By Scot Quaranda
Dogwood Alliance is proud to join the World Rainforest Movement and countless groups around the globe by taking part in the International Day of Action against Plantations. Natural forests in Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, China, Indonesia, and the Southern US are under threat from the big agribusiness, the global pulp and paper industry, and increasingly wood burning utilities that look at forests as a commodity to increase corporate profit rather than for the vital role they play as home to indigenous people, wildlife habitat, protecting the world against climate change, and so much more.
As an organization working to protect the forests and communities of the Southern US, we have fought for over fifteen years to end the conversion of our natural forests to plantations. The work has been both challenging and rewarding. By the time of our founding in 1996, companies in the South had already converted countless acres to plantations and for now we have the largest number of acres of plantations in the world at around 42 Million acres. Sadly, we have exported these bad practices around the globe and vast swaths of forests have been converted in places like South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia and elsewhere.
We campaigned hard to stop this practice and thus far have convinced four of the five largest paper companies in the region to end this practice and helped dozens of large Fortune 500 companies develop policies that no longer will accept paper originating from natural forests that are converted. We celebrate this increased protection for millions of acres of natural forests in the South and hope to see companies around the globe embrace these types of policies.
Sadly, over the last couple of years a new industry has come on the scene which threatens the future of our natural forests once again. Large utilities in Europe and the United States are increasingly turning to wood as a source for electricity and the forests of our region are ground zero to supply the wood needed to burn. The Southern US is the largest wood pellet export region in the world and if demand continues to increase as projected in Europe, this industry will lead to a doubling of current plantation acreage, meaning that over 40% of our forests will be plantations. This is patently unacceptable and must be stopped.
That is why we launched the “Our Forests Aren’t Fuel” campaign at the end of May, to stop the rush to burn. Forests are meant to sequester carbon, filter water, prevent flooding, and clean our air, not to be burned. It is absolutely ludicrous that we are burning the very thing that is supposed to protect us from climate change. The latest science suggests that burning wood for electricity may actually release more carbon emissions that coal, so why have we chosen the path back to the Stone Age?
We hope you will take a moment to click some of the links in the story and below to learn more not just about the threats to our forests from tree burning utilities but also threats to forests and indigenous people in Indonesia, Africa, and Brazil. Let’s all envision together a world free from the rampant destruction of our forests and one that values all of the amazing benefits our forests provide.