The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Maybe we should call it Ocean Day

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Best Earth Day feature: We still know so little about so much that is vital to life on our planet

CBS News  Stunning midwater creatures of the deep sea

You have to endure a half-minute commercial to see this 6-minute report on the fascinating footage captured by a high-tech marine science project of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Make sure to turn on full-screen viewing, if you can. Have you ever seen a bloody belly comb jelly?

We think you’ll agree it’s the most worthwile video you watched today.

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  • The South’s hidden climate threat
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    Spreading avens in bloom 9406109069Spreading avens are seen in bloom in the Appalachians. The endangered long-stemmed perennials survive in higher mountain elevations but their lack of space to move higher in elevation in times of climate change and warming further threaten the plant.  USFWS

    It’s not just the coastlines that are recording climate change. Even the mountains of North Carolina are feeling the heat — including some endangered plants

    “Atlanta reporter Dan Chapman retraced John Muir’s 1867 trek through the South, including the naturalist’s troubling legacy, to reveal environmental damage and loss that’s been largely overlooked.” This is an excerpt published by The Revelator from his book, A Road Running Southward: Following John Muir’s Journey Through an Endangered Land.

    BOONE It’s a wonder anything survives the ice, snow, and winds that pummel the ridge, let alone the delicate-seeming yellow flowers known as spreading avens.

    The lovely, long-stemmed perennials are exceedingly rare, officially listed as endangered, and found only in the intemperate highlands of North Carolina and Tennessee. They sprout from shallow acidic soils underlying craggy rock faces and grassy heath balds. At times blasted with full sun, but mostly shrouded in mist, the avens are survivors, Ice Age throwbacks that refuse to die. Geum radiatum is only known to exist in fourteen places, including hard-to-find alpine redoubts reached via deer trail or brambly bushwhacking.

  • Updated: It’s your Earth Day week! You should connect with your mother.

    iss064e028599The horizon over Argentina is seen in this image taken from the International Space Station.  NASA

    Earth Day is every day, but it’s officially on Friday, April 22 this year. Get involved.

    The 2022 observance of Earth Day is officially Friday, April 22, but the Knoxville area plans celebrations, work parties and seminars in honor of the 50-year-old annual recognition of Mother Nature through Saturday. Here’s a quick look at some local ways to love your mama. This list will be updated.

  • Carson-Newman professor hosts installment of worldwide “Climate Teach-in”
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    Brian SohnCarson-Newman University Professor Brian Sohn is hosting a climate-oriented webinar on March 30.  Thomas Fraser/Hellbender Press

    Local installment of worldwide virtual Climate Teach-In is set for 2:30 p.m. March 30

    JEFFERSON CITY Brian Sohn had “the closest thing to a panic attack” when his second daughter was born.

    He had long been alarmed by climate change and its potentially disastrous effects, but her arrival brought home the need to address the environmental challenges of a rapidly changing planet.

    So now the Carson-Newman University education professor is putting some final touches on a virtual climate-related “teach-in” he’ll host from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 30.

  • New year. Old challenges.

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    From plastic pollution to extreme weather and the extinction crisis, the year ahead promises tough fights, enormous challenges and critical opportunities

    This story was originally published by The Revelator.

    A new year brings with it new opportunities — and more of the same environmental threats from the previous 12 months.

  • You’ve got the whole world in your hands
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    Personal climate-change remedies have a wide cumulative impact and are part of the solution, so don’t give up

    Tom Ptak is assistant professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Texas State University. This story was originally published by The Conversation.

    The average American’s everyday interactions with energy sources are limited. They range from turning appliances on or off, to commuting, to paying utility bills.

    The connections between those acts and rising global temperatures may seem distant.

    However, individuals hold many keys to unlocking solutions to climate change — the biggest challenge our species currently faces — which is perhaps why the fossil fuel industry spent decades misleading and misinforming the public about it.

    I’m an assistant professor of geography and environmental studies at Texas State University. My research explores how geography affects the complex relationships between societies, energy and contemporary environmental challenges. I’ve found that the human element is critical for developing creative, effective and sustainable solutions to climate challenges.

    There’s a large and growing body of evidence showing that individuals can have a major impact on climate change in a number of ways. Citizen action can compel utilities to increase renewable energy and governments to enact strong climate action laws. When enough individuals make changes that lower daily household energy consumption, huge emissions reductions can result. Consumer demand can compel businesses to pursue climate and environmental sustainability.

    These actions combined could bridge the “emissions gap”: the significant difference between the greenhouse gas emissions expected globally and how much they need to drop in the next few decades to avoid catastrophic climate change.

  • Get involved: Protestors lock arms to demand TVA swear off fossil fuels for good
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    3D2A2F6C B919 4295 B244 36D48A4BF9BD 1 105 cProtestors chant and wave signs urging TVA to commit to a fossil fuel-free future during a protest in downtown Knoxville this summer. Courtesy Amy Rawe/Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

    Activists will demand TVA allow public comments during a protest planned for Wednesday morning outside TVA HQ in downtown Knoxville

    Knoxville clean-air activists plan another protest  Wednesday outside of Tennessee Valley Authority headquarters to demand a return to public-comment periods and a commitment the huge utility won’t rely on fossil-fuel energy sources in the future.

    “Public input is critical right now, while TVA is considering building new, large fossil gas power plants and pipelines, even though they would be contrary to our need to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030,” said protest organizer Brady Watson of Southern Alliance for Clean EnergyStatewide Organizing for Community Empowerment is also coordinating the protest.

    “TVA’s current leadership is locking us out of decisions impacting our future,” Watson said, “so we’re locking arms outside of TVA towers in downtown Knoxville during their Board meeting” on Wednesday November 10 at 10 AM ET to demand TVA:

    • Reimplement public listening sessions virtually until it is safe to do so in person.
    • Take the climate crisis seriously by investing in clean energy and not new fossil gas. 

    The protest will be streamed live on the event’s Facebook page

  • University of Tennessee climate panel: Scientists say don’t despair. Yet.
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    Scientists discuss climate challenges and solutions during 2021 One Health Day

    As climate experts and scientists huddled in Glasgow in an international effort to stem potentially disastrous global environmental changes, a panel of doctors representing multiple disciplines at the University of Tennessee and beyond offered their assessments of climate challenges and solutions.

    Their take on climate change? We have problems, but we also have solutions. Hopelessness will drive you crazy. Stay healthy, stay informed and do your part to mitigate the long-term environmental consequences of a changing Earth. 

    Above all: Don’t despair and don’t lose hope.

    The panel, held Nov. 3 at the UT Student Union and presented by the UT One Health Initiative, consisted of the following experts:

    — Dr. Gus Engman, Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture 

    — Dr. Kate Evans, Computational Sciences and Engineering Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

    — Dr. Joshua Fu, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Tennesse

    — Dr. Sindhu Jagadamma, Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

    — Dr. Kristina Kintziger, Department of Public Health, University of Tennessee

    Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity and don’t include the full response. Questions were submitted ahead of time or during the panel discussion. 

    What do you see as the largest threats of climate change, especially related to your individual research interests?

    Engman: Changing precipitation patterns are something I think about a lot.

    Pretty much all the rivers in the world are expected to have changes to their flow regime.

    These changes in droughts and floods are a really large issue.

    I think a lot about aquatic communities. If we are scarce on drinking water, we are always going to prioritize people having that water, over the fish or the bugs in the streams. 

    There are all kinds of impacts to life histories and interactions with communities in streams. 

    When animals are stressed because of these changes in precipitation patterns and changes in flow patterns, they might become more susceptible to other stressors, like disease. 

    Changes in algal community composition can impact the entire water quality of a stream, and that might happen because of these changes in precipitation patterns.

    These places that are experiencing these extreme droughts really worry me. The Colorado River already doesn’t even flow all the way to the ocean anymore. That’s a huge change. Because we take up so much water for agriculture. 

    If a stream runs out of water, it’s not a stream anymore.

    Evans: From a meteorological perspective, the biggest event that hurts people's health is actually heat waves. A lot of press goes to tornadoes and hurricanes and storms but in fact these large domes of hot air (are deadly), which happen because of changes in the large-scale weather patterns.

    The greenhouse effect insulates the earth, it makes it more uniform in temperature and so that changes the flow patterns that go around the earth. That changes those big weather systems that come in and how long they stick around. 

    When you talk about these long droughts, we know that’s what's we have to understand: Will they last longer, be more humid, less humid, and that has huge impacts for human health as well as the food they eat and the plants that grow. 

    Kintziger: Heat also has a bigger impact on a more indirect pathway to human health. Not just heat-related illness but also cardiovascular impacts, renal impacts and even mental health impacts.

    Heat is the one that keeps me up at night. We are seeing increasing temperatures globally and we also have this urban heat island affect. 

    Our vulnerable populations in the cities — inner cities with lower-income housing, homeless populations — they are going to experience heat very differently than people who live in newer buildings with better cooling and infrastructure and have better capabilities for adapting to heat. 

  • (Remember this?) Report: Sen. Joe Manchin, a holdout Democrat on climate-change legislation, is a “coal baron”

    1200px Joe Manchin Official Senate Portrait

    The Guardian: Manchin monkey-wrenches climate change legislation because he’s made millions off fossil fuels

    West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, the Democratic linchpin for game-changing climate legislation proposed in a budget bill as part of the Biden administration’s plan to provide aid to families as well as give a boost to efforts to reduce global warming, has thrown a now-infamous wrench in the works. 

    He has vigorously opposed key parts of the climate legislation included in the 2022 budget bill. Per the Guardian, it’s simply because he and his family have made a fortune off coal extraction in the relatively impoverished state of West Virginia and elsewhere.

    “Financial records detailed by reporter Alex Kotch for the Center for Media and Democracy and published in the Guardian show that Manchin makes roughly half a million dollars a year in dividends from millions of dollars of coal company stock he owns. The stock is held in Enersystems, Inc, a company Manchin started in 1988 and later gave to his son, Joseph, to run,” according to the Guardian.

    “He has already effectively succeeded in stripping the bill of its most powerful climate change provision, a program that would have rapidly shut down coal and gas-fired power plants and replaced them with wind and solar power,” according to the New York Times.

  • From the Gulf Coast to the most densely populated American corridor, Ida laid bare our flimsy climate-change preps

    Hurricane Ida hit the Gulf Coast with flooding rains, catastrophic winds, storm surge and the highest wind gust (170 mph) ever recorded in the United States.

    The hurricane devastated Louisiana barrier islands and left at least 10 people dead and millions without electricity before it peeled off for a destructive jaunt up through the Mid-Atlantic region, where it joined with a slow-moving Northeastern warm front for what was truly the perfect storm.

    Many forecasters, once again, said that climate change was largely responsible for the devastation that spanned the good part of a nation.

    Record rain amounts were registered at both Central Park and Newark (New Jersey) airport.

  • Climate change brings historic rains and ruin to Southern Appalachians and Middle Tennessee

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    Washington Post: Devastating Middle Tennessee floods latest consequence of climate change

    Training thunderstorms dumped 17 inches of rain within 24 hours last week in Middle Tennessee, causing a cascade of runoff that led to localized flash flooding of creeks and rivers that killed at least 20 people and destroyed the small town of Waverly. That amount of rain, which a climatologist said had a 1 in 1,000 chance of occurring, would set a record for the highest amount of daily rainfall recorded in the entire state.

    A lesser-noted flood of the Pigeon River just over the state line in Haywood County, North Carolina a week ago killed at least five people and destroyed homes and property as the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred moved over the region. The towns of Canton and Clyde were particularly hard hit. A rain gauge in Cruso recorded nearly 15 inches of rain in less than three days, according to the Smoky Mountain News. Nine inches fell within a 24-hour period.

    Deadly floods in Germany and the European lowcountry this summer that killed 200 people were also attributed to climate change.

    A warmer atmosphere holds exponentially more moisture, so such intense rainstorms will increase in coming years as climate change reshapes the Earth, scientists told the Washington Post.

    "It’s yet another example of how climate change has loaded the dice for disaster, experts say. The floods that people lived through in the past are no match for the events that are happening today. And what in 2021 seems like an unprecedented catastrophe may by 2050 become an annual occurrence," the Post reported.

    The flooding threat promised by a warming planet is exacerbated by continuing urbanization and inadequate public stormwater infrastructure. More impermeable surfaces means more runoff.