The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

EarthSolidarity!™ (10)

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reginasantoreRegina Santore with the Wild Ones Smoky Mountains Chapter puts garlic mustard into a bag during an April volunteer event along a greenway in Oak Ridge.  Ben Pounds/Hellbender Press

Volunteers fight exotic and invasive garlic mustard on Oak Ridge greenway 

OAK RIDGE — Plants from around the world are overrunning the Southeast’s wild places, causing problems for native flora and fauna.

It’s a problem that’s grabbed the attention and work of dedicated organizations. One of them, the Tennessee Invasive Plant Council has many strategies to solve this problem: volunteer weed-pulling events, guides to help gardeners find native plants from which to choose, and even legislation. Its vice president, Jamie Herold, has many thoughts on the issue. She was eager to share them over pizza after a morning of pulling one such invasive, garlic mustard, at an event in Oak Ridge organized by Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, and Greenways Oak Ridge

The event involved pulling garlic mustard, a plant originally from Europe, from the edge of the woods behind apartments on West Vanderbilt Avenue. This area includes the Wildflower Greenway, a trail full of wildflowers that locals have been eager to protect from the garlic mustard’s domination. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 30 April 2024 01:14

Adaptive program participants in GSMNPAdaptive program participants in Great Smoky Mountains National Park during a backcountry trip. The park plans to expand its program this year with multiple outings throughout America’s most-visited national park.  National Park Service

Adaptive ranger-led programs include trail, lake and camping outings

GATLINBURG — The National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with Catalyst Sports, Knox County, Kampgrounds of America Foundation and Friends of the Smokies, will expand adaptive ranger-led programs in 2024. Using assistive technology, the ranger-led programs are designed for visitors of all abilities and their families to learn about the natural and cultural history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.       

“We strive to create equal and accessible experiences for visitors of all abilities in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “And we are thrilled to work with our partners to expand the adaptive programs and offer off-road wheelchairs.”  

Expanding on the adaptive programs offered in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the first time in 2023, this year’s lineup includes three opportunities for trail outings, two for biking, one for kayaking and one overnight camping trip:  
— June 8-9: Hike Cooper Road Trail and Camp Overnight at Backcountry Campsite No. 1
— June 22: Kayaking from Fontana Marina
— July 13: Hazel Creek Hike and Boat Tour
— Sept. 7: Hike Bradley Fork Trail
— Sept. 14: Mountain Bike at Deep Creek Trail
— Sept. 15: Mountain Bike at Forge Creek Road
— Oct. 5: Hike Middle Prong Trail or Little River Trail 
Last modified on Tuesday, 18 June 2024 11:33
Thursday, 18 April 2024 06:35

Happy Earth Day to you

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2017 Eclipse GIF dscovr epic 21 aug 2017 solar eclipse shadowThis image of Earth captures the 2017 eclipse shadow.  NASA

Get dirty. Get wet. Have fun. Love your mother.

Celebrate our planet’s beauty and bounty at one of many Earth Day events in the region this weekend and beyond. You can pick up trash, kayak a river and even get sustainable fashion tips and tricks. 

The official observation of Earth Day 2024 is Monday, April 22, but ways to give back and respect the Earth abound for days before and after. Here’s a sampling of observations and activities. And remember: Every day should be Earth Day.


— Little River Watershed Association plans its annual cleanup and paddle for 12-4 p.m. Saturday, April 20. Participants will put in at Peery’s Mill near Townsend and remove trash from the river for about three hours before taking out at Sevierville Bridge. Albright Grove Brewery will offer beer after the cleanup. A limited number of kayaks are available for use, and a shuttle is available. Get more information and sign up here.

— Keep Knoxville Beautiful will hold the South Knoxville Community Cleanup from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, April 20 starting at Mary Vestal Park, 522 Maryville Pike, Knoxville. The group is removing litter from South Knoxville streams, roads and parks. All reserved spots are full, but Amanda Seale, director of programs for Keep Knoxville Beautiful said her group still welcomes help from anyone who shows up.

— The third annual Fleurish: A Sustainable Fashion Event (and Fundraiser) at Ijams Nature Center will bring eco-friendly and sustainable Punk vs. Funk designs to the runway Sunday, April 21. Tickets are $30 and are available at All proceeds support Ijams Nature Center. The cocktail hour from 6 until 7 p.m. will feature photo ops on the “green” carpet, education stations and information about conservation efforts in the fashion realm, as well as a cash bar featuring punk and funk signature cocktails, and food from Coffee & Chocolate, Cafe 4, and The Kennedy. The fashion show will feature clothing with sustainable, reused and recycled materials from 25 designers. Following the fashion show, attendees will be able to meet the artists, designers, and models on the nature center’s hillside. Brent Hyder and Duck Experience will provide live music. Ijams Visitor Services Director Sarah Brobst said there may be some surprise elements as well.

“Fleurish shows how the average consumer can make changes to their day-to-day lives while never losing sight of the beauty of nature and the human experience,” she said. She encouraged the audience to come dressed in their favorite punk or funk fashions.

— The University of Tennessee will host an Earth Day Festival from 11 until 2 p.m. April 22 at the Student Union Plaza.

“Come meet campus and community organizations, enter some giveaways, participate in sustainable activities, and more!,” according to organizers. Other Earth Week events will continue on and near the campus that week. A full list of them is online

Last modified on Tuesday, 23 April 2024 00:14

18698429 1589377187741595 2898476012201087368 nHellbender Press editor and publisher Thomas Fraser takes a break during a kayak run on the Pigeon River. A new study bolsters the idea that one way to turn people on to the importance of nature is to get them outside.  Jeremy Fraser/Hellbender Press

New research backs up conventional wisdom that getting people outdoors inspires them to conserve nature.

This story was originally published by The Revelator.

The natural world faces many threats, but to many environmentalists, none are so baffling and heartbreaking as public apathy toward those threats.

How do we get more people to care about the natural world so they’re moved to stand up and defend it? The answer is complex, of course, because humans are complex. But part of it can be found in a simple truth: Some people don’t care much about the natural world because they haven’t experienced nature directly.

For years experts have pointed to a potential solution: Getting people to spend more time in nature, they say, can help make them care more about threats to our environment and adopt more pro-environment behaviors. 

Last modified on Thursday, 25 April 2024 23:56

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.

Last modified on Saturday, 23 March 2024 21:18
Wednesday, 03 January 2024 20:06

RESCHEDULED: Mudchasers wanted: Sign up to track pollution and sediment pumps

Chris Irwin

KNOXVILLE — Join Chris Irwin and others to learn how to help track the origin of sediments and other pollutants in area waterways.

The meeting was postponed by snow and is now set for 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at Barleys, 200 East Jackson Ave., Knoxville.

“Spring is coming and with it rain and mud into the creeks and streams around Knoxville. We think a handful of people working together can stop a lot of mud going into the Tennessee River.

“This meeting is to show maps, a free app for gps pics, and a process to follow mud to its source so we can rat out the developers and others being sloppy with the health of our streams. We have the technology.” 
Last modified on Friday, 26 January 2024 00:11
Sunday, 10 December 2023 08:30

EarthSolidarity! quest announced

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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)

Last modified on Monday, 11 December 2023 23:08
Monday, 27 November 2023 01:17


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Everyone makes a difference

The EarthSolidarity! (ES!) project is building a regional portal and model program that will support community members in developing strong individual and cooperative initiatives to adopt more sustainable and resilient ways of consumption, production, operation, interaction and exchange.

ES! initiatives may range from the personal to the global level

The action emphasis focuses on local or regional implementation, yet not without a clear awareness and idea of how it will contribute to the solution of a concerning planetary problem.

By following the Think Globally, Act Locally ethos of solidarity with Mother Earth, all its people and all other forms of life, participants can identify immediate, practical, locally adapted opportunities to achieve more effective improvements than governmental mandates could and would.

Averting planetary catastrophes

For decades, concerned citizens have urged governments to take action preventing global environmental crises. With minimal success!

With every day it becomes clearer how we are already engulfed in an incipient polycrisis.

It is high time for everyone to do their best by themselves as well as with their family, neighbors, coworkers and everyone else they can motivate and engage!

Hellbender Press provides background information on local and regional issues. It emphasizes their implications for ecosystems and the global commons, and it highlights sustainable solutions.

Governmental regulations tend to be heavy-handed, cumbersome, difficult and slow to take effect. They often are too general to take advantage of unique local opportunities to do better and to avoid unanticipated hardships that could be effectively circumvented by stakeholder cooperation on the ground.

Last modified on Tuesday, 28 November 2023 01:14


Annual Bazillion Blooms campaign focused on planting a Dogwood in every yard across East Tennessee

It’s planting time in Tennessee! Dogwood Arts is on a mission to Keep Knoxville Blooming by selling dogwood trees through their annual Bazillion Blooms program. Bare-root trees (2-4ft tall) are on sale now for $25 each (or $20 each when five or more are purchased). The trees are disease-resistant, April-blooming, and available in either white or pink flowering varieties. Orders can be placed year-round, but trees are distributed in the fall to coincide with optimal planting time for successful growing.

Trees ordered through Nov 16 will be available for pick-up at the Dogwood Arts office (123 W Jackson Avenue) on Friday, Dec. 8 from 10AM-4PM and Saturday, Dec 9 from 9AM-12PM. Tree orders can be placed online at or by calling Dogwood Arts at (865) 637-4561. Since 2009, over 14,500 dogwood trees have been added to East Tennessee’s landscape through the Bazillion Blooms program.

Last modified on Wednesday, 20 December 2023 00:57

Lunker sturgeon are out there again: report your catch to receive a certificate

Email sturgeon.reports (at) an image of your catch-and-release with the date, location and your name to obtain your official certificate!  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WBIR: Holston River sturgeon surging

The population of lake sturgeon, a survivor since the Cretaceous Era that barely escaped the ravages of modern dams and reservoirs, is on the upswing in the Holston River and other branches and tributaries of the Tennessee River system. The last record of the fish in the valley before restoration efforts began is about 1960, according to WBIR.

Significantly older fish were identified during a recent inventory of sturgeon, giving hope that some fish were closing in on reproductive maturity. The gradual recovery is largely the result of Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee Valley Authority restoration efforts, WBIR reports.

“It makes our valley richer; that fish is supposed to be here,” one researcher told WBIR about the significance of the so-far successful restoration of native sturgeon habitats.