Scott Poynton, founder of The Forest Trust, in Nyon, reacts to the biomass debate.
Last November, two videos hit the airwaves. One by Fern, an NGO against burning trees. Another by Drax, a biomass energy champion.
The case for using trees for fuel is that it leaves coal in the ground. Opponents say its the same carbon cycle on a different time frame and depletes forests, which soak up CO2. A group of leading scientists has written a letter to the European Parliament pointing out the risk to forests, ironically pointing out that coal saved Europe’s forests in the 19th century.
On 28 November 2018, Fern published “Playing with Fire: Europe’s Bioenergy future”:
The day before, Drax had published “The biomass sustainability story”:
It’s clear from these videos that the two sides don’t really talk – Drax mentions an NGO and an NGO researcher that declined their interviews. My heart always sinks when opposing sides don’t engage meaningfully.
When we learned that Finn, our new puppy, was stone deaf, a dog trainer said: “Talk to him. It’ll make for a great relationship.” She was right. Though he’s deaf as a post, Finn and I, two very different creatures, have sensational conversations.
Unfortunately, the NGOs and Drax, two very different animals, aren’t properly doing this. The Drax video seeks to shame NGOs for not appearing in their video, which is unfair and counterproductive.
While a “tit-for-tat” strategy can be powerful in eliciting cooperation from uncooperative “partners”, it can backfire too and so often I’ve seen shame-bombing campaigns just push people away. Bringing them back together, as we must, to find a way forward just takes longer. Shame polarizes discussions. It harms emotions, it’s designed to hurt and it does.
These videos gave me the impression of soldiers bunkered down in deep trenches, behind barriers, each with their own allies and experts, firing rockets at each other.
I was sad. “Why can’t these people speak to each other?” I wondered.
“We’ve tried!” I hear Drax and the overall biomass industry cry, “But they refuse to engage with us.”
How about one or both of these groups make a trip down a motorway, or even better, get on a train, and actually meet and speak together?
Given the environmental importance of this issue I think they owe us that. What do you think Finn?
By Scott Poynton
For more stories like this on Switzerland follow us on Facebook and Twitter.