dogwood alliance sos forests florida tour

I recently traveled to Florida to meet up with the Dogwood Alliance in Panama City. On the journey from North Carolina, I took the road less traveled and explored the byways that stretch from the Southern Appalachians to the piney woods of the beautiful Emerald Coast. Along the road, I noticed the further south I ventured the higher the frequency of desolate landscapes and clearcuts amidst our southern forests.

This was the reason for my journey. I have lived in the South nearly half my life. And I as get ready to celebrate my birthday next month, I realize that I have been working for 15 years to protect Southern forests and help Southern people and economies prosper. Over the last year, my passion has been guided to conversations on climate change via my new project, the Climate Listening Project, a storytelling platform for conversations on climate change resilience. It has come to my attention that some people have determined that the best way to fight climate change is to burn the very forests that are supposed to protect us from it.

The Dogwood Alliance is an inspiring organization bringing together people around the world to safeguard the environmental and economic value of forests. This summer, they traveled around the Southeast to port cities from Wilmington to Baton Rouge on an #SOSforests Tour, bringing people together along the way to send out a big SOS across the Atlantic. Check out the tour video below. I have to give a shout out to Climate Listening Project editor Andrea Desky of K23 Media who put it together! You might just see me smiling at :24 and talking with my hands at 1:07.

I am really inspired by how many people are adding their voice to this important issue. Why? Because we are paying to cut down and destroy our Southern forests, including old growth forests, to be shipped across the ocean to Europe and burned for energy. What!?! I know, it seems strange, but believe it or not, this is being called renewable energy by some. The thing is – what we are losing is not renewable. It is actually extraction, not only from forests, but from people and communities.

A new report prepared for Dogwood Alliance by Key-Log Economics shows that the long term consequences of biomass far outweigh any suggested benefits. Standing forests provide critical ecosystem services, supplying coastal communities with natural storm protection and abundant and clean drinking water; plus, using wood pellets as fuel for generating electricity is likely to accelerate climate change with enormous economic costs that would disproportionately impact our coastal communities; and the increased degradation of forests and the natural services they provide could significantly limit a community’s ability to attract new businesses and residents, one of the most important factors affecting economic growth across the South. Plus, biodiversity!

In a recent interview, Danna Smith, executive director of Dogwood Alliance talks about the report: Our rural communities and broader regional economy are bearing the brunt of the long-term costs. It is pretty clear that growing the wood pellet export market is not a sound economic development strategy for the rural South in the 21st-century. This is a classic economic justice issue where a few are benefiting at the expense of many. It’s time to put the brakes on funneling hard-earned taxpayer dollars into the pockets of wood pellet manufacturing companies and European utilities.

Boom! Danna inspires me. If Danna and the Dogwood Alliance team, and all the people who are raising their voices together, inspire you to protect our forests and communities, then please -> Join the SOS!