One Hundred Miles 100:Writers
Honoring authors, journalists, and literary groups for their work to increase awareness of critical issues affecting our Georgia coast
A self-proclaimed “Saltwater Geechee” Cornelia Bailey is a storyteller, innkeeper, shopkeeper, historian, farmer, and the unofficial matriarch of Sapelo Island. She is the author of the renowned God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man, a cultural memoir that details her experiences of being one of a last generation of African Americans born, raised, and schooled on Sapelo Island – and her fight to preserve her historic Hog Hammock community well into the future. To that end, Cornelia helped to found the Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society (SICARS). In her distinct voice, she writes of the island she loves, “I am Sapelo and all the hundreds of others who are descendants; we who remain here is Sapelo. We are one, bound by the spirit of an island and Bulallah the slave. Bound by high tide, fields, gossips, smoke mullet, and our faith.” Today, Cornelia embodies the spirit of Sapelo Island, rooted in its historic past but looking towards the future. “Her influence is why so many have stayed out there today,” Lloyd Newberry, former dean of education at Armstrong State University and SICARS board member, praises her impact. “She’s given everyone a reason for hope.”
From her home at the edge of a salt marsh in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Deborah Cramer has gained an intimate understanding – and appreciation for – our natural world. She writes about science, nature, and the environment, and is a visiting scholar at MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative. Deborah has written three books, Great Waters: An Atlantic Passage, Smithsonian Ocean: Our Water, Our World, and The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey. This book, which received the 2016 Reed Award for Environmental Writing from the Southern Environmental Law Center, has been aptly described as “more thrilling than the Kentucky Derby” and follows the red knots’ incredible 19,000-mile journey from one end of the earth to the other and back – including an essential stopover in coastal Georgia. Deborah has continued her advocacy through articles in Audubon, BBC Wildlife, the Boston Globe, and on the op-ed page of the New York Times, where she writes, “I used to think that sandpipers flocking at the sea edge, scurrying before the waves, were an immutable part of the beach. No longer. This year, as the birds come north, one of them, the red knot — Calidris canutus rufa — will have acquired a new status. It is now listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. It joins four other shorebirds on the government’s list of threatened and endangered species. Sadly, it is unlikely to be the last.”
For nearly 20 years, Mary Landers has been the trusted voice on coastal Georgia environmental issues. As the environmental journalist for the Savannah Morning News, she writes to inform and engage her readers in matters both local and global in scope. Through Mary’s well-researched articles and her popular blog and Twitter accounts, readers are exposed to wildlife species (sea turtles and right whales are popular features, as are the comings and goings of Savannah’s most favorite great horned owls and the white shark Mary Lee) and concerns ranging from black gill disease in local shrimp populations to land development and proposals to drill for oil off our coast. Mary embodies the best qualities of a journalist: she doesn’t tell her readers what to think, but instead relies on thoughtful and well-researched pieces to educate and inspire her readers to make their own responsible decisions. This type of scrutiny is perhaps more important than ever, and we’re lucky to have Mary Landers in Savannah to ask – and find answers to – some of the most important questions facing our coast.
Dink NeSmith got started in the newspaper business at ten years old when he spent his days selling newspapers to factory workers as they left work for the day. Since then, he’s been actively involved in the education of coastal Georgians through the media and the written word. Through Community Newspapers, Inc., Dink is the publisher of more than two dozen newspapers in Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida, including the Tribune and Georgian in Camden County and the Wayne County Press Sentinel. Most recently, Dink has used his pen to oppose the transportation of millions of tons of coal ash into the Broadhurst landfill outside of Jesup. Thanks to Dink’s thorough commentaries, thousands of Georgia residents now understand the threat coal ash poses to communities throughout our state. As a publisher, writer, and fearless coastal advocate, Dink is making a difference for our people and natural resources.
Environmental activist, memoirist, and poet Janisse Ray is the award-winning author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a unique study of growing up amidst a wild and rural life in southern Georgia. At the time, the New York Times said of Janisse, “The forests of the South find their Rachel Carson.” She has authored five other books of literary nonfiction and nature poetry and regularly contributes thought-provoking pieces about conservation to nationally-respected publications such as Orion Magazine. Janisse further helps her fellow coastal Georgians find their own voice by hosting writing workshops and lecturing widely on nature, community, agriculture, wildness, sustainability, and the politics of wholeness. Through the page, she provides guidance, education, and inspiration. “If I get to feeling a little blue about our prospects, I’m liable to reach for one of Janisse Ray’s books just so I can hear her calm, wise, strong voice,” says author and 350.org founder Bill McKibben. “A world with her in it is going to do the right thing, I think.”
In their book, Sea Turtles of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Carol Ruckdeschel and Bob Shoop (1935-2003) write, “Sea turtles have survived the breaking up and drifting of continents on the earth’s surface, the creation of new oceans, ice ages, catastrophic volcanic activity, and an asteroid impact severe enough to contribute to the demise of the dinosaurs.” And yet today, these species face catastrophic threats from humans, shrimp boats, and coastal development. That’s why this field guide is so valuable to sea turtle conservation – their text is thorough without being imposing, clearly written and approachable, and an important “go-to” tool in educating both novice turtlers and experts alike. Says John Crawford, “Bob’s very notable background in the academic world as a researcher and university professor and Carol’s as an unmatched field biologist and resident barrier island naturalist are well blended in this work. Their vast knowledge and love of sea turtles and our environment comes across very clearly from its pages. Thanks so very much to Bob, in memorial, and Carol, still out on the beach.” Hear, hear!
During his days as a marine education specialist with the University of Georgia, Taylor Schoettle answered a lot of questions about our coast. He went on to translate his career’s worth of insider’s knowledge about the geology and ecology of Georgia’s barrier islands into his beloved series of guidebooks, which include A Naturalist’s Guide to St. Simons, A Guide to a Georgia Barrier Island, and A Guide to the Okefenokee Swamp. Throughout the books – must-read primers for anyone who wants to identify seashells, marsh plants, and better understand the world around them – Taylor’s education background shines through. His profiles are easy to understand for the beginning explorer and share the story of our coast’s hidden and most fascinating secrets in an engaging way. It’s safe to say that once you read one of Taylor’s books, you’ll never look at our coast the same way again.
Charles Seabrook grew up next to a South Carolina salt marsh and went on to share his passion for our natural resources with millions of readers. A long-time environmental writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other publications across the southeast, Charlie is the author ofThe World of the Salt Marsh: Appreciating and Protecting the Tidal Marshes of the Southeastern Atlantic Coast and Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses. His writing sucks you right into the middle of the action, whether it’s exploring the salt marsh or following red knots during annual migration: his accounts are so vivid and true-to-life that you can practically smell the pungent pluff mud of the marsh, and hear the flocks of ravenous shorebirds closing in around you, hot in pursuit of freshly-laid horseshoe crab eggs. Consider his recent profile for Atlanta Magazine: “The pulsing heart of this great ecosystem is the tides. Twice-a-day surges of six to nine feet in height—the highest in the Southeast—push saltwater into the estuaries around the barrier islands, where it mixes with fresh water flowing from the mighty rivers: Altamaha, Savannah, Ogeechee, Satilla. The confluence traps sediments and nutrients, which make their way into salt marshes via winding tidal creeks and fertilize lush swards of Spartina alterniflora. Like vast, neatly mowed lawns, the meadows stretch for miles to the horizon.”
If you want to hear a good story about coastal Georgia, go talk to Buddy Sullivan. He’s the beloved author of 18 books on local history specializing in antebellum agriculture and the maritime heritage of the tidewater. Buddy lectures on these and other topics including Spanish settlement, Oglethorpe and the founding of Savannah, Scottish settlement in Georgia, the timber and shipping industry, and the shrimp and oyster fisheries. He certainly knows his material, having served as Director of the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve from 1993 to 2013 and now as the leader of educational programs across the state. Through his extensive knowledge, Buddy focuses on how Georgia’s coastal environment shaped its history and the critical importance of maintaining healthy resource for local economies such as agriculture, timbering, commercial fishing, and tourism. These are important lessons that coastal residents and decision-makers must learn from as our coast continues to grow. Buddy ensures that even when we’re moving forward, we never forget the lessons from our past.
Perhaps you’d like to learn more about the mighty Altamaha River, or better understand Georgia’s salamanders, turtles, or snakes. Or maybe you’re on a mission to identify that beautiful wildflower in the meadow, or simply want immerse yourself in paintings of Little St. Simons Island. Whatever your interest, The Wormsloe Foundation Nature Books have you covered. Started in 2004 as an imprint of the University of Georgia Press and with generous funding from the Wormsloe Foundation, these exceptional books are dedicated to informing and educating general readers about the unique natural environments of the Southeast and the pressing need to preserve them. The many books in this series make for delightful and thought-provoking reading for those hoping to expand their knowledge of and appreciation for Georgia’s natural wonders. With so many urgent issues facing our environment and our people, the Wormsloe Foundation Nature Books are more necessary than ever. They not only introduce thousands of readers to the wildlife and wild places of our coast, they help us understand what’s at stake…and why we should care.
Banner photo courtesy of Donna MacPherson Photography