June 2015
Volume 6, Issue 6

In Memory of Those Who Have Fallen
(June 2015)

Bonnie Phillips, Friend of the Forest

- by Josh Schlossberg, Counterpunch

Veteran forest advocate Bonnie Phillips passed away on May 4, 2015 in Olympia, Washington. This article is based on her final interview.

Ever since she was a little girl growing up near the shores of Lake Michigan in the 1940s, Bonnie Phillips talked to trees. And it was this inborn love of our nation's forests that inspired Bonnie to dedicate nearly half of her life advocating for their protection.


In 2008, she got a whiff of a few biomass energy proposals, facilities that would burn trees for heat and electricity. An asthma sufferer, Bonnie had given up using a woodstove years before due to health concerns, and now they were "hitting me in my own backyard."

Wary of biomass energy as an emerging threat to Washington's forests and air quality, Bonnie joined a campaign to successfully oppose a biomass heating facility proposed for Evergreen College in Olympia. She also networked with citizens from Port Townsend and Port Angeles in their fights against biomass proposals (Port Townsend won, Port Angeles lost).


In 2014, Bonnie joined took her biomass opposition to the national level, and joined the steering committee for the Anti-Biomass Incineration Campaign, a grassroots coalition of over 50 groups across the U.S. that opposes "all industrial, commercial and institutional burning of biomass and biofuels for energy." In 2015, Bonnie was hired on as campaign coordinator, the last of her many contributions to the environmental movement.

Before she left us, Bonnie had some advice for the anti-biomass movement in particular, where she urged organizers who have won or lost battles against biomass facilities to stay engaged with the national campaign. Future success, she said, is dependent on "fighting as a coalition of strong environmental groups that aren’t going to give." Individual groups, she pointed out, can only do so much.

Bonnie stressed the need for grassroots leaders to stick to their guns in difficult situations and refuse to compromise core principles. As she used to tell activists who sat on Aubudon Society advisory committees, "if you aren't comfortable being the only S.O.B. in the room when necessary, then you shouldn't be on this committee."


Remembering Marvin Wheeler

- by Mike Ewall, Energy Justice Network

When we formed Allentown Residents for Clean Air (ARCA) in 2012, we couldn't have kicked it off without Marvin Wheeler, who found us as an active member of the West Park Civic Association. As a retired school nurse, Marvin understood the health threat posed by the plan to burn 150 tons a day of trash and sewage sludge in the heart of Pennsylvania's third largest city. Surrounded by schools, parks, playgrounds, public housing, a hospital, and a prison, this experimental incinerator was a threat to all that Marvin held dear.  
"Keep in mind, this is a brown and black low-income neighborhood," he reminded us. "I think they picked this site because of the county prison that's over there... it's like 'kill the prisoners a littler earlier, before they finish their sentences.'"
It saddens us that he is no longer with us to see the fruits of the victory he helped make possible.

MarvinWheeler.png As a medical professional, Marvin taught kids about asthma triggers and understood that the incinerator would be a large one. He spoke about how asthma inhalers and medicines just treat the symptom after the disease, and spoke of the need to be proactive, not reactive. 

"The issue here is air quality... and when you think about that and the number of children in this area and the school less than a half a mile from here... what impact does it have on those middle school children?"  

Here is a fantastic video of Marvin speaking about the struggle, and how "we have to do something different," with green jobs and recycling, not incineration.


Martin Litton: A Giant in Protecting the Earth

- by Sequoia ForestKeeper

Martin_Litton_blaustein.jpgMartin Litton spent his 97 years walking on this earth with a single mission: to lessen man's impact upon the natural world.

Whether protecting Giant Sequoias or giant rivers, he was at the forefront, educating the public and legislators about why reducing forests to rubble and damming rivers until they are a trickle were bad ideas. Martin's legacy will live on with the ancient sequoias and will be told in the geologic timetable that is found on the walls of the Grand Canyon.

Martin was quoted in the movie, The Good Fight, "People always tell me not to be extreme. 'Be reasonable!' they say. But I never felt it did any good to be reasonable about anything in conservation, because what you give away will never come back -- ever."

Martin's first float through the Grand Canyon was in 1955. He was the 185th person known to have made the trip down the river first pioneered by John Wesley Powell. Martin also pioneered the huge victory against the dam on the Colorado, which would have backed up the Colorado River, flooding the Grand Canyon and making it a lake.

In 1960, Sunset Magazine ran Martin's cover story entitled "The Redwood Country," which is credited with launching a campaign which eventually led to the establishment of Redwood National Park along the northern California coast. Martin's love for flying brought him over the Sierra Nevada and head-to-head with the Forest Service's destructive practice of clear-cutting the forest. He became an activist working with many groups to protect forests along the spine of California.

Martin slideshow 12.jpgFor Martin's entire life he was a staunch protector of the environment; he ran his last river trip in 2009 at the age of 92, during a fundraiser for Sequoia ForestKeeper. That day, he broke his own record as the oldest person to run the Grand Canyon in a wooden dory.

Even as he closed in on a century, Martin remained restless, he was quoted in a 2012 interview in High Country News: "I worry about the fate of the Earth. I still have time -- and a million things to do."


The Biomass Monitor is the nation's leading publication covering the health and environmental impacts of "biomass" energy. We accept submissions at thebiomassmonitor AT

Cover photo: TJ Watt

Photo of Martin Litton: John Blaustein


Josh Schlossberg, Mike Ewall, and Samantha Chirillo

Editors, The Biomass Monitor

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Trapper woods.jpg

- by Josh Schlossberg, Editor

Any of us who have worked to try to make the world a better place hopes to have made a difference during our short time on Earth. We want to be remembered for our contributions, and maybe even carve out our own little place in history.

Yet, unlike the deaths of celebrities and politicians, the passing of environmental advocates doesn't always make the news, so the songs of these green heroes often go unsung.  

To honor the memory of those who dedicated their lives to the protection of the air, water, and living ecosystems that give us all life, the June issue of The Biomass Monitor is dedicated to these fallen organizers, activists, and protestors. We have articles about friend of the forest and biomass opponent Bonnie Phillips of Washington; Pennsylvania anti-incinerator activist Marvin Wheeler; and Martin Litton, defender of the Grand Canyon and California's Sequoias.

Of course, there are many more who have left us recently whose stories haven't been told. They organized and educated the public. They held politicians' feet to the fire. They marched in the streets, filed lawsuits, and sat in trees. They held the hard line and instead of doing the easy thing, they did the right thing.

To all of those who took the role of advocate seriously, no matter the obstacles before them -- all for little or no pay -- we thank you for your service.



Top 10 Biomass Stories in the News

Follow The Biomass Monitor on Facebook and Twitter for breaking news on biomass energy.

1. Solar Generation May Sideline Biomass Heating

2. Senator Wyden Introduces Bill to Boost Biomass Energy, Log National Forests

3. Broward, Florida Trash Incinerator Will Close

4. California Biomass Subsidy Bill Passes Assembly

5. Studies Question Wisdom of Thinning Forests to Stop Fires

6. Shuttered Claremont, New Hampshire Incinerator to Reopen

7. Chinese Incinerator Plan Cancelled After Thousands Protest

8. Still Yet Another Biomass Fire, Again

9. Biomass Company Sues Federal Government for $47 Million

10. Governors Say Biofuels Group Listed Them as Members Without Consent



Honoring the Environmental Movement's Fallen Heroes

To honor the memory of those who dedicated their lives to the protection of the air, water, and living ecosystems that give us all life, and the wildlife we share it with, join The Biomass Monitor on a conference call on Thursday, June 18 at 5 pm PT (8 ET).

Memorialize someone in your life who worked for the cause that underlies all causes --  the natural world we depend on for survival -- by joining us and saying a few words about this organizer, activist, or protestor: who they were, what they did, and why you admired them.  

RSVP here and email thebiomassmonitor at for call in number.

Calls are 3rd Thursdays of each month. 

Download the audio file for April's call, "Are Media Outlets Megaphones for Polluters?" with investigative journalist Steve Horn.