The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Tara Lohan

Rue MappOutdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp.  Bethanie Hines via Revelator

Black people like nature, too. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at outdoor magazines before Outdoor Afro got started.

This story was originally published by The Revelator. There are Southeastern chapters of Outdoor Afro, including Knoxville.

If time and money weren’t an issue, what would you do?

That’s what Rue Mapp’s mentor asked her as she faced the completion of her college degree and an uncertain job market.

“I’d probably start a website to reconnect Black people to the outdoors,” Mapp replied, a story she recounts in her new book Nature Swagger. Soon after that she launched the blog Outdoor Afro, which began with stories of her own experiences in nature. It was inspired not just by her own love of the outdoors, but of a desire to increase the visibility of Black people enjoying those spaces.

Friday, 14 October 2022 13:40

5 big threats to the world’s rivers

fresh water Conservation FisheriesA biologist with Conservation Fisheries surveys a stretch of Little River near Walland, Tennessee to determine fish viability and identify rare species for transplantation. Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

Human activities have imperiled our waterways — along with a third of freshwater fish and other aquatic species

This story was originally published by The Revelator.

If we needed more motivation to save our ailing rivers, it could come with the findings of a recent study that determined the biodiversity crisis is most acute in freshwater ecosystems, which thread the Southern landscape like crucial veins and arteries.

Rivers, lakes and inland wetlands cover 1 percent of the Earth but provide homes for 10 percent of all its species, including one-third of all vertebrates. And many of those species are imperiled — some 27 percent of the nearly 30,000 freshwater species so far assessed by the IUCN Red List. This includes nearly one-third of all freshwater fish.

How did things get so bad? For some species it’s a single action — like building a dam. But for most, it’s a confluence of factors — an accumulation of harm — that builds for years or decades.

Dust bowl soilThe Dust Bowl of the 1930s resulted in the displacement of tons of soil in the midst of a drought similar to the one that grips the Southwest today. Library of Congress
 

Dirt is far from just dirt. It’s a foundation for life.

This story was originally published by The Revelator.

Look down. You may not see the soil beneath your feet as teeming with life, but it is.

Better scientific tools are helping us understand that dirt isn’t just dirt. Life in the soil includes microbes like bacteria and fungi; invertebrates such as earthworms and nematodes; plant roots; and even mammals like gophers and badgers who spend part of their time below ground.

It’s commonly said that a quarter of all the planet’s biodiversity lives in the soil, but that’s likely a vast understatement. Many species that reside there, particularly microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and protists, aren’t yet known to science.

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.”

Published in Voices, ES Initiatives