Deforestation in the US South Is Four Times Greater Than Logging in South American Rainforests

Mahatma Gandhi said, “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” He also said, “The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”

In no place do these statements resonate more than in one of the world’s largest wood-producing regions, the Southern US — where in recent years forest cover loss from large-scale industrial logging has been four times that of South American rainforests.

Healthy, intact forests provide critical life-supporting services. They ensure a steady and clean supply of drinking water, purify the air, provide natural flood control and create a space of beauty for spiritual renewal — services estimated to be 15 times greater than forests valued for wood products alone. Recent scientific studies have also underscored that letting forests grow to soak up carbon out of the atmosphere can help avoid catastrophic climate change.

Yet in the southern US, forests are being threatened today as never before, thanks to misdirected efforts by European nations that are importing our forests to burn for electricity on a growing scale. This is harming not only the health of the forests, but the well-being of the people who live in the communities around them.

Exploitation and Injustice

Over the past few years, the South has become the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets to fuel power stations in Europe under the guise of “renewable” energy. Industry and government tout the wood pellet industry as providing “green, renewable energy jobs” despite scientific evidence that burning trees for electricity will exacerbate, not mitigate, climate change.

As a result, forest disturbance rates across the rural communities of the US Southern Coastal Plain are among the highest on the planet. This expansive economic exploitation has degraded our forests and our rural communities, disproportionately affecting low-income people and people of color in some of the Read more