April 6, 2022

Coastal Georgia residents are at it again, demanding accountability from their county government in McIntosh and getting at least a listen. Meanwhile, toothless alligators in the Okefenokee provide a metaphor for Georgia lawmakers. Ah, snap, let’s take a closer look.

Don’t say spray

Like all the coastal counties, McIntosh is a watery place. There’s a lot of marsh. And ditches that flow into marsh. And increasingly higher high tides. So when residents learned that the county planned to quit mowing and start spraying herbicides to control roadside vegetation, they worried about where that herbicide would end up. Round one of this Roundup debate (they aren’t using that particular herbicide but do plan to use one with the same active ingredient, glyphosate) concluded Monday when the county manager decided to pause the new plan until at least next year.

Nearly 200 members joined the Facebook group “Stop the Spraying” in its first week.

Doctoring a feverish world

Climate change is affecting all aspects of life on Earth. So it makes sense that medical students at Emory in Atlanta are incorporating climate change into their curriculum, Emily Jones of WABE/Grist reports. “For example, we learn a lot about kidney injury, and kidney failure,” said fourth year student Ben Rabin. “So we wanted to talk about what are some of the risks of extreme heat?” It’s easier to get dehydrated when it’s very hot, he explained, and that can lead to kidney failure.

Climate solutions and hope

Speaking of climate change, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC report came out Monday with a sobering but practical message: “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C (2.7°F),” IPCC Working Group III Co-Chair Jim Skea said in a prepared statement. “Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

The report outlines what’s working and how it needs to be scaled up. At the Society of Environmental Journalists conference last week in Houston, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe relayed a similar message. “One of the biggest questions I get as a climate scientist is, ‘Is it too late?’ We know that we can make a difference. Every year matters. Every action matters. Every choice matters.”

Katharine Hayhoe, left, discusses climate change at the SEJ Conference. Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

Toothless in the Okie

Did you know that alligators in the Okefenokee are prone to tooth problems because of the swamp’s acidic water? Researchers at the UGA Coastal Ecology Lab have even documented one gator that’s nearly toothless.

Coincidentally, toothless also describes legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly this year regarding the Okefenokee. Lawmakers queued up a bill that would have protected the swamp from mining on nearby Trail Ridge. But House Natural Resources and Environment Chair Lynn Smith (R-Newnan) never gave it a hearing. Instead, lawmakers settled for a resolution declaring their intent to protect the Okefenokee Swamp’s beauty. 

Toothless alligators aren’t starving. “Even with missing teeth alligators are still incredible hunters due to their immense jaw pressure,” the researchers write. Maybe there’s hope for the peer pressure of a house resolution, too.

A toothless gator can still crush its prey. Credit: UGA Coastal Ecology Lab

If you have feedback, questions, concerns, or just like what you see, let us know at thecurrentga@gmail.com.

McIntosh County rethinks roadside spraying

McIntosh residents pushed back against a plan to switch from mowing to chemical control of roadside vegetation.

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The next frontier in medicine: Doctors with climate training

An increasingly warmer world needs doctors prepared to cope with its effects on human bodies.

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Okefenokee bill died but efforts to prevent mining continue

After Okefenokee bill fails, lawmakers take their case against mining to regulators.

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Mary Landers covers Coastal Georgia’s environment for The Current, a topic she covered for nearly 24 years at the Savannah Morning News, where she began and ended her time there writing about health,...