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Blue Hollers in the Shadow of the Holocene
Ecological grief is a concept that has been circulating for quite a long time — but we have reached a point of inflection. The earth that was, has now passed. The romantic attachment to “wilderness” that saturated the human imagination for centuries viewed nature as something wholly separate from human society. These romantic metaphors concealed a grievous reality: the impending impossibility of wilderness within the anthropocene. We have seen this death with our own eyes in Southern Appalachia and throughout the broader southeast — from the flooding of our watersheds by Tennessee Valley Authority, the accelerated spread of invasive and noxious species, the catastrophic floods caused by strip mining in Eastern Kentucky, and the immanent development of Cop City now threatening the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta.
Our hills bear their wounds brazenly — the fragile flesh opened carelessly by extractive human industry. Mutilated, extinction is now surging at a rate unseen to human eyes. We cry with the hills — we beg for mercy. We scramble in interrogative and exclamatory psychosis as though we have emerged from a lover’s quarrel: “Where have you gone? Why have we abandoned you? Can we correct this?” We flee our sorrow, but no wish, no delusion, no plea will change the current ecological reality. We choose now to gaze dispassionately into the grim reality: the holocene is dead.
Expanding on the previous issue, Hillbilly Ecologies After the Apocalypse, we now explore the grief that follows. There is a long tradition of grief in this region, with canonical images of freight train whistles, lonesome songs, wandering widows, the blackest crows, and rank strangers. Many traditional ballads appeal to natural imagery to express grief. In this issue, we grieve once again — for nature itself.