Ecology + Justice + Culture in the American South

Immigration ban protests, ag crime, & divine cats

During the past week, there have been dozens of protests and rallies in support of immigrants and in opposition to the ban on legal immigration from seven majority Muslim countries and the ban on refugees. Most eyes were on major airports, but the South hosted a fair share of events. To give you an idea, I made a Storify that compiles social media posts and dispatches from protests around the region: from New Orleans, Louisiana to Columbia, South Carolina to Huntsville, Alabama to Roanoke, Virginia. Check it out here. 

Below are a couple of examples (click photos to go directly to the Storify page):

A rally here in Louisville, Kentucky — which is not typically a city that protests in large numbers — attracted around 5,000 people. According to WFPL, the local NPR affiliate, “Kentucky has received 11,248 refugees since October 2010 according to the Kentucky Office for Refugees. Forty-five percent of those refugees were children with an average age of 8-years-old.” About 4,000 are from Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Syria.

That led me to read more about refugees and immigrants in the South, and their reactions to this political rhetoric: Here’s a look at what Mexican immigrants in Mississippi think of the border wall. In Tennessee, where some 58,000 refugees have resettled, Iraqi and Syrian families worry for their future. In the last three months of 2016, about 1,000 refugees resettled in Georgia; about two-fifths of them were from the seven countries targeted in the executive order. In Southwest Virginia, citizens spoke out about how hard refugees work to settle in the U.S. Most lawmakers in the region were quiet about the travel ban, but a few spoke out.

The other day, I asked my neighbor, a lifelong Democrat who voted for Trump, if the ban alarmed him in any way, or if he thought it was unconstitutional. Taken aback for a second, he looked at me and said he didn’t care where people were from or what they believed. Then he replied: “But Trump’s just doing what he said he would do.”

That wasn’t exactly an answer to my question. But it has kept me up at night since.

Stories worth your time

The federal hiring freeze is impacting public land management in the Southeast: Western North Carolina has nearly 1.5 million acres of public lands, and the freeze could potentially delay the opening of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, and national forests in the state. In Kentucky, employees of Mammoth Cave National Park may be hit harder than other parks because visitors are required to look at most of the sights with a tour guide/ranger, rather than exploring on their own.

The Bitter Southerner has two great photo essays: One is portraits of people living in Atlanta’s fifth congressional district, represented by Civil Rights Movement leader John Lewis. The other is portraits of Southern women (and men) who went to D.C.for the Women’s March on Washington.

In the Asheville Blade, a story about the battle over what to do with a historic, neglected community pool in a predominantly black neighborhood in Asheville offers a perspective on segregation and redlining in the city.

Because we all need something light to read this week: The Nashville Scene has the inside scoop on how a cult that believes cats are divine creatures ended up in Columbia, Tennessee.

News flying under the radar 

A bipartisan group of lawmakers drafted a bill to ban fracking in the state of Florida. According to InsideClimate News, fracking is technically allowed there, but it hasn’t happened yet because no one can decide how to do it.

I missed this Modern Farmer story from mid-January about a multi-state effort to stop agriculture crime in the Mississippi Delta, which encompasses parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Apparently, the region is high-risk for metal theft — people tear apart farm equipment and even make off with tractors and ATVs.

The NAACP is getting involved in a legal battle over where to store and recycle coal ash in Northampton County, Virginia. The chapter is trying to persuade people to get involved in protesting and look past the 75 jobs that will be created by the disposal sites: “We are encouraging our citizens to go on their computers and Google coal ash landfills and read about all the coal ash landfill spills that severely impacted rivers and streams here in our state and other states,” said Tony Burnette, president of the county NAACP chapter.

In the small town of Spencer, North Carolina, a board of aldermen approved a moratorium on solar farms and solar energy sites. According to the article: “The aldermen were concerned about how close the solar sites are to each other, stating in the moratorium that it ‘could have detrimental impact on the orderly development of land and have a negative impact on the aesthetic features of the town.’”

That’ll do it. Hope y’all have a lovely weekend!