“No biomass, no way! Not ever, not today!” Morgan Rowden’s voice sung out, managing to be louder than even our crowd of over 100 marchers. She stood with a mix of students of all ages, health advocates, faith leaders, social justice activists, other members of frontline communities affected by dirty biomass and even eco-conscious fairy performers standing 6-feet above our sea of people. We were an ocean of activists holding orange signs that read:
“Forests = Clean Air,” “Forests = Community,” “Forests = Health” and “Forests = Clean Water.”
Our group in downtown Charlotte on April 11 marched, united around our central message: Our Forests Aren’t Fuel. In the last 60 years, the US South has lost 33 million acres of natural forests, and the threat of using biomass for energy is making this much worse.
We came from all across the region to peacefully gather in Romare-Bearden park to physically and symbolically stand tall to protect Southern forests, public health and Southern communities. The world’s largest biomass conference, The International Biomass Conference and Expo, was gathered just down the street, scheming new ways to turn our precious wetland forests into pellets and ship them across the ocean to be burned for fuel in Europe.
Kaela, a 7th grader in NC, shouted about the biomass industry:
“This needs to stop! My generation wants forest protection because that means clean air, water and a safer future. I’m here today with my classmates because we know that when we show up at rallies, we can call attention to what’s right, not just what makes money.”
Southerners are overwhelmingly concerned with dirty biomass industry’s CLEARCUTTING OF PRECIOUS BOTTOMLAND HARDWOOD FORESTS.
“Biomass is neither green nor peaceful,” Monica Embrey of Greenpeace rallied us.
Banging and clanking from hammers on metal, cranes and workers milling about turned our heads skyward. Danna Smith, Dogwood Alliance Executive Director turned to me and commented,
“It’s amazing that humans can figure out how to build these cities of steel and yet we still don’t know how to adequately manage forests in an environmentally, economically, and socially-sound manner. We must step into the twenty-first century of forest management.”
Dogwood Alliance has been sounding the alarm for the past five years, and the movement of opposition against the biomass industry is rapidly growing and expanding.
BJ McManama, organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network, beautifully stated the purpose of the rally:
“Because we, the keepers of the forests and fields – four-legged, winged, finned and two-legged are seeing great disregard for the Rights of Our Mother Earth and her children. It is OUR responsibility to know that what we do today has consequences that will affect the next seven generations that follow.”
As our crowd continuously grew and swelled throughout the night, it was a beautiful symbol of how the movement across the entire US South is growing and swelling right at this moment. Weeks ago, a rural community in South Carolina stopped a pellet mill. Science is consistently on our side: less than two weeks ago, an EPA group of scientific experts rejected a report that would essentially count biomass as carbon neutral.
Investors’ money is literally fleeing the biomass industry’s coffers.
In fact, a group of investors with over $53 billion in assets under management recently requested that the SEC examine claims of climate benefits in the biomass energy sector and enforce rules requiring companies to disclose material information, including climate change-related risks, to investors. Citizens all over the South, in places like Baton Rouge and Savannah, are pushing back and calling for local moratorium on biomass facilities. The EU government has agreed to review its biomass policies.
We are on the right side of history.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for wood pellet manufacturers and the biomass industry to come into communities because Southerners know that this industry doesn’t serve our interests.
It’s simple enough for even kids to understand. As our Campaign Director, Adam Macon, spoke about the dangers of biomass, a young boy of five invigorated everyone by yelling, “Unacceptable!”
The crowd took up the chant because we all, no matter our age, want a better future, one with truly clean energy and climate justice for all.
Time for state governments, the EPA, the EU climate commission and multinational corporations companies to realize what kids who are not even 10-years-old know to be certain: the clearcutting and export of millions of tons of our precious Southern forests to generate electricity is “unacceptable.”
The dogwood trees are in bloom at this time of year in North Carolina. I find it hopeful that as the dogwoods bloom, our activists turned out in full force to demonstrate against a forest-destroying industry. We are fighting to keep the dogwoods in as many forests as possible; to keep as many communities safe from the ravaging impacts a biomass facility can have on a town; to keep our global community safe from the worst impacts of climate change.
Our movement is strongest when we bring together justice groups, students, health advocates, faith leaders, environmentalists and community members.
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” – Aboriginal activist, Lilla Watson