Category: Conservation and Preservation

Conservation & Preservation: State Nature Preserves

Conservation & Preservation: State Nature Preserves

Hello all!

How is everyone? Long time no see!  I want to first apologize for my absence from blog writing.  For the past couple of months, writing and finishing a dissertation has consumed my life.  But, I am back to talk to you about environmental issues and awareness.  The first blog I wrote for Friends of Limestone was on conservation and preservation.  More specifically, I discussed some ways the state of Kentucky practices conservation and preservation.  Now that I am back writing blogs for you, I want to build off that blog and discuss more practices of conservation and preservation in the state of Kentucky.  We will begin with State Nature Preserves!

State Nature Preserves are/is:

  • A geographic area preserved by the state of Kentucky.
  • Not unique to Kentucky but exist all across the U.S!
  • Preserved for natural significance, scientific/educational purposes, and/or to protect rare species/natural environment.
  • Open to the public to visit and explore
    • However, some are not open to the public

Kentucky has a total of 58 State Nature Preserves.  33 of which are open to the public.  Here’s a version of the map seen above showing the location of all State Nature Preserves in the state of Kentucky.  So, go exploring! For the purposes of this blog, I want to showcase three in Jefferson County and around the city of Louisville.  I believe sometimes we can feel detached from nature while living within urban locales.  So, I have chosen State Nature Preserves in Louisville and Jefferson County to show how we are never detached from the natural environment; it is all around us!

State Nature Preserve #1 Six Mile Island

  • Became a State Nature Preserve in 1979
  • Located in the Ohio River
  • It is an 81-acre island
  • Kentucky protected Six Mile Island, so researchers and individuals could study the ecology of river islands.
  • It is open to the public and accessible by boat
  • People use it to study and bird watch

State Nature Preserve #2 Beargrass Creek

  • Became a State Nature Preserve in 1982
  • Located close to Jo Creason Park and Louisville Zoological gardens
  • It is 41 acres
  • Kentucky protected Beargrass Creek for recreation and nature education.
  • It is open to the public and very accessible
  • People us it to study, hike, and bird watch.

State Nature Preserve #3 Blackacre

  • Became a State Nature Preserve in 1979
  • Located near Jefferstown
  • It is 175 acres
  • Kentucky protected Blackacre for environmental education
  • It is open to the public but limited
    • Weekdays 3 p.m. to dusk
    • Weekends dawn to dusk
    • So plan accordingly!

State Natural Preserves serve as just another conservation and preservation initiative the state of Kentucky is doing to protect our natural environment.  Has anyone explored the State Nature Preserves in their local area? What about others throughout the state of Kentucky? What about across the country? Let me know! What did you do? What was your experience like? I am curious because I, myself, have never been to a State Natural Preserve.  Maybe this weekend?

Until next time!

Cheers,

Dr. Adam Sizemore

Environmental Justice: The Story of Martin County, Kentucky

Environmental Justice: The Story of Martin County, Kentucky

Hey, everyone!

How has everyone’s 2018 been so far? Our environment continues to be a pressing importance in my life and hopefully you are making it one in yours!

That being said, let’s keep talking about Environmental Justice in Appalachia!

Last month, I mentioned that this blog would be dedicated to a specific case example. One that is personal to me and has been making some news recently, is Martin County, Kentucky.

The story of Martin County is close to me because I have spent the past year studying the environmental injustices of this county for my dissertation research. What have I been doing and what’s going on with Martin County? First let’s get a baseline of the area.

Martin County is:

  • A Central Appalachian county of Kentucky that borders West Virginia.
  • Contains around 12,000 individuals.
  • Predominantly white (94 percent of the population).
  • The 115th poorest county in Kentucky.
    • The medium household income is around $25,000
    • 35 percent fall below the poverty level.
  • Where the War on Poverty was born.
  • A coal mining community.

Since coal mining is predominant in Martin County, their risk to environmental stressors is increased. Unfortunately this risk increased too far and in the fall of 2000 a disaster struck the county. One of the coal slurry impoundments broke, releasing over 300 million gallons of slurry in two hollows of Martin County: Coldwater and Wolf Creek.

What is “coal slurry?” It is the stuff that comes off coal after it’s washed. “Washed”? Why is coal being washed? Is it dirty? Well…yes! Before it is burned for energy purposes, it must be cleaned to rid various impurities, like soil and rock. The byproduct that comes off during this process is called “slurry” and it is housed in large dams call impoundments, like the one over Martin County.

Appalachian writer, Harry Caudill once said impoundments are “like a pool of gravy in a mound of mashed potato”. I really love that analogy. I feel like it gives a vivid picture of what these things are. It also gives you a good idea of what it looked like seeping into the community. The black gravy mixture contaminated local creeks, water sources, soil and killed aquatic life. For such a small community, tucked in the Appalachian Mountains, you might not think this was a big deal, but it was actually the worst environmental disaster in the southeast, exceeding the amount released from the Exxon Valdeez Oil Spill!

It was my goal to study the recovery of this disaster for my dissertation, so I started interviewing the people impacted. I soon learned that there is another environmental issue plaguing the county.  In a nutshell, their infrastructure is poor.

I found that:

  • Water lines were breaking, allowing contaminants to enter into the water source.
  • There is an average of 60 percent water loss across the county.
  • Their water smells, is discolored, and is reported to burn their skin.
  • No one drinks the water! Their source comes from bottled water.
  • People are organizing and trying to get a new water source for their community.
  • People are concerned over their health and community future.

You will probably hear more about Martin County and their struggles in the coming weeks and months as it is gaining more media attention day after day! I am not going into the details of why individuals believe their water system is inadequate; you will have to read my dissertation for that!

Regardless of the reason, this county experiences environmental stressors. It is truly unjust. The story of Martin County is a reminder that environmental stressors are not equally shared across populations!

Until next time,

Adam

Environmental Justice 356: Appalachia

Environmental Justice 356: Appalachia

Hello, again!

I hope everyone’s holiday season is going well and everyone is staying warm! As the year comes to end, I want to continue our discussion about Environmental Justice. If you missed last month’s blog, I wrote a very basic introduction to what Environmental Justice is and why it is a national problem; click here to read it, it is important for our “December talk”!

I plan for, at least a couple months, these blogs to build on one another. So, the next installment in Environmental Justice will be focused on Appalachia; think of it as “Environmental Justice 356”. Some of you not from the eastern side of the country may be asking yourself “App-a-what?” whereas others are wondering if I am pronouncing it as “App-ah-LATCH-ah” or “App-ah-LAY-CHA”.

So, what the heck is Appalachia?

  • A predominantly rural region of the U.S. consisting of 420 counties.
  • Stretches 205,000 square miles
  • Spans 13 states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virgnia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.
  • It is broken up into 5 sub-regions: North, North Central, Central, South Central, and Southern.
  • All Kentucky counties are located in the Central sub-region.

So, why am I talking about Appalachia? For one, a part of it is located in the commonwealth. Also, last month, I discussed the role class plays into the location of environmental “bads”; reference the “race vs. class debate”. Appalachia, and particularly Central Appalachia, is extremely poor.

  • Central Appalachia is predominantly white.
  • As of 2017 Central Appalachia has:
    • The lowest mean ($47,152)
    • The lowest median household income ($33,956)
    • The highest percentage of those in poverty.
    • The highest percentage of individuals with less than a high school diploma.
    • The lowest percentage of those with a bachelor’s degree.
    • The highest percentage of those living with a disability.
  • It has the most amount of counties labeled distressed by the federal government; these are counties with the lowest economic stability.
    • There are a total of 49 distressed counties in Central Appalachia
    • 37 of which, are in Kentucky.

Okay, so what does all of this have to do with Environmental Justice? EVERYTHING! It is one of the central reasons environmental “bads” concentrate in Appalachia. You may be asking yourself, “I remember last week he mentioned waste facility sites, is that what he means? Is there an over concentration of those?” Well, I am sure Central Appalachia has their fair share of them, but no. Environmental “bads”, for Appalachia, exist primarily because of poor mining methods from the coal industry. Recall a blog I authored a couple months ago about how Limestone extraction needs to be done properly, the same goes for coal mining. This has existed in the sub-region for roughly 150 years (Do I hear an answer to the “chicken vs. the egg debate”?) Since its entrance into Central Appalachia, it has:

  • Created unsafe living and work conditions for miners and residents
  • Destroyed mountains
  • Caused large scale disasters
  • Polluted the air, water, and soil
  • Increased cancer rates, liver problems, and skin disorders
  • Reduced mortality rates, as well as overall quality of life.
  • Increased economic problems

Okay, okay, I know that was a lot to go over in such a short time! One blog can’t, and no pun intended, do environmental justice in Appalachia “justice”. I wanted to give each and every one of you a short introduction to environmental justice issues happening right within our state. Next month we will discuss a case example of a coal-caused environmental justice issue!

Until next time,

Adam

Environmental Justice 101

Environmental Justice 101

Hello, again!

As I’m sure you know, our environment is not always maintained as well as it should be (or if you don’t, welcome to reality). There are many environmental impacts that affect us in our every day lives, which put our health at risk. I’m hoping, since you are taking the time to read this blog, you know that we should, and must, be more conscience of these impacts and make efforts to improve them. However, did you know these risks are unequally shared across race and class? Some of you may be asking yourselves now, “What do you mean, unequally shared?” or “What does race or class have to do with anything”. These are the questions I hope to answer for you. I also hope to give you a better understanding of the injustices that often get looked over and are not always brought to light by the media and/or politicians (which, face it, that’s where most of us get our news whether we like it or not).

Environmental Justice:

  • Things like hazardous plants, pollution, and contamination are disproportionately located in black and poor communities.
  • This spawned an area of research and social movement aimed at addressing these inequities: Environmental Justice.
  • It advocates that all people and communities, regardless of their race or class status, are entitled to a healthy environment, as well as equal protection of environmental laws and regulations.
  • Click here for the 17 guiding principles of environmental justice!
  • There are two main debates with environmental justice: race vs. class and the chicken and the egg.

“Race vs. Class Debate”

  • Debates whether race or class is a better predictor of “environmental bads”.
  • Answering this debate is complicated because race and class connected.
  • Poor racially concentrated communities are the best predictors.
  • This occurs wherever people have the least amount of power, called “the path of least resistance”.
  • Occurs in poor black communities, as well as poor white communities.
  • This rarely occurs in rich white communities.

“The Chicken and The Egg”

  • Debates whether the “environmental bad” or the people came first into a community.
  • This assumes only one form of discrimination: the environmental bad moving in.
  • If people move into a contaminated community, it is discrimination too because those of a lower socioeconomic status are often forced into them.
  • NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) is the act of rich white folks opposing environmental bads.
  • NIMBY acts concentrate these into marginalized communities!

I can’t stress to you enough how difficult it is for me to provide an introduction of environmental justice, alongside the two debates, in such a short blog! There are so many components to environmental justice that warrant their own blogs! In the coming months I plan on discussing many of these with you because it is a highly important topic to discuss, as well as a crucial component to environmentalism. In the mean time, I encourage each and every one of you to think about something in a community that negatively impacts the environment (power plant, factory etc.) around you. Then, ask yourself, where are these located?

Until next time!

Adam