EarthSolidarity™ Initiatives are endeavors to which anyone can contribute in deed as well as in spirit, that
- minimize waste and environmental impacts
- increase community resilience
- respect and protect ecosystem processes and all forms of life
- contribute to good living conditions for everyone around the globe
- affirm and celebrate our interdependence and interrelatedness in the Web of Life!
Beyond festivals, sandhill cranes pass through Southeast in increasing numbers
BIRCHWOOD — Every year in mid-January, a few thousand people gather here for The Sandhill Crane Festival because the cranes have returned. The community center at Birchwood is filled with vendors selling wildlife art or promoting conservation. The nearby Cherokee Removal Memorial at Blythe Ferry offers a chance to celebrate Cherokee Culture and learn the story of indigenous people who were taken from their homes and sent on a long journey to Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, there are opportunities to see and appreciate these amazing birds through February in East Tennessee and beyond.
At least 20,000 cranes gather or pass through Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge, having come from their nesting grounds in southern Canada and the upper Midwest to winter here in the American South. Many spend the winter there, but some will continue southward to Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and the Gulf Coast.
East Tennessee SPJ chapter plans roundtable with state legislators
KNOXVILLE — The East Tennessee Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists once again will partner with the League of Women Voters Knoxville/Knox County to hold the annual legislative forum of the Knox County delegation.
The date is Saturday, Jan. 28, from 9-10:30 a.m. at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay St., in downtown Knoxville. Jesse Mayshark, an ETSPJ board member and co-founder of Compass Knox, will serve as moderator.
Coffee and breakfast bagels and pastries will be available at 8:30 a.m. and are free while they last. The event is open to the public, and the wearing of masks is optional.
— East Tennessee Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists
The TN Lunabotics, science and sustainability get together at BOSS event
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.
As yellow cardinals proliferate, are we watching evolution unfold in real time?
HARRIMAN — During the pandemic, when isolating at home became a necessity, birdwatching and bird feeders soared in popularity. Watching our avian friends come and go is entertaining, and sometimes quite surprising.
When it comes to songbirds, especially at this time of year, the northern cardinal is perhaps the most recognized and beloved.
It is the state bird of no less than seven states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.
It’s also the nickname of more sports teams than any other icon. There are the St. Louis Cardinals in baseball, and the Arizona Cardinals in professional football. In the NCAA, there are the Louisville Cardinals and 17 other colleges that sport the red mascot, as well as a gaggle of high school teams across the country.
Since we were children, we have all known what a male northern cardinal looks like. He’s bright red. Right? Yes, unless he’s bright yellow!
Finding a golden treasure usually requires a long arduous quest through terra incognito.
TVA solicits public input following release of environmental assessment for Bull Run Fossil Plant decommission
CLAXTON — Tennessee Valley Authority plans to close its Bull Run Fossil Plant (BRF) in Anderson County, but it’s still looking for public input on what comes next.
“As a large, inflexible coal unit with medium operating costs and a high forced outage rate, BRF does not fit current and likely future portfolio needs,” the federal utility said in a draft Environmental Assessment.
TVA is looking at three different options for the future of the structures still standing on the site by the Clinch River near Oak Ridge: taking down all structures; taking down some of them; or leaving everything standing. A recent report lays out the environmental consequences of each of these actions. The report, in draft form, is against that third choice, listing it as only an option for the sake of comparison.
“If the facility is left in the “as-is” condition, it likely would present a higher risk than Alternatives A or B for the potential to contaminate soil and groundwater as systems and structures degrade. As such, this alternative is not a reasonable alternative,” the draft states.
TVA stated its considering removing “all or most of the buildings and structures” on a 250-acre area. After closing the plant, but before any demolitions, TVA will begin by removing components that may be used at other TVA sites, draining of oil and fluids from equipment, taking ash out of the boilers, removing information technology assets, removing plant records and other tasks.
The Bull Run Environmental Assessment is 170 pages long and available for public review. It doesn’t directly tackle the coal ash storage conundrum that has grabbed the attention of politicians, nearby residents and environmental activists, because that issue involves separate regulations.
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.
CLAXTON — Even though TVA is about to retire Bull Run Fossil Plant, water pollution issues related to it are still up for debate.
A water discharge permit hearing took place Thursday, Jan. 12 at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation building, 761 Emory Valley Road in Oak Ridge.
The permit would, if approved, allow releases of “cooling water, process wastewater and storm water runoff” from Bull Run Fossil Plant into the Clinch River and operation of a cooling water intake system. Environmental groups have concerns.
Tennessee Valley Authority plans to retire Bull Run Fossil plant by 2023. Over several years and at meetings, both connected to TVA and organized by activist groups, citizens have voiced concerns about water quality issues due to the continued coal ash waste TVA stores on the site. In advance of this meeting, representatives of the Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Voices, Statewide Coalition for Community eMpowerment and Center for Biological Diversity all signed a letter asking for TDEC to set standards for water pollution from coal ash based on available technology.
This story will be updated.
Each year more than 600,000 people visit Ijams Nature Center
This is the second installment of an occasional series, Hellbent, profiling citizens who work to preserve and improve the Southern Appalachian environment.
KNOXVILLE — On any given day, the parking lot at Ijams Nature Center in South Knoxville is packed with cars, trucks, and buses as folks of all ages flock to hike, climb, swim and paddle its 300-plus acres of protected wildlands.
Making sure the center’s 620,000 or so annual visitors have a positive experience interacting with Mother Nature requires dozens of full-time employees plus a generous contingent of volunteers. Ensuring the complex operation stays on course and within its $1.8 million operating budget is a tough job, but Ijams Executive Director Amber Parker has been doing it for six years now and has no desire to be doing anything else.
When Amber talks about Ijams she fairly bursts with giddy, infectious energy. This is a woman who has clearly found her place in the world, and even a brief walk along any of the center’s 21 trails makes one wonder if the land itself hasn’t responded in like fashion to her devotion.
The crucial Amazon rainforest is nearing a point of no return
The Amazon has long served as a vast carbon sink, even as vegetation pumped oxygen into the atmosphere to the point it was called the “lungs of the Earth.”
But vast deforestation, despite calls to save the Amazon that originated decades ago, portends profound changes in the ecology of the huge, increasingly fragmented forest that lies mainly within Brazil.
“Just in the past half-century, 17 percent of the Amazon — an area larger than Texas — has been converted to croplands or cattle pasture. Less forest means less recycled rain, less vapor to cool the air, less of a canopy to shield against sunlight,” according to a report from Alex Cuadros.
“In one study, a team led by the researcher Paulo Brando intentionally set a series of fires in swaths of forest abutted by an inactive soy plantation. After a second burn, coincidentally during a drought year, one plot lost nearly a third of its canopy cover, and African grasses — imported species commonly used in cattle pasture — moved in.”
Updated 1/3: Conservationists express dismay as Feds conclude ‘no significant impact’ from construction of Wears Valley mountain bike complexWritten by JJ Stambaugh
Feds clear 14-mile mountain bike trail network off Foothills Parkway, but no funding is secured
GATLINBURG — Those who logged protests against a National Park Service plan to carve a 14-mile mountain bike trail network through the forest off Foothills Parkway said they still opposed the plan despite federal conclusions it would not adversely impact the natural environment of the area.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Donna Edwards, an outspoken conservationist who lives in Walland and participated in the public scoping process. “What are (the) reasons for choosing the alternative with the largest footprint and greatest environmental impact?
“I fail to understand why mountain bikers’ needs are considered to be more important than those of birders and hikers, considering the extensive mountain bike trail networks in other areas of East Tennessee.”
She said arguments against approving the Wears Valley mountain bike trails were wise and well documented.
Here is the original Hellbender Press story:
A proposed off-road bike trail in the Wears Valley section of the Foothills Parkway that would be operated by the National Park Service has overcome a procedural hurdle but appears to be no closer to actually being built due to a lack of funding.
An environmental assessment to determine the project’s potential impact on wildlife and the environment led to an official “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI), park officials said in a press release issued Thursday.
“We understand the public’s desire to have a purpose-built bike trail, and this marks a step for potential future development of a trail in Wears Valley,” said Cassius Cash, superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “Having the signed FONSI allows us the opportunity to explore potential funding paths for both the construction and the annual operational costs.”
- wears valley mountain biking proposal
- mountain bike park
- mountain biking in knoxville
- smokies mountain biking
- can you mountain bike in the smokies
- jj stambaugh
- east tennessee mountain biking
- foothills parkway
- cassius cash
- bike trail
- environmental assessment
- great smoky mountains national park
- offroad biking
- public comment
- recreational development
Updated 12/27: Temperatures climb and snow melts as bitter cold finally moves out of Southern AppalachiansWritten by JJ Stambaugh
Southern cities emerge from frigid airmass after Christmas weekend of brutal cold and snow
KNOXVILLE — Temperatures rose above freezing on Tuesday for the first time since Dec. 23 following a weekend bout with historic cold, high winds, burst water and sewage lines and power outages. The chaos was punctuated with unexpectedly potent snowfall Dec. 26 on frigid roadways that snarled traffic in the city and metro area.
The snow came in the wake of a brutal cold front that first moved into the region in the early hours Friday morning.
Snow didn’t start falling until Monday afternoon, and by sunrise Tuesday between .5 and 2 inches of the white stuff had blanketed the area, falling upon already frigid roadways.
Public safety officials across the region urged motorists to stay home, and numerous government offices either closed or got off to a late start Tuesday due to icy roads.
Both the Knoxville Police Department and Knox County Sheriff’s Office activated their Severe Weather plans, which meant that officers would only respond to emergencies and wrecks with injuries.
Crews from the city used brine and rock salt to treat streets designated as Level I (main thoroughfares like Kingston Pike and Broadway) and Level II (connector roads like Sutherland Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard).
In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where more than 4 inches of snow fell, officials closed several roads, including the Gatlinburg Bypass, Foothills Parkway West, Laurel Creek Road at the Townsend Wye, and Little River Road from the Sugarlands Visitors Center to the Townsend Wye.
Among the lower elevations in the East Tennessee Valley, Blount County had the most snow with 2 inches on the ground; most of Knox County registered 1.5 inches, according to meteorologist Allan Diegan of the National Weather Service office in Morristown.
While the snow brought its own share of problems and excitement, many people were still recovering from a bitter cold front that swept through the region over the Christmas weekend.
While some native East Tennesseans can remember even colder storms, the type of single-digit temperatures seen from Dec. 23 to 25 came as a surprise to many residents, according to Diegan.
“I wouldn’t say this was rare by any means, but it normally doesn’t happen in December,” Diegan said. “Our coldest days are usually in January and February. This just hasn’t happened in several years, so for people who are just now moving here it might be a little different than what they expected.”
At Knoxville’s McGhee-Tyson airport, the mercury fell as low as 4 degrees early Friday morning, which was the lowest reading on a Dec. 23 since 1988, he said.
But that was by no means the coldest temperature ever recorded in the Knox County area, stressed Diegan — that record was set on January 21, 1985, when the mercury dropped to a bone-chilling 24 degrees below zero.
“I don’t think we saw any daily low records broken this weekend, which is kind of hard to believe,” he said. “This was, at least, the coldest it’s gotten since 2015.”
On February 20, 2015, the low in Knoxville was 3 degrees, records show.
One record that was set in Knoxville over the weekend was for the lowest recorded high temperature for December 23, said Diegan. The high on Friday never climbed above 22, which broke the record of 24 set in 1989.
The blast of cold Arctic air that wreaked havoc over much of the nation last week was so intense it managed to bring single-digit lows even though there wasn’t any snow on the ground until the cold front had already blown through.
“Typically, it takes us having snow on the ground that’s followed by a clear night for the temperatures to drop so low,” he explained. “Cloud cover acts like a blanket and solar radiation is trapped. When it clears, the solar radiation escapes and the temperatures tend to plummet.”
So what was the coldest spot in East Tennessee over the past few days and who got the most snowfall?
Unsurprisingly, Diegan said the answer to both questions was Mt. LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Weather equipment installed on the 6,593-foot-tall mountain went as low as 22 degrees below zero on Christmas Eve and, after Monday’s snow storm, approximately 4.5 inches of precipitation was on the ground.
Previous updates and the original article are below:
UPDATED Dec. 23: Rolling blackouts, icy spots and subzero wind chills are only some of the challenges facing hundreds of thousands of people across East Tennessee and the Southern Appalachians as a Siberian cold front barrels through the region.
In Knox County, up to 26,000 KUB customers had lost power at one time due to a combination of wind damage and a massive surge in demand for electricity. High temperatures in the Knoxville area hovered near 10 degrees throughout Dec. 23.
If your power went out for up to an hour today, in a home or commercial establishment it was likely due to rolling blackouts imposed on local utilities by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
“TVA is requiring KUB to reduce power load due to extreme demand on the electric system,” Knoxville Utility Board said in a press release.
“KUB customers are likely to experience temporary outages until TVA provides more information,” according to a statement released in the early afternoon of Dec. 23 by officials at the utility. “KUB is striving to keep rolling outages to 15 minutes and is rotating outages across the service area until TVA lifts the requirement.”
The planned outages were stopped around 1:30 p.m. but around 7,200 customers remained without power due to the high winds at that time, KUB’s website said.
The cold front — which has wreacked havoc and shattered records across much of the continental United States — roared into the Tennessee Valley in the early morning hours Friday, driving temperatures down into the single digits as winds gusted up to 40 mph.
The lowest recorded temperature in Knox County was 3 degrees in Karns; the low in downtown Knoxville stood at 7 degrees, said meteorologist Allan Diegan.
The real danger came from the wind chill, which was estimated at 5-10 degrees below zero in the early morning hours, he said. The good news was the roads were mostly clear, with few areas in the Tennessee Valley seeing more than a dusting of snow.
The mercury isn’t expected to climb above freezing until Monday, although the winds should begin to diminish on Saturday.
The rolling blackouts triggered confusion and no small amount of swearing in Fountain City during the noontime “lunch rush.” Power went out along Broadway just before 12 p.m., forcing surprised store clerks and restaurant managers to ask their customers to leave until the situation could sort itself out.
“I can’t believe I drove down here for this,” said 44-year-old Debra Wells of Halls as she walked back to her car in the Kroger parking lot. “I was going to get lunch at the deli but now it looks like I can’t even go to Chik-Fil-A (across the street).”
One manager at Kroger shook his head apologetically when asked when the store would reopen. “No idea,” he said as he locked the front doors.
The grocery store reopened within the hour, however — just as power was cut to thousands of customers in the residential areas of the Fountain City and Inskip neighborhoods for about 20 minutes.
One of the biggest concerns this weekend has been the safety of the hundreds of men, women and children who live on Knoxville’s streets, according to officials from Knox Area Rescue Ministries (KARM).
A white flag has been flying outside KARM’s emergency shelter for the homeless on North Broadway, signaling that normal rules restricting who can stay there have been temporarily waived.
“People have been streaming in all day long,” said KARM spokesperson Karen Bowdle. “There are probably close to 450 people in the building. There so many people that they’ve separated the men into the chapel and the women into the dining room.”
Karen said that KARM crews had even been taking meals and coffee to the City’s warming station across the street.
“We’re very grateful, and we’re all trying to work as a team,” she said. “There are a lot of people who will die across our country this weekend.”
The original Hellbender Press article continues below:
A historically brutal cold front expected to move into East Tennessee late Thursday has people across Knox County and beyond bracing for a potentially deadly drop in temperatures.
The approaching storm is expected to shatter low-temperature records as the temperature drops as low as 7 degrees Dec. 24, the coldest temperature ever reported in Knoxville on Christmas Eve, according to officials from the National Weather Service station in Morristown.
“The biggest concern is the wind chill,” said NWS meteorologist Kyle Snowdin, who said that daytime highs on Friday are expected to hover in the mid-teens. “There will be wind gusts of 30 to 40 mph, which means we could see temperatures of negative single digits or even negative double digits.”
KNOXVILLE — A firewall is forming between those who plan to protest a Thursday night artistic performance and those who say the protestors are trying to stifle free speech and the right to self-expression.
Right-wing agitators plan an assembly protesting the performance of a “Drag Queen Christmas”, which has a curtain time of 7 p.m. at the Tennessee Theatre downtown on Thursday evening. Those at least tacitly supporting the demonstration include Farragut State Rep. Jason Zachary, who has invested a lot of time and taxpayer resources into his conviction that drag shows present a clear danger to the children of Tennessee. “Zachary is among the state legislators supporting a bill that would make it illegal to take minors to a drag show,” according to reporting from Knoxville Compass.
Meanwhile, children in state custody have slept on floors in random state offices for months.
The planned Gay Street protest against the performance has been amplified by right-wing notables such as “Nashville preacher Greg Locke, who has made international headlines for actions like a mass book burning and accusing members of his own congregation of being witches. Locke is an associate of Ken Peters, who leads the Christian nationalist Patriot Church in Lenoir City and is the driving force behind Thursday’s planned protest,” Compass reported.
Compass also reported that a heavy police presence is expected.
But some citizens have amped up their plans to counter the protest.
At least one digital flyer has made the rounds urging people to show up in support of free expression and human rights.
“We need numbers in front of the (Tennessee Theatre). And I mean right in front of it, on the sidewalk. We need folks willing to take the hateful heckles from fascists so that our community can safely enter, exit, and enjoy a fabulous event. I’m sure some folks on our side will have some entertaining things to say back to the haters as well,” according to one counter-protest flier.
“We might be outnumbered. Lots of shitty authoritarian theocrats are planning on coming,” added one organizer who asked that their name be withheld for personal security reasons.
Hellbender Press presents this information in accordance with its editorial imperative to defend human rights.
City cultivation of urban nature amenities proceeds apace
KNOXVILLE — The latest phase in a multimillion dollar plan to turn the southern end of the James White Parkway into an integral part of the city’s Urban Wilderness officially kicked off Monday afternoon (Dec. 19).
Numerous officials, including Mayor Indya Kincannon, showed up for the groundbreaking of the Baker Creek Pavilion, a key component of the ambitious project.
The city is pouring $2.7 million into the Baker Creek area of the Urban Wilderness Gateway Park, which will offer public restrooms, a picnic area and plenty of parking.
Updated: Smokies crews recover drowned Knoxville kayaker
TOWNSEND — Smokies recovery teams on Monday found the body of Carl Keaney, 61, of Knoxville, in the Little River.
Keaney was last seen kayaking the Sinks during high flow when he vanished under water, prompting calls to Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers who, along with other local crews, proceeded to search for his body for three days.
Here’s the previous Hellbender Press report:
Teams are searching for a missing kayaker in what Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are now calling a “recovery operation” after a 61-year-old man disappeared underwater while boating above the Sinks on Little River. High water levels from recent heavy rains are making search and recovery difficult.
“Around 3:40 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16 Great Smoky Mountains National Park dispatch received a call that a 61-year-old man had disappeared underwater while kayaking above The Sinks and did not resurface,” according to a news release from the park.
“Park rangers, along with emergency personnel from Townsend Fire Department and Blount Special Operations Response Team are on scene searching for the kayaker. High water level from recent rain is complicating recovery efforts. Little River Road from Metcalf Bottoms to the Townsend Wye is closed to accommodate emergency traffic.”
No more information is immediately available. This story will be updated.