BURNED: ARE TREES THE NEW COAL?
Screens Thursday the 9th of April.
Building on the accepted science that climate change is real and caused by human
activity, BURNED: Are Trees the New Coal? takes a hard look at the latest false solution to
humanity’s vast energy appetite: woody biomass. The film tells the story of how woody biomass
has become the alternative-energy savior for the power-generation industry and of the people
and parties who are both promoting and fighting its adoption and use. Using interviews with
experts, activists, and citizens, along with verité-style footage shot across the US, EU and the
UK, the film interweaves the science of climate change, the escalating energy-policy disputes,
the dynamics of forest ecology, the industry practices, and the actions of activists and citizens
who are working to protect their own health, their communities, the forest, and the planet’s
climate. Woven together, the various stories present an intimate and visceral account of what is
at this moment in time a critical, yet somewhat unknown, national and international controversy.
We are interested in forests because they are an integral part of our lives here in Vermont.
Forests surround us. They contribute to our well-being in countless ways: from fresh air, to clean
and plentiful water, to a serene and lovely place in which to live, rich in biodiversity. We also
heat our house with wood, and we use it to make maple syrup.
In our work with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai while making Taking Root: The
Vision of Wangari Maathai, we came to understand how critical forests are to communities
around the world who rely on them in a much more basic ways then we do—for fuel, food,
shade, erosion control, and their livelihoods. We also came to understand how our economic
system values forest destruction over forest protection. This is not a sustainable paradigm.
When we first heard about the biomass industry—burning trees for the generation of
electricity—we started to look into it. The myths, policy loopholes, greenwashing, and yes,
blatant lies astounded us. Rather than basing biomass policy on science, it is often swayed by
the bottom line. As a result, it is hugely influenced by the lobbyists and the industry that profits
from it. This is nothing new, but as scientists are telling us, forests have the potential to help
solve the climate crisis without reliance on unproven high-tech solutions. In fact, forests and
soils sequester carbon more effectively than any other method. No better technology exists.
Our film has a point of view. We present the industry’s perspective through their PR, as they
would not speak with us. We present the voices of those affected by the industry, as well as the
ecologists and scientists who understand what is at stake. We stand for the forests that cannot
speak for themselves.