Presbyterian College students Morgan Rowden and Jade Warnock became interested in the work of Dogwood Alliance when a representative from the organization spoke on campus in the fall of 2015.
According to its website, Dogwood Alliance is an environmental nonprofit organization that “mobilizes diverse voices to defend the unique forests and communities of the Southern US from destructive industrial forestry.” The organization has brought its “Our Forest Aren’t Fuel” campaign to Laurens County in response to the possibility of an Enviva wood pellet facility being built here.
“The ready availability of privately owned forests, the cheap production costs, and the lack of appropriate regulations in the US for this wood pellet industry has created something of a wood-cutting frenzy,” said Dr. Bob Bryant, Kristin Herrington Professor of Bible at PC. “This emerging industry is depleting our Southern hardwood forests, destroying wildlife habitat, harming our environment, and impairing our quality of life.”
Rowden, a rising senior majoring in biology and minoring in environmental science, joined the Dogwood Alliance staff as a community organizer for Laurens County. In this role, she strives to educate the community on the destructive nature of this industry and the negative impacts it would have on the Laurens County community. She has done so by petitioning across the county, speaking at county council meetings, and hosting a public meeting for the community last week that drew almost fifty concerned citizens.
“This issue is important to me because I have always had a passion for the natural world,” said Rowden. “I want to ensure that the forests that provide so many natural benefits to humankind are protected so that they will still be standing for our future generations. I hope that through educating the Laurens County community on the destructive nature of this industry, I will be able to create the movement necessary to prevent the proposed wood pellet facility from building in this area.”
Warnock, also a rising senior with a major in psychology and a minor in biology, began volunteering with Dogwood Alliance in support of Rowden’s work. “As I’ve learned more about the biomass industry and the negative effects it has on the environment and the communities it enters, I’ve become more and more passionate about trying to stop its growth,” she said. “The best thing we can do is to make people aware of what is actually going on and then let them decide for themselves what they think is best for the future of Laurens County.”
At PC, Rowden and Warnock are both involved in Students for Environmental Education (SEE) and PresbyPals, a pre-veterinary club that strives to help pre-vet majors and animal lovers gain experience working with animals.
Bryant also began to support Dogwood Alliance’s work after the organization came to campus last fall. Last week, he spoke as a concerned citizen at the community meeting planned in part by Rowden and Warnock.
“I am unashamedly passionate about preserving and even enhancing our forests and the wise management of their natural resources,” he said. He lives out this passion day-to-day by teaching courses such as “Wilderness, Religion, and the American Mind” and “Ecology and Religion” at PC, as well as volunteering with the Laurens County Trails Association.
On Tuesday, June 13, Rowden and Warnock will take their concerns to the county council meeting at the Historic Courthouse on Public Square. They hope to encourage the county council members to prevent this mill from coming to Laurens County and to pass a resolution banning incentives for the industrial scale production of wood pellets.
“Morgan and Jade’s involvement with Dogwood Alliance epitomizes our ideal of serving others because they committed themselves to act on behalf of the people and communities of Laurens County, both on behalf of their quality of life and their environment,” said Bryant. “It is a beautiful and invaluable work they are doing.”
Presbyterian College is located on a striking 240-acre campus in Clinton, between Columbia and Greenville, S.C. Offering challenging academics and a culture of honor, ethics, and service that prepares students to be leaders in communities, PC offers its students the benefit of engaging with an exceptional faculty who take individual interest in their students’ well-being, both personally and in the classroom. The Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy opened in 2010, and is dedicated to the ideals of leadership, honor to the profession, and service to the community. For more information about Presbyterian College, visitwww.presby.edu.