Tag: Black Belt

In West Alabama, Life Is Hard. Warmer Weather Forecasts Worse Problems. How Bad Could It Get and What Can Be Done?

The Black Belt already has more than its own share of problems, and warming temperatures aren’t making things easier for the residents.

Disease-causing organisms thrive in standing water during warmer weather, and in the Black Belt there’s plenty of that. The area’s soil doesn’t drain well because of the heavy clay, and the region has been beset with more extreme weather, flooding and sewer system overflows.

Scientists now are even predicting that the weather in the Black Belt, and in much of the state, will be too hot for the state bird — the Northern Flicker, or yellowhammer — to continue living here during the hottest months of the year.

The wood pellet factory trend is coming to the Black Belt, with promises of supplying much-needed jobs and helping to stabilize emissions of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide, but there are questions about whether either of those benefits will come to pass.

Farmers are taking many steps to make their operations consume fewer resources and create fewer environmental problems, but even many of them fear their efforts are too little too late.

BirminghamWatch recently probed problems caused in the Black Belt by the warming weather patterns and efforts to work on those problems. Read the full series:

In West Alabama, Life Is Hard. Warmer Weather Forecasts Worse Problems
Audubon Study Finds Warming Climate May Be Inhospitable to Alabama State Bird
Wood Pellet Plants in Job-Hungry Southern Towns Prompt Environmentalists’ Warnings
Cattle, Catfish and Cover Crops: Alabama Farms Play Role in Slowing Climate Change

In West Alabama, Life Is Hard. Warmer Weather Forecasts Worse Problems

This is the first in a series of four stories about how changing weather patterns are and will affect the Black Belt.

Much of West Alabama’s rural Black Belt is beset with long-standing poverty, poor health, deteriorating infrastructure, suspect water quality and the mental and physical stresses that accompany those conditions.

Climate change is making those problems worse – or at least harder to overcome – and that effect is projected to increase in the coming decades. Increasingly higher temperatures year-round are bringing more extreme and violent storms, heavier rainfall and extended periods of drought.

The threats are clear, scientists almost universally agree. Disease-causing organisms thrive in warmer weather. Increased flooding causes already inadequate sewage treatment systems to fail as well as damaging streams and rivers with greater sediment and fertilizer run-off. Stronger tornadoes tear up the landscape and homes and terrorize the population.

What made the Black Belt different?

Almost two centuries ago, plows overturned the rich earth of the diverse, tall-grass prairies in the Alabama Black Belt to create the plantation culture based on a single crop, cotton. The act, together with the import of slaves from Africa and the Caribbean, transformed the region into an economic powerhouse for the next 150 years – until the soil was depleted and eroded. Since then the land in many cases has been given over to pine trees, cattle ranches, catfish ponds and a patchwork quilt of soy and corn fields. Read more.