Rising Seas Threaten Hundreds of Native American Heritage Sites Along Florida’s Gulf Coast
Native North Americans first arrived in Florida approximately 14,550 years ago. Evidence for these stone-tool-wielding, megafauna-hunting peoples can be found at the bottom of numerous limestone freshwater sinkholes in Florida's Panhandle and along the ancient shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico.
Specialized archaeologists using scuba gear, remote sensing equipment or submersibles can study underwater sites if they are not deeply buried or destroyed by erosion. This is important because Florida's archaeological resources face significant threats due to sea level rise driven by climate change. According to a new UN report, global sea levels could increase by over 3 feet by the year 2100.
Sea level rise in the Big Bend region of Florida.
Archaeological sites contain evidence of what people ate in the past, what kinds of houses they built, how they buried their dead and what they did to memorialize stories, leadership and community. These places literally embody human lives, and are the only records we have of prehistoric indigenous peoples of the New World.
Between the years 1500 and 1850, 2.5 million Europeans migrated to the New World. As a consequence of their arrival, 50 million indigenous people died from disease, massacres and slavery.
As scholars who study anthropology and archaeology, we believe that the genocide of these oral historical and literate societies, native to North, South and Central America, makes it even more important to preserve their ancient sites. Without them, we may never be able to learn the history of the first peoples of this land.
Valuable and Vulnerable
This map shows the geological definition of the Big Bend Coast (blue) and the definition used by private agencies serving the Big Bend Region (red).
At present, 1,539 archaeological sites are located at or below sea level in Florida. By A.D. 2100 up to 6,820 will become submerged by sea level rise.
Florida's Big Bend region — the eastern half of the Panhandle — contains 541 Native American archaeological sites, found from the coast to inland hills and river valleys. They include earthen and shell mounds and shell middens, or refuse heaps. These sites belong to Deptford, Swift Creek, Weeden Island or Fort Walton and Apalachee cultures, and represent a time period of over 2,000 years of occupation, from 500 B.C. to 1540 A.D.
Archaeological sites belonging to these cultures in the Gulf of Mexico region represent a continuation of earlier lifeways dating as far back as 7,000 years ago. But they also mark shifts in ceramic and stone toolmaking technology, and significant changes in ceremonies associated with monument construction and burial of the dead.
Notable sites in this region include Mound Field, Bird Hammock and Garden Patch — places where hunter-fisher-gatherers built monuments, traded for goods and practiced crafts such as basketry and bead and pottery production.
The Garden Patch site, a barely investigated Middle Woodland shell midden and six-mound complex, is one of Florida's innumerable cultural resources at risk. With roughly 5 to 6 feet of additional sea level rise, most low-lying areas at the site will be flooded, and saltwater will kill grasses and trees. With no tree cover or vegetation, the site's mounds, middens and mortuary remains will erode away and be permanently destroyed.
There are cost-effective ways to stabilize the site and make it more resilient to climate change. They include planting salt-tolerant grasses and shrubs, such as spartina and saline-adapted mangroves, and building sea walls and levees to redirect water. However, studies show that hard systems like this are not always effective and can have negative environmental effects on surrounding areas.
An even more effective response is raising public awareness of America's Native and Indigenous heritage, and encouraging study of these sites while they are still above water.
Saving Stories by Saving Places
Shell rings along the U.S. southeast coast were the largest structures in North America when they were built 3,000-5,000 years ago. Researchers believe they were places of celebration, ritual and feasting.
Other parts of the Gulf coast, such as the Mississippi River Delta and coastal Louisiana, are comprised mainly of low-lying marshes that are extremely vulnerable to sea level rise. In contrast, Big Bend interior cities like Tallahassee will be relatively well protected by geographic features that prevent seawater from penetrating far inland.
Except for universities, hospitals and government in Leon County and Tallahassee, the main industries in the coastal Big Bend region are fishing, farming and tourism, and the population of the entire area is just 500,000. Relatively few people in this part of Florida will be affected by rising seas compared to large, low-lying cities like Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville, with a collective population of 9.6 million people.
However, infrastructure along the coast will be significantly affected. For example, St. George Island State Park, which is on a 28-mile barrier island, incurred over US$5 million in damage from Hurricane Michael in October 2018, and the entire island will be inundated with as little as one meter, or about 3 feet, of sea level rise.
American history is Native American, African American, Latinx, Asian and European. Our cumulative story begins 15,000 years ago and ends when we decide. In our view, Americans and scholars have an obligation to try to save our collective histories.
By advocating for the study of the past, we hope to encourage documentation of endangered landscapes, collaborative data recording, multi-agency partnerships and acknowledgment that the U.S. is going to lose sites that are parts of its heritage. Rather than focusing on preserving singular parts of America's past, like Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in North America — which is also in a low-lying and threatened environment — we want to see lesser-known features of America's past documented and saved as well.
As we see it, Americans' collective identities are rooted in a shared past and in physical landscapes and places. That makes saving these places important. The first step is talking about them. The next step begins when scholars and the public come together to learn about the past and advocate for preserving it.
Analise Hollingshead, a former graduate student at Florida State University, contributed to this article.
Jayur Mehta receives funding from Florida State University Council on Research and Creativity and is an executive board member of the Gulf Communities Research Institute.
Tara Skipton does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jeanette Cwienk
This summer's high street fashions have more in common than styles and colors. From the pink puff-sleeved dream going for just €19.99 ($22.52) at H&M, to Zara's elegant €12.95 ($14.63) halter-neck dress, clothing stores are alive with cheap organic cotton.
"Sustainable" collections with aspirational own-brand names like C&A's "Wear the change," Zara's "join life" or H&M's "CONSCIOUS" are offering cheap fashion and a clean environmental conscience. Such, at least, is the message. But is it really that simple?
Going Green, or Just Greenwashing?<p>"Fashion brands are capitalizing on the fact that consumers are interested in buying fairly and ecologically produced items," said Katrin Wenz, an expert in agriculture at Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND). "Organic cotton is certainly a step in the right direction, because neither <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/patents-on-plants-is-the-sellout-of-genes-a-threat-to-farmers-and-global-food-security/a-49906072" target="_blank">genetic modification</a> nor synthetic pesticides can be used in its production. But these own-brand sustainability labels rarely tell us anything about what happens later on in the production chain."</p><p>Viola Wohlgemuth, a textiles expert at Greenpeace, says companies create their sustainability labels and criteria themselves. "Sustainability is not a protected or specific term, which leaves the door wide open for so-called greenwashing," she told DW.</p>
Independent Certifications Trustworthier<p>Both experts emphasize that independent environmental certifications offer a better indicator of a product's eco credentials, including labor conditions for workers involved in production. Examples include the Global Organic Textile Standard label (GOTS) and the IVN Best certification, which is awarded by the International Association of Natural Textile Industry (IVN).</p><p>Heike Hess, head of IVN's Berlin branch, says using organic cotton alone "is not enough to make fashion really sustainable," and that producing clothes involves a more involved production chain. After being grown in the fields, cotton fibers have to be separated from their seeds, spun, dyed, printed and sewn to create finished items of clothing.</p><p>"Ecological and social standards are important at every stage of production," Hess said. "That includes minimizing the use of harmful chemicals, managing water usage and waste, limiting CO2 emissions and ensuring human rights, fair wages, protections for workers and much more. Only then can fashion really be called sustainable."</p><p>And that comes at a price. <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/heres-why-your-next-t-shirt-should-be-made-of-organic-cotton/a-39083921" target="_blank">Organic cotton</a> summer dresses certified with the GOTS label usually cost somewhere between €60-100 (about $67-113). </p>
Water Polluted and Wasted<p>Textile production often uses harmful chemicals, especially during the wet processing stage when threads are formed, dyed and woven, says Wohlgemuth. According to the UN Environment Program, around 20% of global wastewater is generated during textile dyeing and processing. Communities and ecosystems in <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/bangladeshs-textile-industry-works-towards-becoming-more-eco-friendly/a-50983898" target="_blank">textile producing countries across Asia</a> are worst affected.</p><p>Since launching its <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/international/act/detox/" target="_blank">'Detox My Fashion'</a> campaign in 2011, Greenpeace has secured commitments from some 80 global companies in the fashion industry to eliminate hazardous chemicals by the end of this year.</p><p>But that alone doesn't imply sustainability. Growing cotton also requires a huge amount of water and vast areas of land, says Sabine Ferenschild from the Südwind Institute for Economics and Ecumenism in Bonn.</p><p>"Organic cotton is only sustainable when grown in rainy regions such as India, and planted in combination with food crops rather than in competition with them," she said. "But we have seen that cotton farming is increasingly being shifted to desert regions. That can never be sustainable."</p>
Eco Collections Remain a Market Niche<p>Ferenschild is critical of major fashion brands' attempts to go green with their own criteria and labeling for certain products, while the majority of what they're selling is still produced conventionally.</p><p>Germany is pursuing a new approach to green certification with its government-backed <a href="https://www.bmz.de/en/issues/textilwirtschaft/gruener_knopf/index.html" target="_blank">'Green Button' label</a>. A company can only use the label if all its products comply with high environmental and labor standards. These standards are not as strict as those demanded by organic certifiers, but experts say the 'Green Button' label is a step in the right direction, as it prevents producers offloading responsibility to subcontractors in the production chain.</p>
An 'Eco' Dress for €20 ($22.60): Too Good to Be True?<p>According to the Bremen Cotton Exchange, organic cotton costs between 10 and 50% more than conventional cotton. Premium fibers boost prices the most; the raw material is not necessarily the most important factor in terms of cost.</p><p>Global fashion brands like H&M are able to keep their prices down, even for the products in their "sustainable" ranges, due to the huge volume of items they produce, textiles expert Ferenschild told DW.</p><p>H&M uses its own "CONSCIOUS" label for products which contain "at least 50 percent sustainable materials, such as organic cotton and recycled polyester." It is not clear to consumers what percentage of organic cotton is used in the items labeled as such. In response to DW's request for clarification, H&M wrote: "Across our entire range, H&M uses 16 percent organic cotton according to our most recent figures."</p><p>According to the Bremen Cotton Exchange, just 0.7 percent of the global cotton harvest in the 2017/18 season was organic.</p><p><strong>The Real Problem Is One of Quantity</strong></p><p>Even if the big fashion brands wanted to move further towards truly sustainable production, current consumption habits would make that almost impossible. The real problem is that far too many clothes are being produced. According to a 2015 Greenpeace study, there are more than five billion items of clothing in German wardrobes alone. </p>
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A herdsman in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague Sunday, The New York Times reported.
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By Matt Kasson, Brian Lovett and Carolee Bull
Home gardening is having a boom year across the U.S. Whether they're growing their own food in response to pandemic shortages or just looking for a diversion, numerous aspiring gardeners have constructed their first raised beds, and seeds are flying off suppliers' shelves. Now that gardens are largely planted, much of the work for the next several months revolves around keeping them healthy.
Start With Prevention<p>Just as preventive steps like maintaining a balanced diet help keep humans healthy, home growers can take many actions to help their gardens thrive.</p><p>One key step is assessing soil fertility – the ability of soil to sustain plant growth – which can vary widely depending on your location and soil type. Low soil fertility limits food production and predisposes plants to disease and pests. University extension <a href="https://soiltesting.wvu.edu/" target="_blank">soil testing labs</a> can help evaluate the quality of garden soil and identify nutrient deficiencies and acidic soils, often at no charge.</p>
Using weed barrier landscape cloth for planting rows and mulching between rows is an effective way to suppress weeds. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
Diagnosing Problems<p>Common plant pathogens include <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/viral/introduction/Pages/PlantViruses.aspx" target="_blank">viruses</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/prokaryote/intro/Pages/Bacteria.aspx" target="_blank">bacteria</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/nematode/intro/Pages/IntroNematodes.aspx" target="_blank">nematodes</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/oomycete/introduction/Pages/IntroOomycetes.aspx#:%7E:text=The%20oomycetes%2C%20also%20known%20as,foliar%20blights%20and%20downy%20mildews." target="_blank">oomycetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/fungalasco/intro/Pages/IntroFungi.aspx" target="_blank">fungi</a>. All of these microorganisms, especially at an early stage of infection, are too small to see. But when they proliferate, they cause changes in plants that we can recognize.</p><p>Unlike insects, which move around on six legs or on wings through the air, pathogens can move unseen and unchecked from leaf to leaf on the wind, through the soil or in droplets of water. Some microbes have even formed intimate relationships with insects and use them as vehicles to move from plant to plant, which makes these pathogens even more challenging to manage. Unfortunately, by the time some pathogens make their presence known, the damage is already done.</p><p>We recently conducted a <a href="https://twitter.com/kasson_wvu/status/1265989041725624323" target="_blank">Twitter poll</a> of gardeners nationwide to find out which culprits plagued their gardens. People named <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/aphids" target="_blank">aphids</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-vine-borer" target="_blank">squash vine borers</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-bug" target="_blank">squash bugs</a> and <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/flea-beetle" target="_blank">flea beetles</a> as the most problematic insect pests. Their most troublesome pathogens included <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/powdery-mildew" target="_blank">powdery mildew</a>, <a href="https://plantpath.ifas.ufl.edu/rsol/Trainingmodules/BWTomato_Module.html" target="_blank">tomato bacterial wilt</a> and <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/downy-mildew" target="_blank">cucurbit downy mildew</a>.</p><p>To manage such perennial challenges, the first step is to spend time closely looking at your plants. Do you notice any insects consistently hanging around, or molds colonizing leaves or other plant parts? How about symptoms such as blight, stunting, or leaves that are yellowing, browning or wilting?</p>
This white fungal growth is an early sign of powdery mildew on a leaf of susceptible summer squash. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
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By Emma Charlton
The effects of climate change may more far-reaching than you think.
Hotter temperatures have been linked to a rise in energy poverty, with more people struggling to meet their energy bills from their household income, according to a new study published on ScienceDirect by researchers from Italy's Ca' Foscari University.
Value of air conditioning imports in selected OECD countries. ScienceDirect
The ‘Golden Thread’<p>The <a href="https://www.endenergypoverty.org/reports" target="_blank">Global Commission to End Energy Poverty</a> calls access to energy the "golden thread" that weaves together economic growth, human development, and environmental sustainability. And one of the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/archive/sdg-07-affordable-and-clean-energy" target="_blank">United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals</a> is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.</p><p>Sustainability also has a large role to play in the future of energy and failing to embed green policies in COVID-19 stimulus packages and underinvesting in green infrastructure are current risks, according to the <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_COVID_19_Risks_Outlook_Special_Edition_Pages.pdf" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</p><p>In its vision for a 'Great Reset' – building a better world after the pandemic – the Forum and the IMF jointly backed the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/end-fossil-fuel-subsidies-economy-imf-georgieva-great-reset-climate/" target="_blank">transition to a green economy</a> and called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies.</p>
As if the surging cases of coronavirus weren't enough for Floridians to handle, now the state's Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed that a person in the Tampa area tested positive for a rare brain-eating amoeba, according to CBS News. The Florida DOH posted a warning to residents to remind them of the dangers of the rare single-celled amoeba that attacks brain tissue.