For far too long extractive industries have disrupted and degraded communities across the Southern U.S. From coal and oil to dangerous pipelines and industrial logging, our quality of life, local economies, and natural world are being sacrificed to the detriment of many for the benefit of a few.
The emerging biomass industry, led by companies such as Enviva and Drax, is adding fuel to this fire (pun intended!). The biomass industry is clearcutting our forests – we’ve proved it and went on tour to stop it. On June 15th our team of Dogwood Alliance forest defenders left our home base in Asheville, NC on the Save Our Southern (SOS) Forests Tour. We took to the road with a mission to raise awareness and equip communities across the South to challenge the destructive biomass industry and send a clear message to decision-makers that our forests aren’t fuel.
We’re pleased to report: mission accomplished! Over 2 weeks we held 10 powerful events in 6 different cities, reaching thousands of citizens and dozens of local organizations. These amazing people came together in unison to echo the SAVE OUR SOUTHERN FORESTS call.
Below are some highlights from the SOS Tour.
After kicking off the SOS Tour in Asheville, we headed down to Baton Rouge, LA, ground zero for extractive industries and new home to the British utility Drax. At the event our team was deeply moved by speeches from local activist, Shamaka Schumake, and leader of the Green Army and American hero, General Russel Honore. Both made bold anti-biomass statements highlighting the fact the Louisiana has welcomed this industry with open arms through subsidies, embracing the export of its forests and degradation of its communities. One of our favorite quotes came when Ms. Schumake said, “They put up those pellet domes, now lets take them down!!”
In Mobile, AL and Panama City, FL the SOS Tour was honored to meet some of the most passionate and committed activists in the Gulf South. The local band Sassafrass even wrote a song for the tour! Our community meetings in these locations generated incredible dialogue about what can be done to change the way their forests are valued and how we can work together to change the narrative around biomass and stop its expansion. We can’t wait to continue building power in Alabama and Florida.
From the Florida panhandle we made our way over to Savannah where the SOS movement is growing at an exponential rate. Hundreds of people joined us throughout the day for our two events. Capped off by individuals coming together for a powerful SOS human banner photo that will stand as a uniting image for our movement. Europe hear our call: Savannah says: Save Our Southern Forests!!
Finally, the SOS Tour journeyed up the coast to Wilmington, NC whose skyline was recently tarnished with huge wood pellet export domes built by Enviva. This fight is personal for those of us living in North Carolina. Multiple times our campaign has documented Enviva clear cutting our wetland forests and turning them into pellets. They consider our mature Cypress swamps as “waste” or “low value,” but for the people of Wilmington and surrounding coastal communities, nothing could be further from the truth. While Enviva attempted to combat our presence there by paying for a full page ad in the local paper, local citizens united by sending SOS messages directly to decision makers, engaging with local officials and demanding change, and creating yet another SOS human banner.