Investing in nature can be the smartest investment we can make to preserve our land, waters, and communities. Why? Because investing in wetlands and other natural systems and green infrastructure will significantly reduce the impacts of flooding, storms, and wildfires.
In 2016, two of the five most expensive natural disasters in the world were due to storms that caused severe flooding in the rural Southeastern United States. Last year, Hurricane Florence caused devastating flooding along rivers in some of the most heavily logged areas of our state. And most recently, Hurricane Dorian caused serious destruction on its path.
According to NOAA, 2017 was the costliest year ever for natural disasters in the US.
The country suffered more than $300 billion in damages primarily due to hurricanes, severe storms, and wildfires (Mark Terce-Forbes.com). And this is just the beginning of spending our money in recovery efforts when the solution is right in front of us.
In the wake of continued hurricanes, it is more important than ever to invest in nature to protect communities from the damage wrought by these intense storms. Natural forests and wetlands absorb floodwaters and slow them down, buffering communities from flooding and reducing costly property damage.
A study showed that wetlands prevented $625 million in damages from Hurricane Sandy.
Protection from extreme events generates over $150 billion dollars in ecosystem service value.
In fact, protection from extreme events is the largest value added by wetland forests.
When we invest in extractive economies (like the wood pellet industry) versus non-extractive economies (like preserving our wetland forests), what is the outcome we can expect? What will our future look like?
Here are the facts
The wood pellet industry is accelerating wetland and forest destruction in some of our most valuable ecosystems. For example, Enviva, the largeset wood pellet manufacturer, sources whole trees from the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Ecoregion, which are ecologically important, sensitive ecosystems and critical for flood control and water filtration. Furthermore, Enviva is clearcutting wetland forests along the rivers in eastern North Carolina, weakening our natural flood control system at a time when our communities need it the most.
At a time when we should be scaling up the protection of forests along our rivers for their ability to lessen the blow of extreme floods, cutting and burning our forests releases carbon into the atmosphere and is dangerous and irresponsible.
If extractive industries and industrial logging pulled communities out of poverty and improved our quality of life, the Southeast region would be one of the wealthiest in the world.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
What do we have to LOSE if we do not invest in preserving these powerful ecosystems?
Our communities, our homes, our peace of mind, our security, valuable ecosystems that are hubs of biodiversity, outdoor recreation, clean water, and much more.
What could we GAIN if we invest in these functional ecosystems?
Protection from extreme events, water filtration and waste treatment, recreation, tourism, and aesthetics, food and pollination services, climate regulation, and raw materials.
A biodiverse ecosystem is a safety net to our communities in times of climate shocks and natural disasters. It turns out, what’s good for bears, is also good for us humans.
Our wetland forests are more than wood
We have to face the reality that we must transition to a non-extractive economy in this time of climate crisis. The loss of natural forests due to the wood and biomass industry and the loss of carbon resulting from conversion to pine plantations are putting us at risk.
Let’s stop cutting them! Let’s leave wetland forest standing! They are our best allies against the climate crisis.
New investments in wetland forest protection and restoration can drive business innovation and create new opportunities for rural communities.
The City of Conway, SC added 152 acres of riverfront property to its corridor, conserving land in an effort to mitigate future flood risks.