Atlanta Journal-Constitution environmental writer Seabrook (Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses, 2002, etc.) opens the door to the world that lies between the land and the ocean, the tidal salt marsh.
Told through the life experiences of his friends and colleagues—fishermen, crabbers, oystermen and others—the author's story frequently returns to his main theme: the destruction of this important environmental resource. He quotes Georgia political analyst Bill Shipp: “Everywhere you look, developers are rolling out plans for gigantic subdivisions and shopping centers. Many of these new gold-seekers view the marshlands as Georgia's last frontier—a wild and watery space to be filled, developed and overpopulated.” From the upper reaches of the Altamaha, the river that supplies Atlanta, to the Savannah shipping canal, the flow of fresh water to the coastal plain has been impeded and reduced by hard topping. Coastal towns such as Bluffton, S.C., are being swamped by sprawling development, and changes to the ecology are undermining the marshland nurseries essential to the survival of crustaceans and fish. Seabrook reviews scientific studies showing that “more people—and the secondary development that followed—[has] meant more pollution, which meant more shellfish beds off-limits to harvesting.” He also assesses restoration and mitigation programs designed to determine whether it is possible to recover such habitats once they have been lost. Ultimately, though, it is a social problem, and conflicting needs—e.g., the need for more housing versus the destruction of our maritime environment—will need to be resolved politically. Seabrook includes history, a summary of contemporary scientific research and current legislative initiatives, and he also writes poignantly of his birthplace, John's Island, S.C.
Another excellent wake-up call about the need to prevent the destruction of our natural environment.