The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

News

  • Long a darling of sustainability, Warren Wilson College puts property up for sale to address budget shortfalls
    Jason Sandford
    Tuesday, 27 February 2024

    garden header1A birds-eye view of Warren Wilson College in the Swannanoa River Valley near Asheville.  Warren Wilson College

    Warren Wilson College considers selling or leasing parts of its Swannanoa Valley campus as it addresses budget deficit; conservation easements also in play

    This story was orginally published by Jason Sandford at Ashevegas.

    SWANNANOA  Warren Wilson College officials are considering selling or leasing chunks of the bucolic 1,100-acre campus as the college continues to seek ways to offset a $5.5 million budget deficit.

    School officials are simultaneously considering adopting conservation easements that would protect, in perpetuity, some 600 acres for educational, research and recreational purposes.


  • Experts and citizens plan and commiserate over TVA’s lack of public process 
    Élan Young
    Monday, 19 February 2024

    Justin Pearson addresses People’s Voice on TVA’s Energy PlanTennessee state Rep. Justin J. Pearson speaks to community members assembled for the evening discussion during the People’s Voice on TVA’s Energy Plan.  John Waterman/Appalachian Voices

    A lack of public process brought together a coalition of environmental organizations 

    NASHVILLE  In every state except Tennessee, for-profit utilities and their regulators are required to get public input about energy-resource planning.

    These Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) provide an opportunity for a utility to demonstrate that the ratepayer money the utility spends is on the best mix of energy investments that meet this objective. 

    In Tennessee, however, TVA, which is the nation’s largest public power provider, has no process for engaging the public on its IRPs.

    It is this lack of public process that brought a coalition of environmental organizations together to host a mock public hearing in a Nashville church last month presided by Ted Thomas, former chair of Georgia Center for Energy Solutions. Their goal was to call attention to the fact that TVA acts more like a corporation or a self-regulated monopoly than as a public utility. The groups say that lack of public involvement in the process harms Tennesseeans across the board. 

    The coalition — comprising Appalachian Voices, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Energy Alabama, Sunrise Nashville, Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Reality Project Memphis and Nashville chapters, and Vote Solar — sent a letter to the TVA board in June 2023 to assess how TVA conducts resource planning compared to other regulated utilities in the Southeast. The groups also sent a formal petition last November to establish TVA’s duty to host a public hearing about its resource planning. When TVA didn’t respond, they decided to hold their own to create a public record.


  • SELC Celebrates the 2024 Reed Environmental Writing Award winners
    Southern Environmental Law Center
    Tuesday, 13 February 2024

    download.jpg

    The Southern Environmental Law Center congratulates this year’s Reed Environmental Writing Award winners — Emily Strasser, David Folkenflik, Mario Ariza, and Miranda Green — who all demonstrate the power of writing to capture some of the most important environmental issues facing Southern communities. 

    Emily Strasser receives the Reed Award for “Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History.” In the book, Strasser examines the toxic legacy of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of three secret cities constructed by the Manhattan Project for developing the first atomic bomb. She exposes a suppressed history that forever impacted her family, a community, the nation, and the world. 

    David Folkenflik with NPR, and Mario Ariza and Miranda Green with Floodlight, receive the Reed Award for their story, “In the Southeast, power company money flows to news sites that attack their critics.” Their investigation digs into a consulting firm working on behalf of electric utility giants in Alabama and Florida. The team uncovers how money flows from the firm to influence local news sites to push the utilities’ agenda​s​ and attack their critics. 

    Everyone is invited to join for a celebration honoring the winners and the 30th anniversary of the Reed Award in person or virtually on March 22 at 5:00 p.m. The in-person event will take place at the CODE Building, located at 225 West Water Street on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, VA.


  • Sequoyah Hills is now officially the arboretum we always shared
    Ben Pounds
    Wednesday, 07 February 2024

    Sequoyah Hills Arboretum sign identifying the Eastern Red Cedar to which it is attached.Many such new identifying tags highlight trees such as this red cedar in the newly designated Sequoyah Hills Arboretum near Bearden in Knoxville.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

    The arboretum designation will  allow for more extensive tree walks, scout projects, school outings, and other educational programs on the value and beauty of native trees

    KNOXVILLE — A small crowd of volunteers with tags and tools descended on Sequoyah Park on a February afternoon, preparing to affix identifying labels to the bark of old trees in one of the city’s most storied neighborhoods.

    Sequoyah Park sits along the Tennessee River at 1400 Cherokee Boulevard, tucked behind the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood but open to all who want to run, walk, cycle, or enjoy its open fields and other features. It’s Tennessee Valley Authority land, maintained by the city. The many species of native trees that tower over the park’s long field got recognition this year. The park and other Sequoyah Hills neighborhood areas are now part of the Sequoyah Hills Arboretum, an accredited level one ArbNet arboretum.

    Trees in the Sequoyah Hills Arboretum include sycamores, sweet gums, hackberries and black elders of various sizes.

    “This Level 1 Arboretum will be used for scheduled tree walks, scout projects, school outings, and other educational programs on the value and beauty of native trees,” according to the ArbNet website.


  • John Nolt still examines the incomparable value of nature
    JJ Stambaugh
    Monday, 29 January 2024

    unnamedFormer University of Tennessee Professor John Nolt strolls through his garden during a recent conversation about his career as a philosopher and one of the Southern Appalachian region’s most respected environmental activists.  J.J. Stambaugh/Hellbender Press

    Former UTK prof defends the environment, logically

    KNOXVILLE — It’s hard to think of many figures in the local environmental movement who command the respect that former University of Tennessee Professor John Nolt has earned over the past four decades.

    He has served as a leader, a teacher, and a repository of wisdom for thousands of students and activists. He’s authored eight books on environmental ethics and logic, and he was one of the main players in the struggle to force a cleanup of the notorious David Witherspoon Inc. site in South Knoxville. 

    While the 73-year-old philosopher’s formal academic career came to an end a couple of years ago, I feel privileged to report that he’s continued to add to his legacy. You see, it’s come to my attention that quite a few people are curious to know what he’s up to these days, and Hellbender Press agreed that I should chat him up.

    In the interest of journalistic transparency, I need to disclose that Nolt has played a great many roles in my life — teacher, advisor, mentor, and occasional source; I even had the honor of teaching his daughter logic and literature when she attended my alma mater, Laurel High School, in the early 2000s. But today, as we sit on the front porch of his South Knoxville home enjoying an unseasonably warm afternoon, he’s playing a new role — that of an interview subject. 


  • Foothills Land Conservancy commits more land to memory
    Shelby Lyn Sanders
    Wednesday, 24 January 2024

    DJI 0246Foothills Land Conservancy recently completed a conservation easement on 100 acres near Cane Creek in Anderson County, Tenn.  Shelby Lyn Sanders/ Foothills Land Conservancy

    Generations have crisscrossed the expansive pastures near Cane Creek in Anderson County

    Shelby Lyn Sanders is the senior biologist at Foothills Land Conservancy
     
    CLINTON Not much of Mrs. Betty Smith, 92, is visible as she pokes among the tall grasses on her land in Anderson County, Tenn. on this warm mid-spring day.  
     
    She’s looking for scraps of metal or wood or some relic that might reveal the exact location of a barn that stood here near Cane Creek some time ago.  
     
    Mrs. Smith and her husband Paul purchased this property from the prominent Hollingsworth family in the 1960s while living nearby in Clinton. They had big dreams about owning a farm close by to work and play on.  

  • Fighting our own worst enemy along the way to better seeds and systems
    Élan Young
    Thursday, 18 January 2024

    Seed_Swap.pngTennessee Local Food Summit participants were encouraged to bring their favorite heirloom seeds for a seed swap and social.  Courtesy Matt Matheson

    Tennessee Local Food Summit is a hive for food justice in the Southeast

    NASHVILLE — About 70 miles north of Nashville in the town of Red Boiling Springs in Macon County, farmer and educator Jeff Poppen, better known as the Barefoot Farmer, runs one of the oldest and largest organic farms in Tennessee. For nearly 40 years, he built rich soil for his bountiful farm before the second-largest meat producer in the world forced him to move from the 250 acres he’d been farming since 1974. 

    When his neighboring property owner partnered with Cobb Vantress, a subsidiary of the multinational mega-giant Tyson Foods, to place a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) — aka a factory farm — 450 feet from his homestead and garden, Poppen’s first instinct was to organize. 

    This self-described “dirty hippie” found unlikely allies in his neighbors — a Baptist preacher, a state trooper, a politician, and what he calls a “chemical farmer” — all opposed to an industrial chicken house moving in.

    They knew that the confinement of nearly 40,000 birds in one area would produce a putrefying odor from airborne chicken feces along with a toxic runoff that would contaminate the pristine waters of Long Hungry Creek, designated as “exceptional waters” by the state. Agricultural runoff from such massive chicken houses can contain antibiotics, hormones, heavy metals, chemicals and dangerous bacteria. 

    Despite community resistance to the Tyson CAFO, Poppen kept seeing Tyson chicken in his neighbors’ refrigerators. 

    “It dawned on me that my problem wasn’t really Tyson or even Big Ag — it was the public who was buying their food,” he said in an interview at last month’s Tennessee Local Food Summit at Cumberland University in Lebanon.


  • Like clockwork, it’s time to scope Sandhill cranes in East Tennessee
    Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
    Wednesday, 10 January 2024

    cranes sandhill 5During winter migration, visitors to Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge can view thousands of greater sandhill cranes.  Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency via Appalachian Voices

    Sandhill Crane Festival at Hiwassee Refuge set for Jan. 12-14 in celebration of the crane’s revival and survival

    BIRCHWOOD — As many as 12,000 cranes have overwintered at the confluence of the Tennessee and Hiwassee rivers. Whether you’re an avid birder or you’ve never seen a Sandhill crane before, the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival represents an extraordinary opportunity to witness a truly unforgettable natural phenomenon.

    Experience the migration of the Sandhill cranes and many other waterfowl, eagles, white pelicans and whooping cranes. The entire region buzzes with birds and birdwatchers alike.

    The festival will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 12 – 14. Free buses run the short distance from the Birchwood Community Center to the Hiwassee Refuge and Cherokee Removal Memorial. Volunteers are set up at each location for birders and curious visitors alike.


  • From Lil Jefe to hellbenders, wild animals inspired hope and validation for the conservation of the world in 2023
    Tim Lydon
    Thursday, 04 January 2024

    california condor NPSIn September, six California condors repeatedly ventured north from their Pinnacles National Park homeland to Mount Diablo in the San Francisco Bay area, becoming the first condors seen in that area in over a century. Biologists speculate the sorties may indicate new nesting territories. Seen here is a condor deemed California condor 87 by biologists tracking the rare bird population.  Michael Quinn/National Park Service

    Rare and threatened animals used innate skills and courage to recover lost territory, expand their ranges, or simply survive against the odds. Humans helped.

    This article was originally published by The RevelatorTim Lydon writes from Alaska on public-lands and conservation issues. He has worked on public lands for much of the past three decades, both as a guide and for land-management agencies, and is a founding member of the Prince William Sound Stewardship Foundation.

    It’s tradition to honor the past year’s human achievements. From peacemakers and scientists to athletes and artists, we celebrate those who inspire us. But what about the wildlife who surround us who make up the biodiversity that sustains us? Each year standout members of those populations also set records and push boundaries, many with lasting results.

    Consider P-22, also known as the “Hollywood cat.” In 2012 this young mountain lion surprised biologists and captured hearts by establishing a decade-long residency in the Griffith Park area of Los Angeles. Stealthily threading through backyards and freeways, he demonstrated the value of landscape connectivity, even in urban areas. And though he died in 2022, he inspired a massive fundraising campaign that helped build the largest wildlife bridge in the United States, to be completed in 2025 over California’s 10-lane Highway 101. In this way he changed the world.

    Other animal pioneers accomplished similarly remarkable feats in 2023. Ocelots, grizzlies and many more used their innate skills and courage to recover lost territory, expand their ranges, or simply survive against the odds. Some were helped by human actions like stream restoration, while others, like P-22, created opportunities to deepen scientific knowledge and inspire conservation.

    Here are some of their stories. 


  • UPDATED: Are we ready to let a data-driven process change the future of Knox County?
    Hellbender Press
    Monday, 18 December 2023

    It was supposed to be the second meeting of the Growth Policy Coordinating Committee

    The meeting was not conducted according to its announcement — as the official meeting of the Knox County Growth Policy Coordinating Committee for the second reading of the plan — but downgraded to a public comment session!
    A repeat of the same mistake made with the October meeting, which also was not publicly announced in a newspaper with the minimum 15 days due notice required by state law! Thus, that meeting was held as a “forum for public comments” only.

    Knoxville — The Knox County Growth Policy Coordinating Committee (GPCC) will meet on Tuesday, December 19, 2023, at 5:00 p.m. in the Main Assembly Room of the City County Building, 400 Main Street.

    The purpose of this meeting is to discuss the proposed amendment to the Growth Policy Plan and hear from members of the public.

    Note: Anyone who wishes to sign up to speak, can do so by calling 865-215-2005 by Tuesday, December 19 at 12:00 p.m.

    Advance Knox was promoted as a public-participation effort to come up with a 20-year plan for growth in Knox County

    Hellbender Press reported regularly on Advance Knox progress. In the end, there remained little public enthusiasm for the plan that resulted after two years.

    At the “public information” meeting on Oct. 24 and at the first official GPCC meeting Nov. 27, the vast majority of attending citizens were upset by the Knox County Proposed Future Land Use Map. It showed that 17.5 square miles of land would be moved from ‘Rural’ to ‘Planned Growth.’ It appeared that little, if any consideration has been given to best agricultural soils.

    Many Knox County residents may be unaware that Agriculture still is an important part of the Knox County economy, contributing — and stimulating through its multiplier effect — $4 billion in local annual incomes. 

    Agriculture’s significance to community resilience is growing as climate change progresses! Any loss of productive land to other uses is irreversible (at least as long as civilization can persist in this region).


  • EarthSolidarity! quest announced
    EarthSolidarity!™
    Sunday, 10 December 2023

    Dec. 10, 2023 — Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ 75th anniversary

    EarthSolidarity!™ is a grassroots appeal by the Foundation for Global Sustainability. It challenges everyone to become active, or even more engaged, in humanity’s exigency to stem the demise of our planet’s life-support systems. The gist of it is summarized in two sentences:

    Ask not what Mother Earth can do for you.

    Ask what you and those next to you can do to keep our planet inhabitable.

     

    That meme addresses the global polycrisis — with a hat tip to President John F. Kennedy for borrowing the notion from his 1961 inauguration speech. (Then the Cold War was approaching the boiling point of the Cuban missile crisis. And incidentally, human rights had improved little yet for the majority of the world’s population.)

    The global polycrisis is brought about by the pernicious entanglement of many systems that keep civilization ticking. Relatively small disturbances in one system may reverberate through other systems. When necessary corrections trigger a self re-enforcing feed-back loop, previously unimagined break downs that affect multiple systems can happen. Recent examples are the disruptions of world supply chains by the COVID-19 pandemic; then again by a single ship stranded in the Suez Canal.

    Cascade polycrisis systems v2Inter-system categories.  From: ‘What is a Global Polycrisis?’ by the Cascade Institute

    Increases in the frequency and severity of calamities, such as catastrophic floods, hurricanes and tornados, extensive droughts, debilitating heat waves, widespread forest fires, or episodes of abominable air quality often result in disruptions of supply chains, diminished availability of critical services, reduced job security and hikes in cost of living expenses. In less developed areas of the world, water or food shortages may lead to armed conflicts and waves of refugees.

    CostOfLivingReport Paul BehrensAn example of how climate impacts combine with other shocks to increase cost of living. The baseline shows an average cost without the impact of climate change against two scenarios going forward — current policies and adaptation & mitigation — to indicate the increase in cost of living over time as climate impacts accumulate. As the cost of living increases, the colored dashed lines show the potential for societal tipping points or volatile transitions, from strikes to political instability. (Behrens, P., 2023)


Earth

  • 15 years on, Roane County honors victims of 2008 TVA coal ash spill
    Anila Yoganathan
    Friday, 15 December 2023

    Just released: 5-minute Sierra Club video on Kingston coal ash cleanup. Narrated by Jamie Satterfield.

    Workers with engineering firm responsible for cleanup lacked protective gear for handling toxic agents

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    KINGSTON The Roane County Commission this month honored the memory and labor of the workers who cleaned up the Tennessee Valley Authority’s 2008 Kingston coal ash spill by funding a historical marker and approving a proclamation that Dec. 22 will be a day to honor the workers. 

    This December marks 15 years since the spill. In the early hours of Dec. 22, 2008 at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant, 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash was released, spilling into the Swan Pond Embayment and the Emory River Channel, covering about 300 acres, according to the Environmental Protection Agency

    Coal ash is the concentrated waste left after burning coal. This waste can come in different sized particles from coarse bottom ash with the consistency of sand and gravel to fine dust like particles that compose fly ash. The smaller the particle the more easily these particles can be inhaled or ingested. This waste can contain heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and cadmium and potentially elements that emit radiation. 

    Exposure to these elements can potentially cause various health impacts, including cancers


  • Greener solution powers new method for lithium-ion battery recycling
    Thomas Fraser
    Wednesday, 29 November 2023

    2023-P12386.jpgORNL researchers Lu Yu and Yaocai Bai examine vials that contain a chemical solution that causes the cobalt and lithium to separate from a spent battery, followed by a second stage when cobalt precipitates in the bottom.  Carlos Jones/ORNL/DOE

    OAK RIDGE — Used lithium-ion batteries from cell phones, laptops and a growing number of electric vehicles are piling up, but options for recycling them remain limited mostly to burning or chemically dissolving shredded batteries. The current state-of-the-art methods can pose environmental challenges and be difficult to make economical at the industrial scale.

    The conventional process recovers few of the battery materials and relies on caustic, inorganic acids and hazardous chemicals that may introduce impurities. It also requires complicated separation and precipitation to recover the critical metals. However, recovering metals such as cobalt and lithium could reduce both pollution and reliance on foreign sources and choked supply chains.

    This research is funded as a project of the Advanced Battery Recycling Consortium, or ReCell, a program of the Vehicle Technologies Office within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Lu Yu and Yaocai Bai and researchers Rachid Essehli and Anuj Bisht contributed to the study, which utilized the DOE’s Center for Nanophase Materials Science at ORNL.

    — Oak Ridge National Laboratory

       

  • ORNL separates rare earth from the chaff
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 28 November 2023

    Membrane solvent extraction process schematicMembrane solvent extraction schematic.   ORNL

    OAK RIDGE Caldera Holding, the owner and developer of Missouri’s Pea Ridge iron mine, has entered a nonexclusive research and development licensing agreement with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to apply a membrane solvent extraction technique, or MSX, developed by ORNL researchers to process mined ores. MSX provides a scalable, efficient way to separate rare earth elements, or REEs, from mixed mineral ores.

    The MSX technology was pioneered at ORNL by researchers in the Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Innovation Hub, or CMI, led by Ames National Laboratory. The inventors, Ramesh Bhave and Syed Islam of ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division are named in 26 inventions and five active licenses related to the recovery of REEs.

    REEs are a group of 17 lanthanide elements used in several technologies critical to global economic competitiveness such as electronic devices, wind turbines, electric vehicle motors, medical imaging, optics and advanced defense systems. Separated REEs are essential constituents of the neodymium-based magnets, also known as NdFeB, used in permanent magnets that operate in extreme conditions. Heavy REEs including terbium, dysprosium and holmium are required for electric vehicle motors and advanced defense systems but currently must be procured from foreign suppliers.

    “Developing a domestic supply of these elements is critical to a range of clean energy and national security technologies,” said Cynthia Jenks, associate laboratory director for physical sciences. “ORNL is focused on expanding supply through the development of innovative technologies.”

    — Oak Ridge National Laboratory

       

  • Southeast highlighted in latest national climate assessment
    Southern Environmental Law Center
    Wednesday, 15 November 2023

    Climate change mitigation activities at state and city levelsThe Tennessee Valley states (TN, AL, MS) are among the most irresponsible in their languid pondering about climate change mitigation.  Illustration from the 5th National Climate Assessment

    Urgent investments in local solutions are needed now more than ever as climate impacts grow across the South

    The 5th National Climate Assessment, released this week by the U.S. Government, reports on the current climate trends, impacts and solutions across the country. It underscores the urgency and opportunities for meaningful climate action.

    This year, it includes a chapter highlighting how climate is impacting our Southeastern landscape and communities, plus what trends we can expect in the years ahead. 

    The report substantiates what we’ve been witnessing on the ground: Extreme heatwaves are already more common, sea level rise is encroaching into coastal communities and throughout the region, we’re seeing more flooding from increasingly unpredictable, volatile storms. According to the report, the country now sees a billion-dollar weather disaster every three weeks on average. In the 1980s, that average was every four months. 

    The National Climate Assessment lays the basis for why sound planning to adapt and prepare for climate impacts is so important. The good news is we’re already seeing great strides in adaptation and resilience planning in our region. 

    “The report is a call to action.” said Alys Campaigne, Leader of SELC’S Climate Initiative.


  • Construction continues on Lakeview Drive in GSMNP
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 13 November 2023

    Road tunnel people

    Road will reopen with single-lane closures on Nov. 16 at 12 p.m. 

    GATLINBURG— Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues to rehabilitate Lakeview Drive in North Carolina through Great American Outdoor Act fundingThe NPS will open Lakeview Drive to vehicles on Nov. 16 at 12 p.m., but visitors shouldplan for temporary single-lane closures andperiodic closures of some parking areas as construction is completed

    Construction crews will continue to rehabilitate parking areas, guardrails, headwalls and more over the next few weeks. Crews will complete the road rehabilitation in the spring when they place the final layer of asphalt that will provide for a smoother ride. 

    Hikers and visitors will be able to access the Noland Creek Trail, Lakeshore Trail, Goldmine Loop Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, or Lakeview Drive Tunnel from the road, but may not be able to park at the closest parking lot to the trailheadVisitors should expect to see machinery and equipment in the area until the project is complete.


Air

  • TVA plans for Bull Run Fossil Plant site remain hazy
    Ben Pounds
    Tuesday, 06 February 2024

    Claxton coal plantA public playground near the site of the since-decommissioned Bull Run coal plant in Claxton, Tenn. Tennessee Valley Authority is weighing options for the site’s future.  Abigail Baxter/Hellbender Press

    Solar production and public green space remain options; coal ash questions remain

    CLAXTONTennessee Valley Authority will demolish most structures at Bull Run Fossil Plant but has not yet shared plans for the ultimate disposition or reuse of the property.

    Bull Run Fossil Plant was a coal-fired plant in the Claxton community, located just outside of Oak Ridge in Anderson County, Tenn. The plant opened in 1967. TVA closed it in 2023, and plans to phase out all its coal fired plants by 203.

    The utility and its spokesman Scott Brooks have listed the scrubbers, coal handling structures and the large chimney, nicknamed the “lighthouse” by locals, as structures that will likely come down.

    TVA has listed some possibilities for the site, including battery storage, park areas, “economic development” and a synchronous condenser, which is a device meant to keep the overall grid's power supply stable without generating any power of its own. This last option would involve keeping and repurposing the turbine building. TVA has not committed to any of these ideas.


  • UPDATED: In much of Tennessee Valley, focus now turns to possible flooding as record snowpack rapidly recedes
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 16 January 2024

    Snow day 160A child enjoys a snow day on the Norris Commons in the aftermath of the most potent snowstorm to affect the area since 1996.  Abigail Baxter/Hellbender Press

    UPDATED 1/24: Focus turns to flooding as snow melts and heavy rains approach

    30-year winter storm hits Tennessee Valley ahead of a vicious cold front

    KNOXVILLE — A widespread and potent winter storm hit the central Tennessee Valley on Jan. 15-16, disrupting travel and commerce as residents grappled with the most significant snowstorm to hit the area in 30 years. Arctic air subsequently flooded the region Jan. 18-19 with lows in Knoxville hitting 0º.

    As of Jan. 24, most snow had melted across the Knoxville area, washed away in part by moderate rain and temperatures in the 50s. A flood watch is in effect for most of East Tennessee through the evening of Jan. 25. Two to 3 inches rain could fall across the area, compounding runoff from melting snow, according to the National Weather Service.

    At least 36 people died as a result of the winter storm in Tennessee.


  • ORNL wants to leave watercraft carbon emissions in its wake
    Thomas Fraser
    Wednesday, 06 December 2023

    Caterpillar 4-stroke diesel engineThis Caterpillar in-line 6-cylinder marine diesel engine will be the subject of research and development for efficient, more climate-friendly marine propulsion with methanol fuel.  Genevieve Martin, ORNL/U.S. Dept. of Energy

    OAK RIDGE — The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Caterpillar Inc. have entered into a cooperative research and development agreement to investigate methanol as an alternative fuel source for four-stroke internal combustion marine engines. The collaboration supports efforts to decarbonize the marine industry, a hard-to-electrify transportation sector.

    As the U.S. continues to seek ways to reduce environmentally harmful greenhouse gas emissions, methanol is an attractive fuel alternative to diesel because it reduces carbon emissions. Methanol also reduces emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides. In addition, methanol’s relatively high energy density makes it easier to store on marine vessels than gaseous fuels meaning it can be more easily integrated into overall existing engine design and operation.

    Although methanol has many advantages, it is more difficult to ignite than diesel. Under the terms of the CRADA, ORNL researchers will work with Caterpillar over the next few years to identify, develop and test hardware configurations and operating strategies required to maximize use of methanol in engines retrofitted for methanol.

    Research will be conducted on Caterpillar’s in-line 6-cylinder marine engine that has been modified for methanol use and installed at DOE’s National Transportation Research Center at ORNL. New engine designs will also be considered, and several engine combustion strategies will be explored including dual-fuel, dimethyl ether reforming and spark-ignited prechambers. Caterpillar will support ORNL by providing additional materials and research expertise to enable engine performance, efficiency and durability while reducing GHG and other emissions.

    — Oak Ridge National Laboratory

       

  • TVA’s Bull Run coal plant goes dark in Oak Ridge. More fossils to follow?
    Ben Pounds
    Monday, 04 December 2023

    IMG 9617 2Bull Run Fossil Plant in Anderson County, Tennessee, is officially offline as of Dec. 1, 2023, according to the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Abigail Baxter/Hellbender Press

    TVA retires coal-fired plant; just four more to go

    OAK RIDGE — The Tennessee Valley Authority took another step toward its goal to phase out all its coal plants by 2035.

    TVA officially announced Bull Run Fossil Plant, at 1265 Edgemoor Road in Anderson County’s Claxton community, closed on Friday, Dec. 1. The TVA board decided to close the plant four years earlier on Feb. 14, 2019. Now the utility says it plans to retire all of its coal plants by 2035. The utility has cited the environment and efficiency as reasons for closing the plants. TVA plans to create solar and natural gas plants to replace the power formerly generated by coal. TVA has not made final plans for the Bull Run site.

    “It’s not an easy decision to retire a plant, but it’s one we must make to secure a reliable and cleaner energy future as our generation portfolio and load shapes change,” Jacinda Woodward, senior vice president of power operations, said in a press release. 


  • Global temperatures are off the charts for a reason: 4 factors driving 2023’s extreme heat and climate disasters
    Michael Wysession
    Tuesday, 10 October 2023

    2023’s weather has been extreme in many ways.  AP Photo/Michael Probst

    This story was originally published by The Conversation.  Michael Wysession is Professor of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences, Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

    Between the record-breaking global heat and extreme downpours, it’s hard to ignore that something unusual is going on with the weather in 2023.

    People have been quick to blame climate change – and they’re right: human-caused global warming plays the biggest role. The weekslong heat wave that started in June 2023 in Texas, the U.S. Southwest and Mexico would have been virtually impossible without it, one study found.

    However, the extremes this year are sharper than anthropogenic global warming alone would be expected to cause. September temperatures were far above any previous September, and around 3.1 degrees Fahrenheit (1.75 degrees Celsius) above the preindustrial average, according to the European Union’s earth observation program.

    July was Earth’s hottest month on record, also by a large margin, with average global temperatures more than half a degree Fahrenheit (a third of a degree Celsius) above the previous record, set just a few years earlier in 2019.


Water

  • Visit the Arctic at Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. While you still can.
    Doug Strickland
    Wednesday, 03 January 2024

    Arctic 3Polar bears on Wrangel Island, Russia. As the sea ice melts each summer, more than 1,000 bears come to Wrangel to wait for the return of the sea ice. It's the largest concentration of polar bears on Earth. BBC Studios via Tennessee Aquarium

    Learn how the Arctic still thrives in the face of existential climate threats in new IMAX film

    Doug Strickland is a writer for the Tennessee Aquarium.

    CHATTANOOGA — At first glance, the Arctic seems an impossibly inhospitable place, a frigid wasteland of extremes in which nothing can survive.

    Only one-quarter of this vast polar region at the top of the world is made up of land. The rest is comprised of a glacially cold ocean capped by vast stretches of ice. 

    Despite its harsh conditions, life has found a way to endure — and even thrive — in the Arctic. Audiences will meet just a few of the Arctic’s charismatic residents on Jan. 11, 2024 when the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater debuts a new giant-screen film, Arctic 3D: Our Frozen Planet


  • Fish are featured this month at Conservation on Tap
    Thomas Fraser
    Tuesday, 02 January 2024

    347098237 250038400911555 736972369222822085 nBarrens topminnow (Fundulus julisia) at Conservation Fisheries, a native stream fish breeding center. This species is endangered (IUCN). It is only found in the Barrens Plateau in Middle Tennessee, making it one of the rarest fish in eastern North America. © Joel Sartore 2023

    KNOXVILLE — The next round of Conservation on Tap features Conservation Fisheries and its efforts to restore and conserve some of the most diverse fish populations on the planet.

    It’s set for 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at Albright Grove Brewing Company, 2924 Sutherland Ave. Proceeds from the event benefit Discover Life in America, a crucial science partner with Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    “Did you know the incredibly diverse Tennessee River harbors over 225 species of fish, including more than 50 species at risk of extinction? Come join staff from Knoxville nonprofit Conservation Fisheries Inc. to learn about CFI's mission to prevent the extinction of rare fish species, and to work for their long-term recovery. We will be discussing some of our successes in fish recovery efforts over the past 37 years, including species found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

     

       

  • TWRA fisheries and crayfish expert retires after four decades of service
    Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency
    Thursday, 28 December 2023

    1703176490365.jpgCarl Williams, a TWRA fisheries technician and self-taught crayfish biologist.  TWRA

    MORRISTOWNCarl Williams, a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency fisheries technician and self-taught crayfish biologist retired after dedicating more than four decades to wildlife and fisheries conservation and management. 

    Williams began working with TWRA in August 1979 through the Young Adult Conservation Corp (YACC), which was a federally funded program. Initially hired for a one-year assignment, he worked with lands management wildlife biologists on various projects, including white-tailed deer and wild turkey restoration. 

    The subsequent year marked a shift as he joined TWRA’s Fisheries Division, conducting creel surveys on Cherokee and Douglas reservoirs. In August 1981, he transitioned to the Buffalo Springs Trout Hatchery spending the next seven years propagating and rearing rainbow, brown, brook, lake and Ohrid trout, and distributing them throughout many streams, rivers and reservoirs in East Tennessee. 


  • The Revelator: 10 ways targeted dam removals can help solve the climate change dilemma
    Gary Wockner
    Friday, 22 December 2023

    AlewivesAlewives returned by the millions after the Edwards and Ft. Halifax dams were removed in Maine.  John Burrows/ASF via The Revelator

    By providing both mitigation and adaption, dam removal can lower greenhouse gas emissions and restore carbon sinks.

    This article was originally published in The Revelator. Gary Wockner is an environmental activist, scientist and writer in Colorado.

    As the climate crisis escalates, a huge amount of attention and money is being focused on climate solutions.

    These can be divided into two categories: solutions that pursue “mitigation,” which lowers greenhouse gas emissions, and those that pursue methods to adapt to climate impacts to increase human and ecological resiliency.

    Dams, of course, create enormous environmental harms, many of which have already been described in scientific literature. Equally well documented is the fact that removing dams can restore seriously damaged ecosystems. But missing from almost every climate-solution story and study is how dam removal can be key for both mitigation and adaptation.

    Here are 10 reasons how dam removal fights climate change.


  • South River Watershed Alliance helps save an Atlanta river
    Paige R Penland
    Monday, 27 November 2023

    IMG_0020.jpgDr. Jacqueline Echols shows off rehabbed Panola Shoals, a rustic kayak launch site that will be the beginning of South River Water Trail.  Paige Penland/Hellbender Press

    After years of activism, Atlanta’s South River is now a font of sustainability and fun

    This article has been edited since its original publication.

    ATLANTA — It has taken decades, but the once-polluted South River is now approved for fishing and recreation, and 40 navigable miles from Panola Shoals, about 30 minutes southeast of downtown Atlanta, to Lake Jackson, are being developed into the South River Water Trail for canoes and kayaks.

    “This has always been an environmental justice issue,” said Dr. Jacqueline Echols, board president of the South River Watershed Alliance (SRWA) and driving force behind the cleanup.

    The 60-mile South River begins in the 80-percent Black city of East Point, then runs through other predominately Black, South Atlanta communities and into Arabia Mountain Natural Heritage Area, where the Flat Rock Archives “preserves rural African-American history in Georgia.”


Voices

  • This 90-year-old theater is on a mission to provide a space for Black artists
    Thomas Fraser
    Monday, 19 February 2024
    BSVB Asset 1 1 1
    ABINGDON — A historic Southern theatre is fostering the next wave of Black playwrights through Black Stories Black Voices, making a visible impact in the Southern Appalachian theatre community and beyond. 
    While theaters nationwide face declining numbers, Barter Theatre is experiencing a surge in audiences eager to witness the creativity of Black artists.
    Since the founding of Black Stories, Black Voices in 2020, organizers and artists alike have seen an outpouring of support:
    — Growing audiences, especially among Black community members.
    — Doubled submissions for play development.
    — Becoming a go-to resource for discovering Black talent in theatre.
    The 90-year-old Barter Theatre of Abingdon, Virginia is on a mission to provide a safe space for Black artists and audiences to share their stories and assert their belonging in American theatre. In the past four years, it’s become clear: Barter isn’t just a safe space for Black artists — it’s drawing larger, enthusiastic audiences too.
    Cris Eli Blak is the latest playwright to participate in Barter’s initiative, which engages Black theatre makers from across the Southern states to identify, develop and present the region’s Black stories on stage. A winner of the 2024 Appalachian Festival of Plays & Playwrights, his play “Girl on a Hill” will be performed on Feb. 23.

    — Barter Theatre

       

  • RESCHEDULED: ETSPJ to host annual meeting with Knoxville members of the Tennessee state legislature
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 11 January 2024

    KNOXVILLE The East Tennessee chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (ETSPJ) once again will partner with the League of Women Voters Knoxville/Knox County (LWVKKC) to hold the annual legislative forum of the Knox County delegation.

    The forum, which was postponed by snow, is now set for 9-10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 17. 

    The event is set for the YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center, located at 124 S. Cruze St., in East Knoxville near downtown. A parking lot next to the building and street parking are available.

    Jesse Mayshark, an ETSPJ board member and co-founder of Compass Knox, will serve as moderator. The event is open to the public.

       

  • TVA and DOE declare that modular reactors are on the horizon here
    Ben Pounds
    Friday, 08 December 2023

    U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer GranholmThe Tennessee Valley Authority’s Bob Deacy shows U.S. Department of Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm the site of a future nuclear reactor in Oak Ridge.  Ben Pounds/Tennessee Lookout

    DOE chief: Little nuke plants posited to provide clean energy 

    This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

    OAK RIDGE — U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited the site of a possible first-of-its-kind nuclear reactor for the Tennessee Valley Authority this week. 

    The utility’s board authorized $200 million to explore building a reactor on the site last year after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave TVA an early site permit in 2019. 

    This first-of-its-kind small modular reactor would be smaller than standard nuclear reactors and generate less power, but it could have other advantages. While typical nuclear power plants need to provide power at 100 percent of their capacity constantly, a small modular reactor can more easily increase or decrease the amount of power it provides to the overall grid. Melinda Hunter, TVA nuclear communication specialist explained that this flexibility can complement renewable plants elsewhere in the TVA grid.

    “When the sun’s not shining, you can bring the power up,” she said, adding that during sunnier periods the small modular reactors can provide less power.

    TVA CEO Jeff Lyash said the utility will likely start building its first reactor on the site in 2027 and finish by the early 2030s. TVA is looking to build four of these reactors on the site, but it’s not made a final decision on the first one yet. Each reactor would generate 300 megawatts. 


  • On tap: Learn how the local Sierra Club is fighting climate change
    Thomas Fraser
    Thursday, 07 December 2023

    Harvey BroomeHarvey Broome hiding in a buckeye tree on the way to Hughes Ridge, July 25, 1931.  Albert “Dutch” Roth

    KNOXVILLE — The latest round of Conversation on Tap features members of the local Harvey Broome group of the Sierra Club discussing its efforts to address climate change.

    It’s set for 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at Albright Brewing Company, 2924 Sutherland Ave. Proceeds from the event will benefit Discover Life in America, a crucial science partner with Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    Join Harvey Broome group vice-chairman Jerry Thornton and others to learn more about the local chapter of the Sierra Club and its efforts to address climate change.

    Named after a Smokies advocate and Wilderness Society founder, the Harvey Broome chapter of the Sierra Club has been fighting to preserve wild places; create clean, safe communities; and encourage recycling and clean energy since 1972. 


    Photograph from the Albert “Dutch” Ross Photograph Collection at the University of Tennessee Libraries

    Albert Gordon "Dutch" Roth, born September 20, 1890 in Knoxville, Tennessee, is recognized as one of the most prolific early photographers of the Great Smoky Mountains' Greenbrier and Mount Le Conte sections. An early member of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, his photographs document club hikes and activities, including the construction of the clubhouse at Greenbrier.

    What began in 1913 as a diversion soon developed into a serious avocation as Roth perfected his penchant for photography while avidly hiking the unexplored regions near his home. He worked primarily with a Kodak Autographic 122 camera, and, often carrying a heavy tripod, would climb twenty to thirty feet up a tree or venture hundreds of yards off the trail to capture the landscape images for which he was later noted.


  • ‘Where dreams go to die’ — Frozen Head State Park needs your input
    Melanie Mayes
    Tuesday, 14 November 2023

    frozen_head.jpg Commemorative sign in Frozen Head State Park.   Creative Commons Mark BY-NC 4.0  Jim “Gravity” Smith — Hike with Gravity: North Bird Mountain Trail

    Written comments will be accepted until Nov. 30, 2023

    WARTBURG — Harvey Broome Group of the Sierra Club and Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning want to encourage the public to weigh in on the proposed Tennessee State Management Plan for Frozen Head State Park & Natural Area in Morgan County.

    Some of the proposed developments could drastically impact park natural resources and visitor experiences. Frozen Head hosted nearly 400,000 visitors in 2022. It is frequented by many East Tennessee residents and is an important destination tourist attraction. Importantly, it is an outstanding reservoir of biodiversity in the heart of the Cumberland Mountains.

    The Management Plan states Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area mission is “to protect and preserve the unique examples of natural, cultural, and scenic resources and to save one of the last vestiges of undisturbed landscapes in the Cumberland Mountain region,” and park management is intended to “restore and maintain the diversity and integrity of the resource.”


Creature Features

  • Meet the salamanders making the South a biodiversity hotspot
    Southern Environmental Law Center
    Tuesday, 19 December 2023

    Skip to main codownload-2.jpg An eastern newt in its juvenile stage in Blacksburg, Virginia. Courtesy SELC.

    Salamanders are under siege in a changing world

    Salamanders are extraordinary creatures. Some of these astonishing amphibians boast vibrant colors and patterns while two-thirds of all species are lungless and able to breathe through their skin. All salamanders have the remarkable ability to regrow limbs, tails, and even parts of their heart and brain, a rare ability in the animal kingdom. 

    More salamander species live in the Appalachians than anywhere else in the world. Fifty-four species of salamander call Virginia home.

    Roughly 20 percent of the world’s salamander species can be found in the South

    Unfortunately, the impacts of climate change, habitat loss and pollution pose a real danger to these sensitive creatures. Increased temperatures, changing humidity levels, wildfires and droughts wreak havoc on salamanders, which are impacted by even small changes in habitat conditions and are often specialized to small native ranges. 

    Southern Environmental Law Center’s work addressing climate change, fighting for clean water, and conservation efforts help protect all kinds of salamanders in the South. To celebrate the Endangered Species Act’s 50th anniversary, they are highlighting some of the endangered and threatened salamanders of our region.


  • Extreme drought endangers fish species
    Casey Phillips
    Monday, 13 November 2023

    USFWS_and_Tennessee_Aquarium_biologists_collect_Laurel_Dace_during_2016_drought.jpgRepresentatives from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute work together to rescue Barrens Topminnows imperiled by an exceptional drought in Nov. 2016.  Tennessee Aquarium

    Drought conditions threaten some of the nation’s most-endangered fish species

    Casey Phillips is a communications specialist at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga.

    CHATTANOOGA — The endless parade of sunny, cloudless days in Chattanooga for the last two months may seem like the stuff of dreams to anyone planning an outdoor activity. However, this fall has turned into a blue-sky nightmare for aquatic species living in smaller creeks and streams.

    “Some of those headwater pools are going to dry up, and we’ll lose large numbers of populations,” said Dr. Bernie Kuhajda, an aquatic conservation biologist at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute. “It just doesn’t look good for our headwater fish communities out there. They’re really getting stressed.”

    Less than half an inch (0.42 inches) of rain fell in Chattanooga during a 72-day span between Aug. 30 and Nov. 9, according to meteorological data recorded at Lovell Field. That’s just 0.16 inches more than fell in Death Valley, California, during the same period, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

    As of the latest weekly report by the government’s U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Hamilton County is now considered to be experiencing a D4 or “exceptional” drought, the Monitor’s most severe drought category.

    Bad news for endangered fish species like the Barrens Topminnow and Laurel Dace.


  • 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act
    Southern Environmental Law Center
    Tuesday, 07 November 2023

    esa.jpeg

    For decades, the Endangered Species Act has served valuable in preserving species and making our region so unique

    Dec. 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act — an important legal tool for protecting imperiled Southern species and their habitat. Since its passage in 1973, we’ve seen a nearly 99 percent success rate in preventing the loss of animals and plants protected under the law, including the iconic bald eagle and American alligator.  

    The Endangered Species Act establishes protections for fish, wildlife and plants that are listed as threatened or endangered; provides for adding species to and removing them from the list of threatened and endangered species, and for preparing and implementing plans for their recovery; provides for interagency cooperation to avoid take of listed species and for issuing permits for otherwise prohibited activities; provides for cooperation with States, including authorization of financial assistance; and implements the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

    This bedrock environmental law reminds us there is still more work to do to protect the South’s rich biodiversity — including fighting in court to save at-risk species, advocating for more protective regulations, and defending the Endangered Species Act. 


  • Study expounds upon evolution of mosquitoes and their hosts
    Mick Kulikowski
    Saturday, 21 October 2023

    mosquito-1332382_640.jpg

    This story was originally published on Phys.org and authored by Mick Kulikowski, Director of Strategic Communications and Media Relations at NC State University

    Raleigh, NC — Researchers at North Carolina State University and global collaborators have mapped the mosquito’s tree of life, a major step toward understanding important traits, such as how the insects choose their hosts, feed on blood and spread disease. The findings will help researchers make better predictions to model disease transmission and understand what makes some mosquitoes better disease carriers than others.

    The research suggests mosquito evolution over the past 200 million years mirrors the Earth’s history of shifting land masses and changing host organisms, said Dr. Brian Wiegmann, William Neal Reynolds Professor of Entomology at NC State and corresponding author of a paper describing the mosquito family tree

    The William Neal Reynolds Professorship is one of the highest distinctions available to NCSU faculty members.The Reynolds Professorships were established in 1950 by William Neal Reynolds, a long-time president and board chairman of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, to recognize and support outstanding faculty achievement in research, teaching and extension.

    “This ongoing project builds a big-data resource that mines the academic literature with published observations of the sources of blood mosquitoes drink, from animals as diverse as fish to humans,” Wiegmann said. “It focuses explicitly on data collection to infer aspects of mosquito biology in a contextualized way. That means linking up the family, or phylogenetic, tree with the narrative of life on Earth: geologic history, climate history and organism history.”


  • Celebrate the importance of bats at “Bats and Brews” in Asheville 
    Hellbender Press
    Thursday, 12 October 2023

    PallidBat_GRCA_Hope_BatWeek2016.jpgOct. 24 - 31, 2023: Everybody can get in on the Bat Week fun.  National Park Service

    An excellent time to celebrate bats

    ASHEVILLE — The public is invited to “Bats N Brews” in honor of Bat Week from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26 at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.

    Bat Week is an international, annual celebration designed to raise awareness about the need for bat conservation. Bats are vital to the health of our natural world and economy. Although we may not always see them, bats are hard at work all around the world each night — eating tons of insects, pollinating flowers, and spreading seeds that grow new plants and trees.

    This year, Bat Week is spreading its wings bigger than ever before by bringing on board partners across Latin America, from Mexico and the Caribbean to Costa Rica, Colombia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, and more.


Events

  • Tennessee Tree Day: March 4 deadline to reserve trees!

    download-1.png

    It’s that time of year again — time to reserve your trees for Tennessee Tree Day 2024. Reserve yours now and plan on picking them up on March 15th or 16th and planting them that weekend.  Here are some special things to know about this year’s statewide native-tree-planting extravaganza:

    • This is the 10th Annual Tennessee Tree Day
    • You have more than 12 native species to choose from
    • Plant at home, on the farm, or anywhere you have permission to plant
    • You have more than 150 pick-up sites to choose from
    • We anticipate planting our one millionth tree in 2024 — we want you to be part of this historic milestone. (We founded the Tree Program in 2007 with a goal of planting one million trees. You can help us cross the finish line!)

  • You’re invited to the annual Big South Fork and Obed science meeting

    Science_Meeting_Photo-1.jpg

    ONEIDA — On March 13, 2024 the National Park Service will host its annual public science meeting at Historic Rugby Visitor Center at 1331 Rugby Parkway, Rugby, Tennessee.

    The public is invited to spend the day with scientists who have been conducting research at Obed Wild and Scenic River, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, and other areas on the Cumberland Plateau.

    A wide range of topics specific to the Upper Cumberland Plateau will be covered during the day, including talks on wild hogs, restoration efforts at cultural landscapes, impacts from hemlock wooly adelgid on native hemlock trees, and other topics.


  • SELC Celebrates the 2024 Reed Environmental Writing Award winners

    download.jpg

    The Southern Environmental Law Center congratulates this year’s Reed Environmental Writing Award winners — Emily Strasser, David Folkenflik, Mario Ariza, and Miranda Green — who all demonstrate the power of writing to capture some of the most important environmental issues facing Southern communities. 

    Emily Strasser receives the Reed Award for “Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History.” In the book, Strasser examines the toxic legacy of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of three secret cities constructed by the Manhattan Project for developing the first atomic bomb. She exposes a suppressed history that forever impacted her family, a community, the nation, and the world. 

    David Folkenflik with NPR, and Mario Ariza and Miranda Green with Floodlight, receive the Reed Award for their story, “In the Southeast, power company money flows to news sites that attack their critics.” Their investigation digs into a consulting firm working on behalf of electric utility giants in Alabama and Florida. The team uncovers how money flows from the firm to influence local news sites to push the utilities’ agenda​s​ and attack their critics. 

    Everyone is invited to join for a celebration honoring the winners and the 30th anniversary of the Reed Award in person or virtually on March 22 at 5:00 p.m. The in-person event will take place at the CODE Building, located at 225 West Water Street on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, VA.


  • Celebrate Black Appalachian roots at spring fish fry

    BIA NEW Black 2 web 1

    WHITESBURG — Join Black in Appalachia supporters and friends for a fish fry, live music and fellowship at its field office in Whitesburg, Tenn. 

    The homecoming is set for 1-8 p.m. April 20 at 8004 Andrew Johnson Highway.

    The first Black in Appalachia Homecoming is meant to celebrate friends, families and coworkers near and far on the commemoration of setting roots in East Tennessee.

    Black in Appalachia is a nonprofit that works with media, residents, universities, libraries, archives and community organizations to highlight the history and contributions of African-Americans to the development of the Mountain South and its culture.


  • Come talk words with writers at Tremont conference in Smokies

    2023 TWC morning workshop Michele SonsWriters discuss their craft during the 2023 Tremont Writers Conference, which returns in October.  GSMIT

    TOWNSEND — Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont this fall will host the second annual Tremont Writers Conference, an intensive five-day retreat for writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry coordinated in partnership with Smokies Life, formerly Great Smoky Mountains Association.

    Applications to participate in the event may be submitted online through April 30. 

    From Wednesday, Oct. 23, through Sunday, Oct. 27, a small group of selected writers will join renowned authors and professional park educators on Tremont’s campus in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Participants will enjoy brainstorming and fine-tuning their work with award-winning author workshop leaders while also learning and writing throughout the day. 


  • Obed Wild and Scenic River annual photo contest deadline is July 15

    Photo_Contest_PR_2024.jpg

    WARTBURG Do you have beautiful photos of the Obed Wild & Scenic River? Enter your images in the 2024 Obed photography contest. Images may show wildlife, plant life, natural landscapes, historic areas, weather, or people interacting with nature within the boundaries of the Obed Wild and Scenic River. All photographs should accurately reflect the subject matter and the scene as it appeared.
    Photographs may be submitted into one of five categories:
    • Dark Skies — Photographs that show a view of the night sky.
    • Flora & Fauna — Animals in their natural habitat, including close-ups of invertebrates, or plants in
    their natural habitat, including close-ups of flowers, fungi, lichen, and algae.
    • Youth — Entries in any category by photographers 17 years of age and under.
    • Landscapes — Expansive and dramatic views of the land and its features within the Tennessee park
    boundaries.
    • Recreation — Photographs of people participating in recreational activities.


  • Join policy makers, experts and lawyers to discuss Southern Appalachian enviro and legal issues

    APIEL24 STD URLS

    KNOXVILLE — The 15th Appalachian Public Interest and Environmental Law Conference (APIEL) is set for Oct. 5 at The University of Tennessee College of Law. 

    APIEL is an annual gathering of lawyers, scientists, students, and members of the general public to discuss environmental issues and happenings in Appalachia, public policy, and grassroots initiatives.

    The purpose is to create dialogue between lawyers, activists, and scientists on the local areas of need and foster engagement within the community to be forces of change in the legal realm.

     

    APIEL is a conference of the student-run Environmental Law Organization (ELO) at the University of Tennessee College of Law. ELO is not directly affiliated with the University of Tennesse or any particular non-profit organization. It is dedicated to providing students and attorneys with learning opportunities and leadership experiences.


  • KCM Knoxville Community Media Engagement Calendar
    Knoxville Community Media (KCM)

    KCM’s Community Engagement Calendar provides information about both, date-specific events and the regular programs & services provided by nonprofit organizations.

    Many people still think it is necessary to have a TV cable connection to watch community TV programs. But that’s old history.

    One does not even need to be in the City of Knoxville or anywhere near it, nor have a TV set anymore.


Feedbag

Your diet of environment and science news

  • Knox County is trying to fix what we broke at Plumb Creek

    KNOXVILLE — Knox County government announced the kickoff of the Plumb Creek Park Stream Enhancement Project, a strategic effort aimed at revitalizing the water quality and ecosystem of Plumb Creek, a tributary of Beaver Creek, supported by federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.

    (Eds. note: Every Republican representing Tennessee in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House voted against the act that provided the money.)

    Plumb Creek Park, located at 1517 Hickey Road, features a disc golf course, playground, shelter, walking trails and an 8-acre dog park.

    The project, which began this month, is expected to wrap up in December and include a comprehensive set of restoration activities. Work includes removing obstructions such as culverts and debris; controlling invasive species; stabilizing stream banks; and installing stream structures to improve habitat quality, erosion, and sediment control measures.

    Some sections of the park will close temporarily during construction. The dog park will remain open.

    This project is funded in part by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a federal initiative to aid state and local governments in mitigating the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    — Knox County 


  • Come talk words with writers at Tremont conference in Smokies

    2023 TWC morning workshop Michele SonsWriters discuss their craft during the 2023 Tremont Writers Conference, which returns in October.  GSMIT

    TOWNSEND — Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont this fall will host the second annual Tremont Writers Conference, an intensive five-day retreat for writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry coordinated in partnership with Smokies Life, formerly Great Smoky Mountains Association.

    Applications to participate in the event may be submitted online through April 30. 

    From Wednesday, Oct. 23, through Sunday, Oct. 27, a small group of selected writers will join renowned authors and professional park educators on Tremont’s campus in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Participants will enjoy brainstorming and fine-tuning their work with award-winning author workshop leaders while also learning and writing throughout the day. 


  • You’re invited to the annual Big South Fork and Obed science meeting

    Science_Meeting_Photo-1.jpg

    ONEIDA — On March 13, 2024 the National Park Service will host its annual public science meeting at Historic Rugby Visitor Center at 1331 Rugby Parkway, Rugby, Tennessee.

    The public is invited to spend the day with scientists who have been conducting research at Obed Wild and Scenic River, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, and other areas on the Cumberland Plateau.

    A wide range of topics specific to the Upper Cumberland Plateau will be covered during the day, including talks on wild hogs, restoration efforts at cultural landscapes, impacts from hemlock wooly adelgid on native hemlock trees, and other topics.


  • Rangers probe suspected arson in Great Smokies

    GATLINBURG — The National Park Service is investigating a possible arson fire off Laurel Creek Road near Crib Gap Trail. The fire was extinguished, but as part of the investigation, rangers are requesting the public’s help to find anyone who was in the area of Crib Gap Trail, Anthony Creek Trail or Lead Cove Trail Feb. 6 at about 6 p.m.

    If you have information about vehicles or suspicious activity in the area around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6, please submit a tip. You don’t have to tell us who you are, but please tell us what you know. Rangers also ask that the person who originally reported the fire calls the number below as soon as possible.

    CALL: 888-653-0009 or 865-436-1230

    — National Park Service


  • Advance Knox plan gets policy committee approval; heads to other governing boards next

    WATE: Knox County approves controversial Advance Knox plan in policy committee 

    KNOXVILLE — A Knox County growth plan advanced by Mayor Glenn Jacob’s administration was approved by the guiding committee behind Advance Knox.

    Hellbender Press has reported and opined on the growth plan during its development. The plan was touted as a means of reducing sprawl and accompanying taxpayer-funded infrastructure.

    Rural and suburban property owners remain dubious whether the proposed revamp of the original Knox County growth plan will control the countywide development encroaching on their land, according to reporting from WATE:

    “Kevin Murphy doubles as an advisory committee member and resident of a rural area. He lives off of Washington Pike and said the area has already started morphing into a suburb.

    “‘Today, there’s over 17,000 cars a day that pass by my farm. All this growth will increase that a lot and 17,000 cars a day is a pretty significant amount of noise, litter, light pollution, at all times of the hours, so the character is definitely changing,’ he said.”

    The plan still needs to be approved by Knox County Commission, city of Knoxville and the town of Farragut.


  • Join a community of Tennesseans carving out gardens to attract, feed and nurture pollinating wildlife

    img-4888.jpgThese signs will show your friends and neighbors that your wildflower garden supports pollinators and hopefully get them excited about starting a pollinator garden too! Our original signs are made from embossed, recycled aluminum and measure 8 x 12 inches. They are available for a donation of $25 each and can be shipped directly to you.  Tennessee Environmental Council

    Through Generate Some Buzz, the Tennessee Environmental Council aims to engage hundreds of Tennesseans in establishing new pollinator habitats statewide. All gardens, both big and small are welcome and by participating in this program, you are joining a vibrant community of Tennesseans committed to protecting our pollinators, one plot at a time.

    Populations of many pollinator species like bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and hummingbirds have been negatively impacted by agricultural practices such as using synthetic pesticides, disease and habitat loss. These creatures are experiencing a drastically different world compared to just a few decades ago.

    Native pollinators depend on native plants to provide habitat and food, and plants need pollinators to help them reproduce. In fact, pollinators assist in the reproduction of 75 percent of flowering plants worldwide. Turning manicured lawns that provide little to nothing for pollinators into havens full of native flowers and wild grasses, we will effectively "Generate Some Buzz" and bring back these essential workers full force.
       guide-to-growing-wildflowers_orig.png


Action Alerts

  • Celebrate the importance of bats at “Bats and Brews” in Asheville 

    PallidBat_GRCA_Hope_BatWeek2016.jpgOct. 24 - 31, 2023: Everybody can get in on the Bat Week fun.  National Park Service

    An excellent time to celebrate bats

    ASHEVILLE — The public is invited to “Bats N Brews” in honor of Bat Week from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 26 at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.

    Bat Week is an international, annual celebration designed to raise awareness about the need for bat conservation. Bats are vital to the health of our natural world and economy. Although we may not always see them, bats are hard at work all around the world each night — eating tons of insects, pollinating flowers, and spreading seeds that grow new plants and trees.

    This year, Bat Week is spreading its wings bigger than ever before by bringing on board partners across Latin America, from Mexico and the Caribbean to Costa Rica, Colombia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Brazil, and more.


ES Initiatives

  • Experts and citizens plan and commiserate over TVA’s lack of public process 

    Justin Pearson addresses People’s Voice on TVA’s Energy PlanTennessee state Rep. Justin J. Pearson speaks to community members assembled for the evening discussion during the People’s Voice on TVA’s Energy Plan.  John Waterman/Appalachian Voices

    A lack of public process brought together a coalition of environmental organizations 

    NASHVILLE  In every state except Tennessee, for-profit utilities and their regulators are required to get public input about energy-resource planning.

    These Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) provide an opportunity for a utility to demonstrate that the ratepayer money the utility spends is on the best mix of energy investments that meet this objective. 

    In Tennessee, however, TVA, which is the nation’s largest public power provider, has no process for engaging the public on its IRPs.

    It is this lack of public process that brought a coalition of environmental organizations together to host a mock public hearing in a Nashville church last month presided by Ted Thomas, former chair of Georgia Center for Energy Solutions. Their goal was to call attention to the fact that TVA acts more like a corporation or a self-regulated monopoly than as a public utility. The groups say that lack of public involvement in the process harms Tennesseeans across the board. 

    The coalition — comprising Appalachian Voices, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Energy Alabama, Sunrise Nashville, Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Reality Project Memphis and Nashville chapters, and Vote Solar — sent a letter to the TVA board in June 2023 to assess how TVA conducts resource planning compared to other regulated utilities in the Southeast. The groups also sent a formal petition last November to establish TVA’s duty to host a public hearing about its resource planning. When TVA didn’t respond, they decided to hold their own to create a public record.


  • Sequoyah Hills is now officially the arboretum we always shared

    Sequoyah Hills Arboretum sign identifying the Eastern Red Cedar to which it is attached.Many such new identifying tags highlight trees such as this red cedar in the newly designated Sequoyah Hills Arboretum near Bearden in Knoxville.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

    The arboretum designation will  allow for more extensive tree walks, scout projects, school outings, and other educational programs on the value and beauty of native trees

    KNOXVILLE — A small crowd of volunteers with tags and tools descended on Sequoyah Park on a February afternoon, preparing to affix identifying labels to the bark of old trees in one of the city’s most storied neighborhoods.

    Sequoyah Park sits along the Tennessee River at 1400 Cherokee Boulevard, tucked behind the Sequoyah Hills neighborhood but open to all who want to run, walk, cycle, or enjoy its open fields and other features. It’s Tennessee Valley Authority land, maintained by the city. The many species of native trees that tower over the park’s long field got recognition this year. The park and other Sequoyah Hills neighborhood areas are now part of the Sequoyah Hills Arboretum, an accredited level one ArbNet arboretum.

    Trees in the Sequoyah Hills Arboretum include sycamores, sweet gums, hackberries and black elders of various sizes.

    “This Level 1 Arboretum will be used for scheduled tree walks, scout projects, school outings, and other educational programs on the value and beauty of native trees,” according to the ArbNet website.


  • Foothills Land Conservancy commits more land to memory

    DJI 0246Foothills Land Conservancy recently completed a conservation easement on 100 acres near Cane Creek in Anderson County, Tenn.  Shelby Lyn Sanders/ Foothills Land Conservancy

    Generations have crisscrossed the expansive pastures near Cane Creek in Anderson County

    Shelby Lyn Sanders is the senior biologist at Foothills Land Conservancy
     
    CLINTON Not much of Mrs. Betty Smith, 92, is visible as she pokes among the tall grasses on her land in Anderson County, Tenn. on this warm mid-spring day.  
     
    She’s looking for scraps of metal or wood or some relic that might reveal the exact location of a barn that stood here near Cane Creek some time ago.  
     
    Mrs. Smith and her husband Paul purchased this property from the prominent Hollingsworth family in the 1960s while living nearby in Clinton. They had big dreams about owning a farm close by to work and play on.  

  • Fighting our own worst enemy along the way to better seeds and systems

    Seed_Swap.pngTennessee Local Food Summit participants were encouraged to bring their favorite heirloom seeds for a seed swap and social.  Courtesy Matt Matheson

    Tennessee Local Food Summit is a hive for food justice in the Southeast

    NASHVILLE — About 70 miles north of Nashville in the town of Red Boiling Springs in Macon County, farmer and educator Jeff Poppen, better known as the Barefoot Farmer, runs one of the oldest and largest organic farms in Tennessee. For nearly 40 years, he built rich soil for his bountiful farm before the second-largest meat producer in the world forced him to move from the 250 acres he’d been farming since 1974. 

    When his neighboring property owner partnered with Cobb Vantress, a subsidiary of the multinational mega-giant Tyson Foods, to place a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) — aka a factory farm — 450 feet from his homestead and garden, Poppen’s first instinct was to organize. 

    This self-described “dirty hippie” found unlikely allies in his neighbors — a Baptist preacher, a state trooper, a politician, and what he calls a “chemical farmer” — all opposed to an industrial chicken house moving in.

    They knew that the confinement of nearly 40,000 birds in one area would produce a putrefying odor from airborne chicken feces along with a toxic runoff that would contaminate the pristine waters of Long Hungry Creek, designated as “exceptional waters” by the state. Agricultural runoff from such massive chicken houses can contain antibiotics, hormones, heavy metals, chemicals and dangerous bacteria. 

    Despite community resistance to the Tyson CAFO, Poppen kept seeing Tyson chicken in his neighbors’ refrigerators. 

    “It dawned on me that my problem wasn’t really Tyson or even Big Ag — it was the public who was buying their food,” he said in an interview at last month’s Tennessee Local Food Summit at Cumberland University in Lebanon.


  • Tennessee Tree Day: March 4 deadline to reserve trees!

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    It’s that time of year again — time to reserve your trees for Tennessee Tree Day 2024. Reserve yours now and plan on picking them up on March 15th or 16th and planting them that weekend.  Here are some special things to know about this year’s statewide native-tree-planting extravaganza:

    • This is the 10th Annual Tennessee Tree Day
    • You have more than 12 native species to choose from
    • Plant at home, on the farm, or anywhere you have permission to plant
    • You have more than 150 pick-up sites to choose from
    • We anticipate planting our one millionth tree in 2024 — we want you to be part of this historic milestone. (We founded the Tree Program in 2007 with a goal of planting one million trees. You can help us cross the finish line!)

  • Join a community of Tennesseans carving out gardens to attract, feed and nurture pollinating wildlife

    img-4888.jpgThese signs will show your friends and neighbors that your wildflower garden supports pollinators and hopefully get them excited about starting a pollinator garden too! Our original signs are made from embossed, recycled aluminum and measure 8 x 12 inches. They are available for a donation of $25 each and can be shipped directly to you.  Tennessee Environmental Council

    Through Generate Some Buzz, the Tennessee Environmental Council aims to engage hundreds of Tennesseans in establishing new pollinator habitats statewide. All gardens, both big and small are welcome and by participating in this program, you are joining a vibrant community of Tennesseans committed to protecting our pollinators, one plot at a time.

    Populations of many pollinator species like bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and hummingbirds have been negatively impacted by agricultural practices such as using synthetic pesticides, disease and habitat loss. These creatures are experiencing a drastically different world compared to just a few decades ago.

    Native pollinators depend on native plants to provide habitat and food, and plants need pollinators to help them reproduce. In fact, pollinators assist in the reproduction of 75 percent of flowering plants worldwide. Turning manicured lawns that provide little to nothing for pollinators into havens full of native flowers and wild grasses, we will effectively "Generate Some Buzz" and bring back these essential workers full force.
       guide-to-growing-wildflowers_orig.png


  • Solar for All: An opportunity to expand alternative-energy access

    10443176025_00a582b883_o-1-scaled.jpgThe historic federal climate legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act passed last summer. The $7 billion program will help fund rooftop solar projects benefiting communities with lower incomes and provide workforce development enabling millions of households’ access to affordable, resilient, and clean solar energy.  Southern Environmental Law Center

    A competitive grant program to bring solar power to people with limited incomes has found huge demand in the South

    CHARLOTTESVILLE — Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, as well as other tribal governments, municipalities and nonprofits submitted applications for Solar for All, a new program designed to expand solar access.

    “I’m thrilled to see enthusiasm for this funding in Southern states, which have traditionally lagged behind the rest of the country in residential solar while many households struggle to pay their electricity bills,” said Gudrun Thompson, leader of Southern Environmental Law Center’s Energy Program.

    Part of the historic federal climate legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act passed last summer, the $7 billion program will fund rooftop solar projects benefiting communities with lower incomes and provide workforce development enabling millions of households’ access to affordable, resilient and clean solar energy and related jobs. These funds have the potential to double the number of rooftop solar customers with 100 percent of cost saving solar, benefiting customers that would not otherwise be able to access solar.  

    “This is a generational opportunity to enable low-income households in the South to access affordable, resilient, and clean solar energy,” Thompson said.


  • Join SACE for a Clean Energy Generation webinar on Wed, Oct. 25 at 1:30 PM

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    The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy invites people to join the “Clean Energy Generation.”

    We’re gaining momentum as a movement that is rising to one of the greatest challenges of our time: the climate crisis. We’re pushing for new policies and practices and taking action, no matter how small — because it takes small ripples from people at all levels of engagement to create a tsunami of change.

    At the second Clean Energy Generation webinar, SACE staff, including Executive Director, Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Climate Advocacy Director Chris Carnevale, and Climate Advocacy Coordinator Cary Ritzler, will talk about what the “Clean Energy Generation” is and how you can play a role, no matter your age, abilities, income or zip code. 

    SACE’s Executive Director will also share the ways he is taking clean energy action in his home, and how you don’t have to be an expert to connect with your community and make meaningful change: learning more is a good place to start. We’ll also show how small groups of neighbors, students and friends are coming together to accomplish specific climate-actions goals. And we’ll have time on the webinar to answer your questions.

    Can’t make it? Register anyway and we’ll send you the recording plus a few follow-up resources.

    The Clean Energy Generation is motivated by what our daily lives, communities, country, and planet will look like when clean energy replaces decades of dirty pollution from fossil fuels. We are working together for communities powered by clean energy with good jobs, clean air and water, clean transportation, a stable climate and affordable bills, where all of us can thrive.


  • Homeward bound: local students release hundreds of lake sturgeon into Tennessee River

    TN_Aquarium_Lake_Sturgeon_Release_in_Coolidge_Park_5.jpgConservation scientists with the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute pose in the Tennessee River before releasing more than 600 juvenile lake sturgeon into the waterway. Tennessee Aquarium

    CHATTANOOGA — After bulking up all summer on a steady diet of bloodworms and brine shrimp, hundreds of juvenile lake sturgeon finally were returned to their ancestral waters this morning. 

    Under a nearly cloudless autumn sky, biologists from the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute and third through fifth grade students from Girls Inc. of Chattanooga’s Fall Break Camp gathered on the north bank of the Tennessee River in Coolidge Park. 

    One by one, they carefully made their way to the river’s edge holding clear, water-filled plastic buckets containing five-month-old lake sturgeon. Amidst excited squeals and nervous laughter, they squatted down, gently depositing each sleek, armor-skinned fish into the shallows.

    This latest release “class” included 667 lake sturgeon. Comparatively tiny now, these miniature river giants have the potential to reach nine feet in length and could live for up to 150 years. 

    Reintroduction events like this are the capstone payoff to a summer spent tirelessly caring for and — most of all — feeding these sturgeon, says Reintroduction Biologist II Teresa Israel

    “It’s really special. It’s hard to see them go, but it’s a happy day since we’ve seen them get so big, so we know they’ll be successful out there,” she said. “It’s a great accomplishment that completes the circle for all our hard work.” 

    Lake Sturgeon are considered endangered in Tennessee. As recently as the 1970s, this species had disappeared from both waterways due to the impacts of damming, poor water quality and over-fishing. Today’s release is the latest in the now-23-year-old effort to bring Lake Sturgeon back to the Tennessee River and Cumberland River.


  • October 24 is United Nations Day

    united nations day

     

    Despite strong US popular support for the UN, House Appropriations Bill wants to eliminate UN funding

    NEW YORK — In a poll of nearly two thousand registered voters, 73% of respondents from across the political spectrum support America’s engagement with the United Nations.

    Conducted by Morning Consult in August 2023, the survey finds that roughly two-thirds of Republicans and 86% of Democrats believe it’s important for the U.S. to “maintain an active role” in the UN.

    UN favorability stood at 52%, with a plurality of Republicans saying they view the UN in a positive light.

    More than half of all voters support paying full dues to the UN’s regular budget, and an even greater percentage (nearly 60%) are in favor of paying dues to the UN’s peacekeeping budget.

    These numbers reflect similar nationwide data — including a 2023 survey by Pew Research — noting strong UN favorability among Americans.

    What’s at stake?

    The House budget proposal recommends eliminating funding for the UN regular budget — for the first time in history. That would cause the U.S. to lose its vote in the UN General Assembly!

    Why that would be a grave and costly mistake is well explained by Jordie Hannum, Executive Director of the Better World Campaign.

    This UN Day, make sure to tell your members of Congress that you support the UN’s mission.

    Here are easy to follow help and sample scripts for your call and for leaving voice mail. Or, send them a customizable email message.

    “As Congress considers making drastic cuts in U.S. contributions to the UN, this is a powerful reminder that Americans value the institution and want the U.S. to stay involved,” said Peter Yeo, President of the Better World Campaign. “The UN is a critical space for the U.S. to demonstrate our global leadership and support our allies. Americans clearly understand that it’s in our best interest to nurture this vital relationship.”


  • Join Keep Knoxville Beautiful on Friday, Nov. 3 for its annual Sustainability Summit

    Reimagining-the-Asphalt-Jungle.jpg

    KKB Sustainability Summit 2023

    Why do we have all this asphalt, how is it keeping us apart, what is it doing to the fabric of our cities, and what can we do about it?

    From 2nd Avenue in Nashville to The Stitch in Atlanta to the Placemaking Hub in Charlotte, travel with us to different Southeastern cities with professionals who are reshaping their urban environments to create more equitable, sustainable and beautiful places, and get inspired about what we can do in our own city. Join us on Friday, November 3rd for KKB’s 5th annual Sustainability Summit for a day of learning.

    Lunch will be provided for free to all attendees, sponsored by the Tomato Head

    Other sponsors include TVA and Earthadelic.

    Event Timeline

     9:00 AM - Doors open

     9:15 AM - Opening remarks by City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon

     9:45 AM - Jack Cebe, Landscape Architect/Engineer, Atlanta
    11:00 AM - Eric Hoke, Urban Designer, Nashville & Kate Cavazza, Urban Designer, Charlotte
    12:00 PM - Lunch provided by Tomato Head
    12:45 PM - Beverly Bell, Landscape Designer, Chattanooga & Caleb Racicot, Urban Planner, Atlanta 
      1:45 PM - Closing remarks


  • Tennessee Project Milkweed orders top 300,000 and exhaust the free supply. TDOT says there’s more to come.

    download 2Monarch butterfly feeding off milkweed. TDOT launched a program to promote milkweed production, a common source of food for butterflies, birds and other insects. cc zero 2

    Free milkweed seed will help citizens restore landscapes and preserve habitat; orders commence again in June for popular TDOT project

    NASHVILLE — Amid unprecedented citizen demand, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) halted online orders for free milkweed seed, offered as part of its Project Milkweed. Launched in June 2023, this mail-order resource was aimed at restoring landscapes and preserving habitats for monarch butterflies and other pollinator species. Since June, TDOT has taken nearly 131,000 individual orders from Tennesseans for milkweed seed. In total, 779,601 red and common milkweed seed packets were requested. The program will return in June 2024.

    “TDOT is happy to offer such a popular program to the public, and to empower Tennesseans to do their part in saving pollinators as they are vital to life, growing food, and the economy of Tennessee,” said TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley in a release.

    Orders exhausted a stock of 300,000 milkweed seed packets by Sept. 30. Additional seed material has been ordered and is expected to arrive in October. All remaining orders will be fulfilled then, according to TDOT. 


  • Appalachian State Energy Center is crushing it with biochar

    community_biochar-reduced.pngCommunity biochar production in Boone.  Appalachian State Energy Center

    Appalachian State University research helps farmers and crop yield

    This article was provided by Appalachian State University. Hei-Young Kim is laboratory manager and research assistant with the Appalachian Energy Center.

    BOONE The Appalachian State Nexus Project experiments continue to advance agricultural innovations with biochar to help local farmers. Biochar is a charcoal-like material produced from plant material such as grass, agricultural and forest residues that  produce carbon-rich material used for agriculture and horticulture purposes. 

    Adding biochar to soil increases surface area, pH, plant nutrient availability, and enhances water-holding capacity, according to Appalachian State researchers. It also can sequester carbon in the ground for extended periods of time, which may otherwise find its way into the atmosphere as CO2 or methane.

    The qualities of biochar vary depending upon the material it comes from — timber slash, corn stalks or manure. 


  • Tennessee Aquarium wants to up the pollination game

    Pollinator Pathway signPollinator Pathway signs on the Tennessee Aquarium Plaza in Chattanooga lead guests on a self-guided tour highlighting native plants, pollinator behaviors, and unusual pollinators. Courtesy Tennessee Aquarium

    TDOT joins with Tennessee Aquarium to pollinate our pathways

    CHATTANOOGA — With their distinctive orange and black patterns, gossamer wings and harrowing 3,000-mile migrations, few insects are as charismatic or beloved as the monarch butterfly. 

    Just imagine how tragic it would be if they disappeared.

    So it was with alarm in 2022 that the world received news that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had declared the monarch an endangered species, citing population numbers that had fallen 80 percent since the 1980s. 

    Similar anxiety met reports in the mid-2000s of colony collapse disorder. This sudden phenomenon dramatically imperiled the survival of European honey bees, whose activity directly or indirectly affects roughly one of every three bites of food we eat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Pollinators are undoubtedly critically important to plants and humans alike, whether they’re investigating our Irises, calling on our Columbine, or buzzing our Blueberry bushes. This week, June 19-25, the world celebrates Pollinator Week, which recognizes the wondrous, vital contributions of butterflies, bees, moths, bats, and other pollinators.


  • KUB and SACE provide a guide to a home efficiency uplift

    KNOXVILLE — Are you looking to take control of your utility bills to not only save money but also breathe easier knowing your home is healthier and more comfortable? Join us this Wednesday, May 17, from 6-8 PM for a free workshop to learn about newly available, once-in-a-generation funding, resources, and rebates that everyone can benefit from, regardless of if you own or rent your home, or if you have high or low income, through local and federal funds.  

    KUB is providing free (yes, free) home energy improvements for income-eligible customers through the Home Uplift program. New or repaired HVAC units, attic and wall insulation, appliances, and electric water heaters are just a few of the home energy upgrades that you may receive. Plus, professional crews are ready and waiting to do the work so you don’t have to. 

    — Southern Alliance for Clean Energy


  • Rocking chair rebellion: Older Americans help drive climate activism

    Third Act ROCKING CHAIRSPhoto courtesy of Third Act via The Revelator

    As their twilight approaches, elders supercharge climate action on behalf of future generations 

    This story was originally published by The Revelator. Eduardo Garcia is a New York-based climate journalist. A native of Spain, he has written about climate solutions for Thomson Reuters, The New York Times, Treehugger and Slate. He is the author of Things You Can Do: How to Fight Climate Change and Reduce Waste, an illustrated book about reducing personal carbon footprints.

    Thousands of senior Americans took to the streets in March in 30 states to demand that the country’s major banks divest from fossil fuels.

    This “rocking chair rebellion” — organized by Third Act, a fast-growing climate action group focused on older Americans — shows that Baby Boomers are becoming a new force in the climate movement.

    Third Act cofounder Bill McKibben, who joined a Washington, D.C., protest, says it’s unfair to put all the weight of climate activism on the shoulders of young people. It’s time for older Americans to take a central role.

    “Young people don’t have the structural power necessary to make changes,” McKibben tells The Revelator. “But old people do. There are 70 million Americans over the age of 60. Many of us vote, we’re politically engaged, and have a lot of financial resources. So if you want to press either the political system or the financial system, older people are a useful group to have.”


  • Knoxville trees need a canopy of support

    KNOXVILLE Trees Knoxville wants to hear from residents to help develop an Urban Forest Master Plan that considers the city’s unique challenges, priorities, and opportunities. A successful plan will help Knoxville preserve, grow and care for trees, which play a significant role in public health and environmental health.

    Upcoming opportunities to learn more and provide feedback:

    May 4, 6-7:30 p.m.

    Urban Trees Virtual Open House

    Zoom

    If you haven’t attended an in-person event, this virtual option may fit your schedule. Learn about the urban tree canopy and provide your thoughts and perspective on what Knoxville needs. Participants will need to preregister online to receive the link to the virtual workshop.

    May 11, 4-7 p.m.

    Urban Trees Open House

    Cansler YMCA
    616 Jessamine Street

    Trees in cities are vital to human health, especially as the climate warms. What does Knoxville need? Come to this open-house-style event to learn more and add your two cents. Trees Knoxville will give 15-minute presentations at 5 and 6 p.m. Attendees will learn more about the Urban Forest Master Plan process and how to engage neighbors, friends and other residents who value trees in this important process.

    Other options:

    Invite Trees Knoxville to your meeting! Go to KnoxvilleTreePlan.org to schedule a presentation.

    Online Survey.  If none of these engagement options work, fill out the online survey at Knoxville Tree Plan to make sure your voice is heard. 

    Learn more at Knoxville Tree Plan, and find additional community event listings at Knoxville Tree Plan Get Involved.

    Trees Knoxville was formed in 2016 and grew out of the community’s deep appreciation for trees and their many benefits. Its mission is to expand the urban canopy on both public and private land throughout Knox County. Trees Knoxville is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to planting trees, educating people, and promoting the health and well-being of our community and our environment in Knoxville and Knox County.

    — City of Knoxville


  • Refill with KnoxFill. Knoxville startup gets its own storefront.

    IMG 2216Multiple household and personal items such as detergent, shampoo and even toothpaste can be refilled at KnoxFill, which now has a storefront at 3211 South Haven Road in Knoxville.  Photo courtesy Michaela Barnett

    Glass jars aren’t just for moonshine anymore 

    KNOXVILLE The city now has a store where walk-in customers can buy refillable household products. 

    “Zero waste” is commonly heard around concerts, festivals and Earth Day events, but now it is easier to make it a daily priority.  

    KnoxFill opened a 1,600-square-foot store April 8 in South Knoxville at 3211 South Haven Road.

    The company uses reusable glass containers for purchasing common household goods such as shampoo and detergent, like the way you might buy bulk foods. Hellbender Press previously reported on this business. 

    Their products are eco-sourced. The idea is if a container is not reused, it will either be landfilled, incinerated, end up as litter, or recycled, which has its own set of issues. That’s on the back side of the waste stream. Refillable glass containers also combat pollution and waste on the front side by eliminating the petrochemicals needed to produce and ship all the plastic containers needed for consumer products in the first place.  

    Prior to opening her store, owner Michaela Barnett provided her goods and services via the “milkman” method. She would refill the bottles at home and then deliver them to her customers.  

    “The milkman system was very labor intensive; we could never have the impact and scale we now have without a brick-and-mortar store,” she said.


  • Earth Day is every day, but especially this Saturday

    Southern Appalachians NASAThis photo of the Southern Appalachians was taken from 30,000 feet. “Notice how the clouds are parallel with the ridges below them. Wind near the surface blowing up the western slopes forms waves in the atmosphere. At the crest of the wave, over the ridge tops, the air has cooled sufficiently to condense into clouds. As this air descends toward the wave trough, it becomes slightly warmer and drier, inhibiting condensation.”  Seth Adams via NASA

    Earth Day activities have cooled in Knoxville over the decades. The planet has not.

    KNOXVILLE — It’s been 52 years since the modern environmental movement was born on what is now known around the world as Earth Day.

    Now reckoned to be the world’s largest secular observance, Earth Day is the climax of Earth Week (April 16 to 22), which brings together an estimated billion people around the globe working to change human behavior and push for pro-environment economic and legislative action. This year’s theme is “Invest in the planet.”

    Events marking Earth Day in Knoxville tend to vary in size and tone from year-to-year, with 2023 providing environmentally minded residents with a number of ways to celebrate Mother Earth. 

    Perhaps the most memorable of those years was the very first one, when one of the most important voices in the burgeoning environmental movement spoke on the University of Tennessee campus.

    Jane Jacobs, who is now recognized as “the godmother of the New Urbanism movement,” gave a lecture to a crowd of nearly 200 people on the topic of “Man and His Environment” at the Alumni Memorial Hall, according to Jack Neely, who heads the Knoxville History Project.


  • Hellbent: Conservation Fisheries saves what we don’t typically see

    summer2021 jon michael mollishConservation Fisheries Executive Director Bo Baxter (second from right) leads young students in an inventory of Little River fish. The “Stream School” collaboration with Little River Watershed Association gets kids in creeks and rivers.  Michael Mollish /Tennessee Valley Authority

    ‘It’s very good for the soul.’ Bo Baxter and Conservation Fisheries focus underwater to save our Southern fishes.

    This is the latest installment of an occasional series, Hellbent, profiling citizens and organizations who work to preserve and improve the Southern Appalachian environment.

    KNOXVILLE  For more than 35 years, an obscure nonprofit headquartered here has grown into one of the most quietly successful champions of ecology and environmental restoration in the Eastern United States.

    Conservation Fisheries, which occupies a 5,000-square foot facility near the Pellissippi State University campus on Division Street, has spent nearly four decades restoring native fish populations to numerous waterways damaged years ago by misguided governmental policies. 

    In fact, the mid-20th century saw wildlife officials frequently exterminating key aquatic species to make way for game fish like trout.

    “It was bad science, but it was the best they had at the time,” said Conservation Fisheries Executive Director Bo Baxter. “A lot of the central concepts of ecology, like food webs and communities, were not developed back then.”


  • Roll up your sleeves and clean our Tennessee River waterways on April 15

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    KNOXVILLE — Volunteer registration is open for the 34th Ijams River Rescue on Saturday, April 15, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A severe weather date is set for Saturday, April 22.

    Ijams Nature Center’s annual event removes tons of trash and tires from sites along the Tennessee River and its creek tributaries. Sites are typically located in Knox, Anderson, Blount and Loudon counties.

    “During this cleanup, between 500-1,000 volunteers come together to make a tangible, positive difference in their community,” Ijams Development Director Cindy Hassil said. “It’s eye-opening to participate because you really get to see what ends up in our waterways. Hopefully it makes people more aware of how they dispose of trash and recyclables, and inspires them to look for ways to reduce the amount of waste they create.”

    There are cleanup sites on land, along the shoreline (boots/waders recommended) and on the water (personal kayaks/canoes required).


  • (Quick update): Orange STEM: UT links East Tennessee students with Science, Technical, Engineering and Math studies

    327549472 642836650863409 3091744227317001155 nHigh school students from across East Tennessee got to check out the latest career offerings in fields like robotics and virtual reality at the Jan. 21 Big Orange STEM event.  JJ Stambaugh/Hellbender Press

    The TN Lunabotics, science and sustainability get together at BOSS event

    Updated March 2023 with notes from a reader:

    My name is Allison, and I am a teaching volunteer with Students For Research. I am reaching out because our class found your website very useful while researching STEM resources that can help students discover the various aspects of science, technology, engineering and math. Many of our current students are interested in learning more about how topics associated with STEM work, especially in relation to online research, either for school or for their future careers. Your website ended up being featured by our students, so we wanted to notify you and say thank you!

    As a part of the assignment, one of our students, Becky, did some research on her own time and found this informative page for more STEM using this resource. The team found it helpful as it provided guidance on how libraries can introduce children to STEM and continue to provide resources as they progress through their education. 

    I was hoping you would be able to include this resource on your website, even if it's only for a short time. I think your other visitors might find it helpful, and it also helps our group of students cite appropriate resources and stay engaged whenever outreach yields positive feedback everyone can see. Please let me know if you would be willing to add it so I can share the exciting news with Sophie and the rest of her fellow students. I appreciate your help!

    KNOXVILLE What do environmental, social and economic sustainability have in common?

    There are numerous ways to answer that question, but for those who pay close attention to education or economics it’s an accepted fact that the future belongs to societies that invest heavily in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). 

    That’s why educators at all levels are pushing students towards those subjects at every opportunity, as was evidenced Jan. 21 at Big Orange STEM Saturday (BOSS) at the University of Tennessee.

    About 150 high school students picked from communities across East Tennessee spent much of their Saturday at John C. Hodges Library, getting a first-hand taste of what awaits them should they choose to pursue careers in STEM through the UT system.


  • The real Wild Ones and others are geared for a Chattanooga symposium

    The Tennessee Valley Chapter of The Wild Ones is accepting registrations for the spring workshop and symposium at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga University Center, set for March 17 and 18.

    The nature journaling workshop is Friday afternoon, March 17, and will be conducted by Jannise Ray, author of “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood.”

    The symposium takes place on March 18. Speakers include:

    The Wild Ones will hold their Native Plant Sale and Expo at the First Horizon Pavilion on March 25. Ten regional native plant nurseries will participate, along with several local and regional exhibitors and vendors. Food will be available from food trucks.  

    The Wild Ones is a national organization focused on native plants and natural landscaping. The Tennessee Valley Chapter is organized in Southeast Tennessee.

    — Ray Zimmerman


  • Get a free virtual science lesson in the Smokies this Thursday

    A rundown about science efforts in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is set for March 2.

    You can learn about myriad scientific studies ongoing in the Smokies from the comfort of your own home.

    The park and Discover Life in America are presenting this virtual event from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Register for free on Zoom.

    Attendees will “learn about a wide variety of scientific topics, from natural history and weather to geology and more, from researchers currently working in the Smokies,” according to an announcement from DLIA.

    The schedule is likely to change, but a tentative schedule is available on the DLIA website.

    — Ben Pounds


  • The electric-vehicle revolution brings environmental uncertainty at every turn

    TVApamphlet

     

    As demand for electric vehicles soars, several roadblocks have emerged

    This article was originally published by The Revelator 

    Manufacturers, governments and consumers are lining up behind electric vehicles — with sales rising 60% in 2022, and at least 17 states are considering a California-style ban on gas cars in the years ahead. Scientists say the trend is a key part of driving down the transportation sector’s carbon emissions, which could fall by as much as 80% by 2050 under aggressive policies. But while EVs are cleaner than gas cars in the long run, they still carry environmental and human-rights baggage, especially associated with mining.

    “If you want a lot of EVs, you need to get minerals out of the ground,” says Ian Lange, director of the Energy and Economics Program at the Colorado School of Mines.


  • You can help Knoxville become a wood-powered tree city

    image0This is a basic breakdown on the social benefits associated with robust tree canopy in cities, including the city center of Knoxville, shown here.  Knoxville City Government

    City kicks off ambitious project to expand the tree canopy that benefits us all

    KNOXVILLE — The people in this city sure seem to love their trees.

    There is at least one tree for every two people who live within the city limits, but officials say they want to add even more over the next 20 years. 

    How many should be planted is currently up in the air, as is the right mix of species and where they should go.

    Those are just some of the questions that will be answered in coming months as the Knoxville Urban Forest Master Plan is developed by officials from the city and the non-profit group Trees Knoxville in conjunction with several other agencies and interested citizens.


  • Hellbent Profile: If you pollute the Tennessee River, Chris Irwin is coming for you

    Chris IrwinChris Irwin poses by the Tennessee River as a TVA vessel makes its way downstream. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

    From the courthouse to the river, Chris Irwin strives for purity

    This is the first installment of an occasional series, Hellbent, profiling citizens who work to preserve and improve the Southern Appalachian environment.

    KNOXVILLE — Chris Irwin scarfed some french fries and drank a beer and told me about his plans to save the Tennessee River.

    We sat at a riverside restaurant downtown between the bridges. Not even carp came up to eat a stray fry, but a mallard family hit the free starch hard.

    I asked him what he saw as we looked out over the river in the still heat of late summer.

    “You know what I don’t see? he said. “People swimming.” It was truth. Nobody was fishing either, in the heart of a metro area pushing a million people. Signs warning against swimming and fishing weren’t readily visible, but he said an instinctive human revulsion likely makes such warnings unnecessary.

    We all know it’s an industrial drainage ditch.”


  • Food myths hurt Mother Earth
     Save money and our planet with tips from  Cheddar News

    The average American family of four annually spends more than $2,000 on food they never eat!

    Nearly one in nine people suffer from hunger worldwide.

    Agriculture contributes to global greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and soil degradation.

    Climate change increases crop losses.

    One third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted.

    It’s not just the food that’s wasted.

    Consider the energy wasted to grow, process and transport it.

    That all contributes to climate change, food shortages and to the rising costs of food, energy and health care.

    Food waste stresses our environment, humanity and the economy.

    — EarthSolidarity™


  • Plant native species to help the world just outside your door

    IMG 3876Gerry Moll is seen in the native garden of his home in the 4th and Gill neighborhood of Knoxville.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

    People are restoring native plants on their properties. You should, too.

    ‘There are a lot of messes out there and this is something that you can do right at home that has a positive effect.’

    KNOXVILLE — If you want to help native wildlife and attract it to your yard, plant some native plants and kick back on your porch and watch them grow. That’s a good place to start.

    That’s the message from Native Plant Rescue Squad founders Gerry Moll and Joy Grissom.

    People walking by Moll’s garden in the Fourth and Gill neighborhood off Broadway just north of the city center will see tall plants; not hedges or other foreign plants, but various short trees and native flowers. It looks like an explosion of growth on both sides of the sidewalk, but it’s not chaos.


  • Citizen scientists are taking stock in Smokies, and the inventory keeps increasing

    1 smokies most wanted infographic credit Emma Oxford GSMA

    This story was provided by Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

    Next demonstration on Thursday, Oct. 20

    GATLINBURG — Great Smoky Mountains National Park is celebrating the success of a community science project led by nonprofit partner Discover Life in America (DLiA) called Smokies Most Wanted. The initiative encourages visitors to record life they find in the park through the iNaturalist nature app. DLiA and the park use these data points to map species range, track exotic species, and even discover new kinds of life in the park. 

    “iNaturalist usage in the Smokies has skyrocketed from just four users in 2011, to 3,800 in 2020, to now more than 7,100 users,” said Will Kuhn, DLIA’s director of science and research. 

    In August, the project reached a milestone, surpassing 100,000 records of insects, plants, fungi, and other Smokies life submitted through the app. Among them are 92 new species not previously seen in the park.


  • Wild animals just aren’t that into you. Give them space or suffer the consequences.

    284114AC 1DD8 B71C 0722E2E4CA635D1FOriginalA radio-collared bull elk is seen at rest in Cataloochee Valley.  Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Please don’t feed or get attacked by the animals

    This story was originally published by The Conversation.

    Millions of Americans enjoy observing and photographing wildlife near their homes or on trips. But when people get too close to wild animals, they risk serious injury or even death. It happens regularly, despite the threat of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.

    These four articles from The Conversation’s archive offer insights into how wild animals view humans and how our presence affects nearby animals and birds — plus a scientist’s perspective on what’s wrong with wildlife selfies. 


  • Knoxville is a great city to recycle

    recycling postcardCity of Knoxville

    Recycling rates are at a high, but challenges remain 

    This article was provided by city of Knoxville Deputy Communications Director Eric Vreeland.

    KNOXVILLE — How do city residents do recycling? Successfully, enthusiastically and smartly, according to two measurements:

    — Nearly 55 percent of eligible households are now signed up for curbside recycling, which is an all-time high representing about 33,000 families.

    — A Feb. 11, 2022 analysis found that non-recyclable materials make up only 16.8 percent of what goes into Knoxville curbside recycling carts. That’s better than the national average of 25 percent.


  • Please don’t poison the humble carpenter bees

    carpenter bee penstemon lgA male carpenter bee takes a break from building its nest to get nourishing nectar from the base of a penstemon.  Juian Cowles/U.S. Forest Service

    Please don’t wage chemical warfare on these busy bees

    KNOXVILLE — Old George Harvey lived two houses upstream from where I grew up on Baskins Creek in Gatlinburg. He had a strange obsession. Using empty jars, Old George would catch bees he found on the flowers and gardens around his house, screw on the lid and line the jars up on a ledge inside his screened-in porch. He’d then watch the bees die.

    We kids thought it was odd and cruel. We’d plot slipping into his porch and freeing all the bees like Elliot freed the frogs from the classroom in the movie “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.”


  • Ancient river, new threats: Water quality officials declare 19 miles of French Broad River in NC impaired by pollutants
    french broad river jason sandfordRecreational uses of the French Broad River in Asheville, including tubing, kayaking and canoeing, have grown dramatically in recent years. Jason Sandford/Ashevegas Hot Sheet

    Booming construction and development, combined with more frequent heavy rains and an aging stormwater system, continue to threaten the age-old Appalachian river

    This story was originally published by Jason Sandford of the Ashevegas Hot Sheet.

    ASHEVILLE — North Carolina water quality officials declared a 19-mile section of the French Broad River in Buncombe County as officially “impaired” because of fecal coliform levels found during recent testing. It’s a sobering alarm bell (though there have been plenty of warning signs, as you’ll see below.) In Asheville, interest in the river as an economic force and tourist destination has never been higher. (The confluence of the French Broad and Holston rivers forms the Tennessee River above Knoxville.)

    The designation will come as no surprise to even casual observers of the wide, northward-flowing river. Often, it runs a chocolate brown color, a clear sign of the sediment and other pollutants running through the waterway.


  • The gritty forever fight to save our soil continues in Tennessee

    imageErich Henry and Julia Konkel of the Blount County Soil Conservation District pose by a recent project.  Blount County Soil Conservation District

    Erich Henry and Julia Konkel anchor East Tennessee soil

    MARYVILLE — The Dust Bowl was a time of extreme drought in the Southern Plains in the 1930s. The dry topsoil whipped by winds created  the infamous “bowl of dust.” It polluted the air and made it nearly impossible to grow crops or maintain livestock.

    East Tennessee gets more rain than the Southern Plains but regional farmers to this day unknowingly use bad agricultural practices.

    Blount County Soil Conservation District’s Director Erich Henry doesn’t want history to repeat itself.


  • Quaff a recycled brew and check your waste line this weekend

    IMG 3189The city of Knoxville has started a pilot composting project for residents and restaurants. Come meet cool people and learn more about limiting food waste and sip some beers April 9 at Crafty Bastard Brewery. City of Knoxville 

    Learn how to reduce food waste Saturday at Crafty Bastard Brewery 

    Paige Travis is a public information specialist for the city of Knoxville.

    KNOXVILLE — The Waste and Resources Management Office invites the public to learn how to reduce food waste and drink a special brew Saturday, April 9 at the culmination of Tennessee Food Waste Awareness Week.

    “The city of Knoxville is committed to reducing the amount of food waste that we put into our landfill,” said Waste and Resources Manager Patience Melnik, whose department recently launched the Knoxville Compost Pilot Project.

    Hellbender Press previously reported on efforts to reduce food waste at the University of Tennessee.


  • Knoxville to citizens: ’Post up!

    City announces plan to encourage composting by residents and businesses

    KNOXVILLE — What do you do with your meatless leftover food scraps?

    Sometimes here at Hellbender Press global headquarters in South Knox we throw them in the yard for winter critters; occasionally sneak some to the dogs; bury them in the vegetable garden; or sometimes slip them into the relatively unused backyard composter by the cat graves way in the back. 

    It seems such a waste to throw it away or even produce it in the first place, and centralized landfill food scraps spew methane and linger for years. It’s a big gnarly stewpot. 


  • Organized crime put a hit on global forests — along with beef, soy, palm oil and timber interests

    santa cruz time lapse 0 

    We are cutting through forests we need more than ever

    This article was originally published in The Conversation. Jennifer Devine is an associate professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Texas State University.

    Every year the world loses an estimated 25 million acres (10 million hectares) of forest, an area larger than the state of Indiana.

    Nearly all of it is in the tropics

    Tropical forests store enormous quantities of carbon and are home to at least two-thirds of the world’s living species, so deforestation has disastrous consequences for climate change and conservation. Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, slowing its buildup in the atmosphere — but when they are burned or logged, they release their stored carbon, fueling further warming. Tropical forest loss generates nearly 50% more greenhouse gases than does the global transportation sector.


  • Tennessee Aquarium floats citizen-scientist app to extend the reach of public research

    Black Crappie in the Tennessee AquariumA black crappie is seen in the Tennessee Aquarium. Citizen scientists across the region can now plug their fish findings into a new database. Courtesy Tennessee Aquarium

    So you want to be a citizen scientist? There’s a new app for that!

    The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute wants to assess the status of various fish populations throughout the Southeast so it released a new app to help outdoor folks and anglers identify the fish they spot, report the sighting, and enter their discoveries into a regional fish database.

    The Freshwater Information Network (FIN) accepts and includes data for three major watersheds: The Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, and Mobile Bay.

    Tennesseans may be familiar with the two rivers, but may think of Mobile Bay as a distant place with no connection to them, but its headwaters touch Tennessee in the Conasauga River. With its geographic isolation, the Conasauga is home to species of fish found nowhere else in the world.


  • Limbless bears break hearts but donuts may be worse than leg traps

    83644084 179844060054345 4751008813274890240 n 705x550Courtesy of Help Asheville Bears 

    By any other name: From poaching to cars and traps, black bears face diverse human threats in Southern Appalachians 

    Activists and state agencies agree bear poaching is an age-old problem in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, but they diverge when it comes to some key aspects of the crime and its prevention.

    The non-profit Help Asheville Bears is raising awareness of threats to bears on both sides of the state lines and getting coverage on local media outlets like this piece on Knoxville-based WBIR. Its message has also appeared on a billboard in Sevierville. The Arden, N.C.-based group offers a tip line, rewards and also supports what could be described as a self-styled anti-poaching militia.

    “Bear poaching is a big deal. It happens anywhere where there are bears,” said Jody Williams, the founder of Help Asheville Bears, which is responding to what its members see as an increasing threat to the very symbol of wild Southern Appalachia. HAB is especially concerned about trapping that Williams said has left limbless bears limping throughout the mountains.


  • Knoxville sustainability center posts positive organic growth

    KnoxNews: Sustainable Future Center in Vestal is growing and growing

    David Bolt started the Sustainable Future Center horticulture and environmental education center six years ago on a half-acre with a tiny house, organic garden, horticultural demonstrations and a little fish farm.

    Now he and his allies are expanding the center’s mission with makers markets, camps and other educational programs. The site on Ogle Avenue, a busy urban street in South Knoxville, now is now home to automated organic chicken coops, a chainlink fence transformed into a living trellis, summer camps and educational programs.


  • Michaela Barnett wants to help break your consumer chains

    Michaela BarnettMichaela Barnett is the founder and owner of KnoxFill. She is seen here outside her South Knoxville home-based business in this submitted photo.

    KnoxFill offers Knoxville home delivery and pickup of sustainably sourced personal-care products in refillable containers

    Michaela Barnett has traveled the world, is an accomplished science writer and editor and is closing in on a doctorate from the University of Virginia.

    Now she’s a business owner with a focus on sustainability and waste reduction and that has proven to be her true raison d’etre. She gets out of bed with joyous purpose and determination. And she sings to start her day.

    “My husband says it’s like living with this annoying Disney character,” she said with a light laugh.   

    “I’ve got so much energy and joy and excitement,” said Barnett, who launched KnoxFill in March after eight months of research and preparation and works out of her home to fill multiple orders each day.

    KnoxFill offers sustainably sourced personal-care items, detergents and other everyday household products in reusable glass containers for pickup or delivery. The product line includes shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotions, laundry detergent, and dishwashing and castile soap. Barnett even offers safety razors, bamboo toothbrushes and refillable toothpaste “bites.”


  • Keep your butts out of the Tennessee River

    Cigarette butt recycling bin 4

    Dollywood joins Tennessee Aquarium effort to limit the introduction of cigarette butts to our shared waterways.

    “As all humans need access to clean water, it’s an incredibly important treasure to protect.” — Dr. Anna George, Tennessee Aquarium vice president of conservation science and education.

    Cigarette butts are everywhere, and are perhaps so familiar they go unnoticed by the millions of people who pass them on our streets and roads.

    Not only are they unsightly, they contaminate our water resources — the puddles after a sudden rainstorm, the streams that flow through our landscapes, and the stormwater drains that ultimately lead to the Tennessee River. The butts quickly break down, polluting water with “tiny plastic fibers and a devil’s cocktail of chemical compounds,” according to the Tennessee Aquarium.


  • Face your fears: It’s time to have a global conversation about spider conservation

    Sue Cameron USFWSU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Susan Cameron searches moss mats for the spruce-fir moss spider in this USFWS photo.

    European spidey senses should give us pause across the pond.

    This story was originally published by The Revelator.

    Despite their enormous ecological values, new research reveals we don’t understand how most arachnid species are faring right now — or do much to protect them.

    Spiders need our help, and we may need to overcome our biases and fears to make that happen.

    “The feeling that people have towards spiders is not unique,” says Marco Isaia, an arachnologist and associate professor at the University of Turin in Italy. “Nightmares, anxieties and fears are very frequent reactions in ‘normal’ people,” he concedes.


  • Wildlife rehabbers return birds to the sky in Chattanooga

    0615181554 1

    Restoring wings to rise above the Earth again

    I think the most amazing and rewarding thing about raptor rehab is taking a bird that's literally at death's door to a full recovery and then releasing her back to her wild home.” Alix Parks, Wildlife rehabilitator

    Alix Parks became a certified wildlife rehabilitator 25 years ago. Her new career was sparked by a class in wildlife rehabilitation at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga taught by Debbie Lipsey.

    Parks also counts Lynne McCoy and Katie Cottrell of the Clinch River Raptor Center as early mentors. At first, she prepared food for the animals and worked with any animal brought to her. She is now a certified rehabilitator and has specialized in birds of prey for 16 years.


  • Natural 911: Knoxville Native Plant Rescue Squad whisks threatened plants to safety

    IMG 0996Joy Grissom (left) and Gerry Moll pose for a photograph with their collection of rescued native plants at Knoxville Botanical Gardens.  Photos by Anna Lawrence/Hellbender Press  

    Joy Grissom and Gerry Moll: Preserving East Tennessee’s natural heritage with shovels and wheelbarrows

    If there’s a massive ecological disturbance in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?

    The Knoxville Native Plant Rescue Squad, of course. 

    Joy Grissom and Gerry Moll spent the past six years identifying, digging, hauling and muscling native East Tennessee plants to salvation from construction, grading and logging sites.

    The duo has saved thousands of plants and their communities from certain demise. They have plucked plants to safety from areas ranging from a 170-acre logging operation in Cocke County to relatively small commercial developments in Knox County.


  • Saving America’s “Amazon” in Alabama

    Book cover Saving Americas Amazon in Alabama

    Alabama is home to remarkably diverse ecosystems: They face dire threats.

    This story was originally published by The Revelator.

    When longtime environmental journalist Ben Raines started writing a book about the biodiversity in Alabama, the state had 354 fish species known to science. When he finished writing 10 years later, that number had jumped to 450 thanks to a bounty of new discoveries. Crawfish species leaped from 84 to 97 during the same time.

    It’s indicative of a larger trend: Alabama is one of the most biodiverse states in the country, but few people know it. And even scientists are still discovering the rich diversity of life that exists there, particularly in the Mobile River basin.

    All this newly discovered biodiversity is also gravely at risk from centuries of exploitation, which is what prompted Raines to write his new book, “Saving America’s Amazon.”


  • Bradford pears suck, and a South Carolina county is offering a bounty, dead or alive
    WBIR: County bounty offered to rein in common nonnative landscaping trees

    Confession: Your friendly neighborhood Hellbender Press editor bought a house for his family that featured rows of well-established Bradford pear trees. While they are not my favorite, are distinctly alien and should be made to leave this world, they provide an effective privacy screen. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat: Why eliminate healthy trees and expose your property? Let ’em ultimately die and rot, I guess. And plant natives elsewhere. WBIR also has suggestions for natives to replace Bradford pears.

    Maybe we’ll figure it out, but in the meantime here’s a story about a South Carolina county offering a bounty on Bradfords.

    Interestingly, WBIR has posted numerous, unflattering stories about Bradford pears over the last couple of years. Seems they have an editorial grudge. Good. Keep rolling with it.

     

  • It’s time we start wearing our hearts on our sleeves!

    In the spirit of Thinking Globally, Acting Locally, consider what you can do to help Mother Earth and its inhabitants.

    Adopting a more sustainable life style to reduce one’s personal ecological footprint is easier to wish for than to accomplish. Some measures that would reap a significant  environmental benefit, such as making a home more energy efficient, may require a substantial investment of physical effort, time and money that will pay back over time only.

    Deliberate choice of clothing, however, is a simple course of action for anyone to start making a big difference in social justice, climate impacts and environmental conservation.


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About

  • Hellbender Press

    The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

    (ONLINE version 0.9)
    Copyright © 2020-2023 Hellbender Press | Foundation for Global Sustainability
     
    Hellbender Press
    P.O. Box 1101
    Knoxville, Tennessee
    37901-1101
    865-465-9691
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
     
    Editor and Publisher
    Thomas Fraser
     
    Editorial Board
    Bo Baxter
    Jasen Bradley
    Chris Kane
    Wolf Naegeli
    Lauren Parker
    Amanda Womac
     

    Hellbender Press: The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia is a digital environmental news service with a focus on the Southern Appalachian bioregion. It aggregates relevant stories from across the news media space and provides original news, features and commentary.

    Espousing the “Think Globally, Act Locally” ethos of FGS, Hellbender Press promotes the conservation and study of the environment and protections for air, water, climate, natural areas, and other resources that are critical to human health and a robust, resilient economy.

    The Hellbender also champions civil and human rights, especially in matters of environmental justice, equity of access to natural resources and the right to a clean environment.

    Hellbender Press is a self-organizing project of the Foundation for Global Sustainability’s Living Sustainably Program. All donations made for Hellbender Press to FGS are tax-deductible. We offer a free environmental news and information site, but grants and charitable contributions are encouraged and needed to support our work. Much of the content is provided on a volunteer basis by individuals and organizations that share a common cause.

    Hellbender Press encourages the submission of original and relevant articles and photography for consideration to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    For more details on the history and objectives of Hellbender Press, watch the interview of Thomas Fraser in Knoxille Community Media’s “Serving Knoxville” series.


  • Our name

    The hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), a native salamander, is an indicator species. It requires clear, oxygen-rich water to respire, find its prey, and reproduce.

    The presence of hellbenders in a stream indicates good water quality and a healthy intact ecosystem.

    Hellbender Press aspires to help you discover the degrees of resilience and sustainability of your community, our bioregion and planet Earth.

    Hellbender Press informs about what is beneficial for life — here and elsewhere.

    It also points out where we must do better to rescue and restore what can still be saved.


  • Foundation for Global Sustainability

    fgs logo.art color

    FGS is a transdisciplinary educational non-profit advocacy organization. It works to restore the balance between human activities and the natural life support systems of the Earth. 

    FGS publications, special reports, events and outreach inform and educate the public about vital regional and global issues and how they interdepend. 

    FGS monitors and addresses social and environmental issues in the Upper Tennessee Valley and the Southern Appalachian Mountains. It fosters and supports conservation initiatives, including 

    — action committees that address egregious assaults, on our natural heritage for example, which require temporary assistance only

    — campaigns by other nonprofits, such as

    — groups that want to address systemic problems in a systematic fashion. Among the latter, three evolved to establish themselves as independent 501(c)(3) organization: