Cherokees called the magnificent mountain range in eastern Tennessee land of the blue mist, which European settlers later changed to Smoky Mountains. Today, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of Southern Appalachia's leading tourist attractions. But that fabled blue mist isn't so blue--or healthy--any longer. Particularly in the summer months, the smoke of the Smokies is a haze of sulfate particles and other toxins released by coal-burning power plants, a mixture more likely to create dangerous ozone levels for visiting tourists than the invigorating mountain air so many come to seek. It is a story common throughout Southern Appalachia, one of America's most beautiful, biologically diverse, and fragile bioregions. A Land Imperiled is a symptom-by-symptom look at the myriad of ecological issues threatening the health of the southern high country. Sections on air, water, plants and animals, food, energy, waste, transportation, and population and urbanization make this the most comprehensive environmental study of Southern Appalachia to date--a much-needed wake-up call for anyone concerned about the region's natural legacy. But it is t just the future we have to worry about, the author asserts; pollution, development, and other forms of degradation are already affecting our quality of life. The excessively high ozone levels plaguing the Smokies have been connected to a host of respiratory problems, including chronic bronchitis and asthma. Once-crystal mountain streams are green and sluggish with ruff from agricultural wastes and fertilizers, and carcigenic PCBs from local factories increase the threat to humans and wildlife. Industrial forestry has cleared overhalf of the South's natural forests, and a mere 2 percent of the remaining forests have protected status. The environment of Southern Appalachia is a collection of complex, interrelated systems that needs urishment and protection to function in full health. A Land Imperiled t only illustrates the many ways in which the health of this bioregion is being affected, but also provides examples of how the damage can be reversed to sustain ourselves and this natural treasure.
John Nolt, a professor of philosophy at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is the author of several books, including Down to Earth: Toward a Philosophy of Nonviolent Living.