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The Media Warns of "Dying Forests and Acid Rain" (1983)

Long ignored by growth-oriented politicians, the deterioration of forests due to acid rain became a hot-button issue in the federal election campaign, especially when leading news organs joined the chorus of warnings against an impending ecological disaster, which, among other consequences, would signal the end of outdoor romance and recreational hiking.

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“We Are on the Verge of an Ecological Hiroshima”

[ . . . ]

Environmentalists, who have warned of the collapse of the forests since the mid-1960s and who have always been laughed at as dreamers, cannot get over their current astonishment.

The Württemberg environmental protection official German J. Krieglsteiner is surprised that suddenly, “politicians of all shades are using our statements, often verbatim.” Krieglsteiner has a bad premonition: “Hopefully,” he wrote to CDU general secretary Heiner Geißler, “this isn’t just campaign propaganda that will be forgotten [after the election] on March 7.” But the silent dying of the forests can no longer be repressed by the public consciousness. The question is whether it is “five minutes to midnight” for German forests, as Munich SPD representative Hans Kolo thinks, or “already five minutes after midnight,” as Joachim Pampe, CEO of the Union of German Forest-Owner Associations, thinks might be the case.

Pampe believes that there has already been “irreparable damage to the forests” in the Federal Republic. “The intensity and extent of the damage,” reports BUND (Alliance for the Conservation of the Environment and Nature in Germany), “are increasing at a gallop.” The land area of the diseased forests “has doubled throughout Germany in less than a year.” Hundreds of animal and plant species that need the forest to survive are at risk. “For this degree of death, the term ‘ecological Holocaust’ is not an exaggeration.”

For a long time, the forest has been dying not only in areas of the central mountains where barrier effects lead to large amounts of rain, snow, and fog with massive air pollution. On the flatlands as well, such as those in the Saxon Forest near Hamburg, the viability of the spruce tree has been recently diminishing “in an unsettling way,” according to Professor Eberhard Brünig, director of the Bergedorf Institute for World Forestry. Hamburg’s Young Union [CDU youth organization] is troubled by the vision of “finding dead trees in the Saxon Forest in ten years.”

When the Bonn Ministry of Agriculture ordered the first nationwide eco-inventory last summer, the forest service offices registered that 562,000 hectares [2,200 sq. miles] were already afflicted – that is double the land area of Saarland and 7.7 percent of the third of the Federal Republic that is forested. But this figure has meanwhile been surpassed by reality. According to the estimates of the Federal Association of Citizens’ Initiatives for Environmental Protection (BBU), about 30 percent of forested areas have already been damaged.

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