduce the water usage by a third, but not sure we can believe that."
Assuming that the 'Gigafactory' runs at full capacity producing 300,000 cars, working 250 days a year, its total water requirement would be a good 2.2 million cubic meters.
For comparison, remember that German car manufacturer which decided not to take on the protestors and instead move its plans elsewhere? Well BMW settled in nearby Leipzig, where they also manufacture electric cars but work 237 days, produce 250,000 cars using 250,000 cubic meters of water.
That's ten times less than Tesla.
Another German car manufacturer, Volkswagen, produces 300,000 electric cars annually using 350,000 cubic meters of water.
Water is used to cool machines and welding robots, hotter than expected summer temperatures meant an increase in water usage.
The 'Citizen's initiative of Gruneheide against the Gigafactory' have since been campaigning to protect their drinking water resources under the slogan "Tesla oder Trinkwasser" which translates to "Tesla or drinking water."
Their struggle can be boiled down to symbolise capitalism versus the basic human right to have access to clean drinking water.
Brandenburg is farm country, water is essential for life and commerce. Tesla's excessive use of already scarce drinking water resources is likely to be challenged in court as a direct contradiction of the company's wider values.
But Baliani has already seen through all this.
"We want to put a stop to this factory, and with it, we want to put an end of this supposed green image of Tesla."