Burned: Are Trees the New Coal? investigates the latest method of providing so-called “green” electricity, as espoused by the renewable energy movement. It’s called biomass, which is a euphemism for clear-cutting and burning forests. It is claimed that this is first a sustainable method of electricity creation, but secondly, and more slanderous, is claimed to be carbon-neutral and environmentally friendly. So how did this become the purported saviour for the power-generation industry, and by extension, the modern environmental movement? Burned provides a visceral account of these questions, while documenting the accelerating destruction of forests to fuel this destructive culture.
The central thesis of Planet of the Humans is that various people and organisations in the United States claiming to promote ‘green energy’ are actually promoting biomass energy—largely a euphemism for cutting down and burning forests—a practice which is not carbon neutral nor renewable nor sustainable. The film reveals the destruction of environments first-hand, and also explores how wind power and solar power don’t fare much better than fossil fuels in terms of impacts once all the inputs for construction and maintenance are considered and compared. In most cases, the additional demands for resources and construction simply invoke more environmental degradation and pollution. The film examines this push for more industry through key figures in the modern environmental movement that are funded by entities connected to fossil fuels, or have established profit motives, revealing how the environmental movement has been essentially co-opted into a de-facto lobbying arm of ‘green’ industries. The film also posits that regardless of energy systems, overpopulation is a central problem of industrial civilisation, and that this current way of life is unsustainable no matter how it is powered or ‘re-imagined’ by technology.