The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia
10 Reduced Inequalities

10 Reduced Inequalities (29)

Reduce inequality within and among countries

unnamedVicky Wallace gets assistance crossing a creek in her off-road GRIT wheelchair during an adaptive camping outing along Cooper Road Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Yvonne Rogers/Hellbender Press

Adapted to their environment, wheelchair users venture into Smokies backcountry

TOWNSEND — Four wheelchair users ventured this month to an Abrams Creek backcountry campsite in a first for the Smokies.

Borne by GRIT Freedom Chairs, the able trekkers arrived June 8 in a collaborative event featuring Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Knox County, Kampgrounds of America Foundation and Catalyst Sports. The intrepid group had headed up about a mile of the wide, gravel Cooper Road Trail over hills toward Campsite 1, past horses, along and through streams, finally reaching their campsite. The three-wheeled, arm-powered GRIT chairs are designed for off-road routes.

For much of the route the adaptive hikers used their arms to move their chairs, but other people accompanied them on foot, sometimes helping them up difficult hills or over streams. Those in the chairs enjoyed the mountain water that rushed over their feet.

Park Ranger Katie Corrigan talked about highlights of the natural world around them and led discussions on the concepts of wildness and wilderness. Just like many other backcountry campers, the group of adventurers ate s’mores and slept in tents at the campsite before heading back down Cooper Road to the trailhead the next day. 

Last modified on Monday, 24 June 2024 13:05

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

Va Tech demographic studyA U.S. map shows counties where residents could (blue) or could not (pink) receive local-specific information about environmental justice issues.  Photo courtesy of Junghwan Kim via Virginia Tech.

Key findings indicate limitations of AI, suggest improvements

David Fleming is a communications specialist at Virginia Tech.

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech researchers have discovered limitations in ChatGPT’s capacity to provide location-specific information about environmental justice issues. Their findings, published in the journal Telematics and Informatics, suggest the potential for geographic biases existing in current generative artificial intelligence (AI) models.

ChatGPT is a large-language model developed by OpenAI Inc., an artificial intelligence research organization. ChatGPT is designed to understand questions and generate text responses based on requests from users. The technology has a wide range of applications from content creation and information gathering to data analysis and language translation.

A county-by-county overview

“As a geographer and geospatial data scientist, generative AI is a tool with powerful potential,” said Assistant Professor Junghwan Kim of the College of Natural Resources and Environment. “At the same time, we need to investigate the limitations of the technology to ensure that future developers recognize the possibilities of biases. That was the driving motivation of this research.”

Utilizing a list of the 3,108 counties in the contiguous United States, the research group asked the ChatGPT interface to answer a prompt asking about the environmental justice issues in each county. The researchers selected environmental justice as a topic to expand the range of questions typically used to test the performance of generative AI tools. Asking questions by county allowed the researchers to measure ChatGPT responses against sociodemographic considerations such as population density and median household income. 

Last modified on Sunday, 14 April 2024 23:09


New director comes from Nashville; decarbonization of city a central duty

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

KNOXVILLE — Mayor Indya Kincannon appointed Metro Nashville Decarbonization Manager Vasu Primlani as Knoxville’s next director of sustainability.

Primlani has more than three decades of experience in sustainability and has received awards for environmental innovation, including the EPA’s Environmental Achievement Award.

“Vasu has an incredible track record in this field,” Kincannon said. “Her experience and creative thinking will help Knoxville meet our goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050.  

“I am also impressed with her focus on equity. We must adapt to climate change in a way that is just, equitable, and helps everyday people and small business owners save money too.”

Last modified on Saturday, 23 March 2024 21:12

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. 

Last modified on Saturday, 23 March 2024 21:16

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


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.

Tuesday, 06 February 2024 15:09

Celebrate Black Appalachian roots at spring fish fry

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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.

Last modified on Saturday, 20 April 2024 00:57

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

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. 

Last modified on Saturday, 23 March 2024 21:28

Intergenerational Playspace open in North Knox


Legacy Parks Foundation cut the ribbon on the Intergenerational Playspace at Beverly Park in North Knox County. It is the first park in the region to be purposefully designed to create active interactions between multiple generations, especially children and seniors.

“This park was made possible by our many partners that supported and funded the project,” said Carol Evans, Legacy Parks’ executive director.

Legacy Parks was awarded a $150,000 two-phase grant from the Trinity Health Foundation to research, design and create the Playspace. Additional grants and construction services provided by Knox County made the park possible

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