A retired miner and city councilman in Lynch, Kentucky imagines a future beyond coal. Photo by Shelly A. Biesel.
The War on Coal is more than just a catchphrase...
How we talk about environmental issues matters. Shelly A. Biesel's recent publication "When Disinformation Makes Sense: Contextualizing the the War on Coal in Appalachian Kentucky" examines the complicated ways in which the "war on coal" catchphrase, popularized by politicians and pro-coal lobby groups, influences both environmental policies and public perceptions of environmental issues in Appalachian Kentucky. And yet, it is not quite so simple. The "war on coal" narrative is complicated by peoples' historic, often-difficult relationships with the industry, as well as the embodied physical dangers of mine work. You can read Shelly's full manuscript in the January 2021 issue of Economic Anthropology, available here for early view:
The October 2020 issue of One Earth has a Voices piece addressing issues of transformative adaptation in cities. Read Don Nelson's and other climate change researchers' thoughts here. Or find it online: www.cell.com/one-earth/fulltext/S2590-3322(20)30489-9
Check out the new publication on Nature-based solutions. Often promoted as game changers, NBS face a host of challenges for implementation, equity, and sustainability. This manuscript explores these challenges from a systems perspective, classifying challenges and highlighting current innovative solutions.
Challenges to realizing the potential of Nature-based solutions.
Donald R. Nelson, Brian P. Bledsoe, Suana Ferreira, Nathan P. Nibbelink. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2020.09.001
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and University of Georgia (UGA) recently announced a partnership that connects the interdisciplinary expertise of UGA’s Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems (IRIS), with the vast on-the-ground experience of USACE’s Engineering With Nature® (EWN®) Initiative to form the Network for Engineering With Nature (N-EWN).
Through this partnership and a new $2.5 million award to UGA from USACE, researchers are expanding and accelerating EWN and the practice of natural infrastructure in the public and private sectors.
EWN is an initiative developed by USACE to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental and social benefits through the use of natural infrastructure. By using a combination of natural and conventional processes and materials, natural infrastructure can protect people, homes and habitats. It can come in many forms and scales, including sand dunes engineered to prevent erosion, floodplains along rivers, which allow the river to ebb and flow without flood risk to communities, and coastal wetlands, which filter out pollution and provide habitat.
Sixteen UGA researchers from 10 different colleges and departments will apply their expertise to N-EWN’s mission. The project leader for UGA is principal investigator Dr. Brian Bledsoe, a professor in the College of Engineering, who specializes in resilient infrastructure. The N-EWN partnership will also draw from the expertise of the UGA’s River Basin Center and Center for Integrative Conservation Research. In addition, an equal number of researchers from USACE will add their knowledge and skill to the network, led by Dr. Todd Bridges, the EWN National Lead and Dr. Jeffrey King, EWN Deputy National Lead.
“We are delighted to be working closely with USACE's world class researchers. Together, we can take our research on natural infrastructure to the next level and inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists who will reshape the nation's water resources infrastructure,” Bledsoe said of the partnership.
In an ambitious set of pilot projects, the researchers will improve methods for using natural infrastructure to strengthen community resilience, create models and dashboards that allow designers to map out how natural infrastructure can provide more benefits to society, and inspire a new generation of engineers, ecologists and social scientists to utilize natural infrastructure through education and workforce development.
To come along on the journey, follow the hashtag #N-EWN on Twitter and Instagram, where we will post updates on the individual projects, researcher profiles, and exciting innovations in the field. Find more information about N-EWN on our website, https://n-ewn.org/
Gabriela de Azevedo Reis, HECL alum and current PhD student at the Federal University of Ceará in the Department of Environmental Engineering, has a new publication in Natural Hazards. In the manuscript, Gabriela presents a drought index model that includes climatological, social, economic, and water management factors. The model is based on readily available secondary data and provides critical information on drought hotspots and the principal underlying factors. The model was tested at different spatial and administrative scales and in different biogeophysical contexts. See manuscript here.
We stand in solidarity with those combating racial violence and intersecting forms of oppression, and we are committed to working toward justice for all Black people. The violent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Monika Diamond, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others by police officers and White vigilantes are reprehensible. They form part of the long history of racial violence against Blacks, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in the United States.
We recognize that the pandemic of racism extends beyond individual acts of violence to permeate all aspects of society. Black Americans are incarcerated at a rate five times greater than Whites.1 Furthermore, due to intertwining sociopolitical, economic, and environmental factors, Black Americans account for a disproportionate number of deaths during the current COVID-19 pandemic.2 We also acknowledge that BIPOC communities are the most vulnerable to climate change and environmental racism.3 These examples are only a few of the innumerable ways racism is manifest in the United States. Racist ideologies have always been embedded in the laws and norms of this country and underpin current inequities and structural violence.
As faculty and students at the University of Georgia, we further acknowledge that generations of enslaved persons built and maintained the University of Georgia through their labor. We decry the University's failure to recognize these individuals and its historic disrespect for their burial grounds on campus. Descendants of these enslaved individuals continue to form an integral part of the Athens community. Yet racialized economic inequality, racial violence, and other oppressive structures continue to be detrimental to the wellbeing of Black people in Athens. We support Athens community leaders in their petitions to the University to further recognize and redress its legacy of slavery.
The unjust social and material realities of our local communities and nation can be transformed through concerted, intentional efforts. We support those protesting against anti-Black violence, police brutality, and all forms of systemic oppression. We recognize our role in perpetuating injustices, including through our implicit biases. To contribute to efforts to dismantle White supremacy, racism, and colonialism, we commit to:
We recognize that this list is limited, and we will continue to expand our commitments to justice and equity.
Members of the Human and Environmental Change Lab
Cydney K. Seigerman
Shelly A. Biesel
John Ryan McGreevy
Bruno G. Ubiali
Donald R. Nelson
*The first bullet point commitment in this statement was edited on June 12, 2020 to better communicate our support for the entire Athens community working toward justice and against police violence.
1 Sabol, W. J.; Johnson, T. L.; and Caccavale, A. (2019). Trends in Correctional Control by Race and Sex. Washington, D.C.: Council on Criminal Justice. [Accessed 8 June 2020] https://cdn.ymaws.com/counciloncj.org
2 The COVID Tracking Project (2020). The COVID Racial Data Tracker. [Accessed 8 June 2020]. https://covidtracking.com/race.
3 Switzer, D., and Teodoro, M. P. (2017). The Color of Drinking Water: Class, Race, Ethnicity, and Safe Drinking Water Act Compliance. Journal - AWWA, 109(9), 40-45.
3 Bravo, M. A., Anthopolos, R., Bell, M. L., & Miranda, M. L. (2016). Racial isolation and exposure to airborne particulate matter and ozone in understudied US populations: Environmental justice applications of downscaled numerical model output. Environment International, 92-93, 247-255.
Don Nelson and UGA collaborators Brian Bledsoe and Marshall Shepherd have a new publication that underscores the importance of scientific humility in addressing hydroclimatic challenges in the 21st C. The article highlights three areas that need to be simultaneously addressed to reduce risk and promote equitable and sustainable risk management: Humans as a part of nature; Engineering with a dynamic nature; and, Acknowledging complexity.
Nelson, D.R., Bledsoe, B., and M Shepherd. 2020. From hubris to humility: Transcending original sin in managing hydroclimate risk management. Anthropocene. doi.org/10.1016/j.ancene.2020.100239.
Lab member John Ryan McGreevy and colleague Kevin Colburn (American Whitewater) recently completed a report that analyzes congestion and interaction between different types of visitors along the Upper Chattooga River Wild and Scenic River Corridor. McGreevy presented preliminary findings at UGA’s Integrative Conservation Conference in February. The authors have since submitted the completed report to members of the USDA Forest Service and advocacy groups for different visitor types. This report adds to a decades-long discussion on how to manage the Chattooga River in ways that protect the natural environment and maintain wilderness experience for visitors. Novel insights from McGreevy and Colburn’s analysis of six years of data on river use, river flow, and rainfall will hopefully contribute to adaptive management and inform future policy formation.
Read the full report here.
Shelly's insightful piece on the ways that rural populations in Kentucky and Northeast Brazil are challenging marginalization and discrimination is now available to read in Anthropology News.
Don and John McGreevy were co-authors on a recent publication in Environmental Research Letters - "Advancing the integration of ecosystem services and livelihood adaptation"
The paper evaluates limitations of mainstream conceptualizations of ecosystem service flows, and discusses methodological tools and emerging research from multiple disciplines that can help overcome those limitations. We present a research framework that integrates ecosystem service analysis with principles from Sustainable Livelihood Analysis and the rapidly emerging field of adaptation studies in social-ecological systems. Coupling these complementary approaches can give more holistic and realistic understandings of ecosystem service flows and who benefits from them.
King, E. G., D. R. Nelson, and J. R. McGreevy. 2019. Advancing the integration of ecosystem services and livelihood adaptation. Environmental Research Letters 14:124057.
Open Access: https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab5519
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