Norton, Virginia as seen from Flag Rock.
Fig. 1 Norton, Virginia as seen from Flag Rock recreation area.

Common Sense Environmentalism in Southwest Virginia

by Lewis Loflin

Above are the vast healthy forest that cover 90% or more of Appalachia. In this case my hometown of Norton, Virginia.

Common sense environmentalism must place human needs first, mitigate actual pollution, make proper use of resources, and employ reasonable conservation methods. Humans must always come first, not nature.

Common sense environmentalism is better known as conservationism. I view man as a partner with Nature and part of it. They co-exist to each other's benefit. I seek practical solutions.

Environmentalism arose in the 1960s-70s. It is an anti-human, pantheistic system that deifies Nature. Nature is divine and must be preserved as "pristine" at all costs.

Environmentalists see man as separate from Nature, as a destructive force. They seek no solution for the co-existence of the two.

Covservationism needs to be done from a personal perspective and action, not centralized planning or government control. It will take education in technology. Learn how things work and what is involved. Stay away from fads. If one is on a spiritual adventure, go to church.

Environmentalism takes a collectivist view. All things are interrelated; there is no room for individualism. Conformity with a Nature-centered world view must become public policy - by force if needed.

Common sense environmentalism or conservationism places reason first. Environmentalism, like all religions, places emotion first. Recycling and eating organic foods have become a religious ritual with no regard for cost-benefit considerations.

Cove Creek Road Washinton County, Virginia
Fig. 2 My house on Cove creek Road. Forest surrounds most side of the house.

Virginia Wildlife

I live within nature, I do not worship it. I've learned much from direct observation.

Conservationism works in the real world. I live by a road in a forest filled with non-native plants. A creek (Cove Creek) flows on the other side of the road. The woods are thriving just fine.

Non-native plants drive environmentalists insane for no rational reason. Some evasive species are harmful, but most are not, as the ecosystem will adjust.

Feral hogs have moved into neighboring Scott, Lee, and Wise Counties, likely my area that borders Scott County. Shoot them and make sausage.

Coyotes have also returned to the region. They are hybrids, part coyote, part dog, and part wolf. These are natural predators; I'll shoot them on sight. In Virginia, this is legal.

Other animals also flourish through rational conservation methods.

About 70 years ago, Virginia's black bear population was about 1,000, now ~20,000 in 2021.

The estimated Virginia deer population in 1607 (Jamestown) was ~400,000.

In the 1920s-30s, the deer population was ~25,000, all but wiped out in Southwest Virginia.

By 2000 with conservationism, affordable food, and energy from fossil fuels, the Virginia deer population was over 900,000. Affordable energy allows the resources to protect nature for further human use.

I have hit at least three. Time to make deer jerky because too many deer can spread disease and weaken the herds.

Virginia's population in 1920 was ~2.3 million. In 2020 ~8.6 million. Nearly a fourfold increase in humans, more than double the Jamestown deer population.

Mendota Trail Washington County, Virginia.
Fig. 3 Mendota Trail in Washington County, Virginia.

Mendota Trail Washington County, Virginia railroad  trestle.
Fig. 4 Mendota Trail in Washington County, Virginia railroad trestle.

As of November 2022 six trestles have been restored and 6-8 miles are open. This trail runs from Bristol, Virginia to Mendota in Washington County.

These two images were taken in the Benhams section of Washington County "over the hill" from my house.

This while still under construction in sections, was the work of individual conservationists, local business, and some government grants.

Norton Virginia as seen by Google Earth.
Fig. 5 Norton Virginia as seen by Google Earth.

In Norton and Wise County, strip mines cover 40% of the county. On replanted old mines, the wildlife is thriving. Conservationists re-established an elk herd of 250 on reclaimed mine land in Buchanan County.

Let us refer to Fig.5. In 1977, I graduated high and went into the Army. Notice the location of Norton Community Hospital. The area in the upper left-hand corner was the Dorchester Community.

Large areas of Dorchester were strip-mined and deep-mined. Easily two-thirds of the area looked like a nuclear test site. I was not too fond of strip mining; notice the little yellow X. That was my house on Park Avenue. The blasting rocked the whole area.

They built Norton Community Hospital on a strip mine where I collected fossils. So are the businesses surrounding the hospital. They also built Mountain View Hospital and the Norton Elementary and Middle schools on strip mines in the upper right.

The Google image was from October 2019 and shows the entire area has regrown. The new plant growth and flat mountain tops are a vast improvement. Many of those replanted trees, etc., are non-native. So what? The image in Fig. 1 was taken in summer.

The idea that Appalachia and Virginia are biological deserts due to mining and other human activities is rubbish.

1970 Virginia deer population was estimated at ~215,000. Large-scale strip mining exploded in Southwest Virginia in 1970. Yet by 2000 we estimate 850,000-1,000,000 dear! That's a 4.2 fold increase in 40 years!

Ref. Virginia Deer Management Program. They also say, "Although frequently cited as overpopulated by the press, most of Virginia’s deer herds are managed through regulated hunting at moderate to low population densities, in fair to good physical condition, and below the biological carrying capacity of the habitat."

According to the Texas Landowners Association:

Browse – 30-50% of Annual Diet. Fresh soft growth of stems and leaves growing from brush and trees.

Forbs – 25-50% of Annual Diet. These are small herbaceous (not woody) plants often referred to as weeds by landowners. Everything from wildflowers to thistles.

Mast – 5 – 20% of Annual Diet. The botanical name for nuts, seeds, and fruits of trees and shrubs.

Grass – under 10% of Annual Diet.

It would be nice if they ate my grass and not my green beans and roses.

I'm not suggesting strip mining creates deer, but deer are brush browsers like goats. They can't really survive on grass, which is good news for cattle farmers. They will destroy your garden, rose bushes, and ornamental plants. I found that out the hard way.

Garden produce Washington County, Virginia
Fig. 6 Garden produce and eggs.

Home canned soup.
Fig. 7 Home canned soup from garden and store bought ingredients.

Gardens

Should I grow my food? Only if it makes economic sense. Finding a spot to develop a small garden in an urban setting can be a problem. Tomatoes, green beans, etc., make sense. Trying to feed a family from a garden is unrealistic. A 1-pound bag of dry beans goes for $1.29 but would take hours of hand shelling.

Many foods are cheaper from the store than growing them. Reason looks at actual cost and time. Try shelling peas or dry beans. Farming is labor intensive, and so is gardening. Does one have access to a gas tiller? Does the space between some buildings get enough sun?

Is the soil warm enough for the seeds to germinate? What is the soil pH? What about fertilizer? Never use raw sewage or animal dung directly!

I have grown carrots, potatoes, okra, yellow squash, zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, sweet corn, popcorn, and sunflowers. We know how to can, I have a food dehydrator, and a freezer.

Rooster and chicken coop built from scrap wood.
Rooster and chicken coop built from scrap wood.

It is much work to shell popcorn. Sunflowers look pretty, and I throw a head to my chickens, who strip it clean of seeds. Same for corn on the cob. I feed my chickens commercial chicken feed while garden stuff and foraging supplement the feed at best. It makes no sense to grow chicken feed at $12 for a 50-pound bag.

They provide a big egg return, but it takes money to start.

In no practical way does a garden "save the planet," as the ecological spiritualists believe, and one is foolish to think so. I raise food to eat and save money.

I tried heirloom and organic seeds. I refuse to use either because the higher cost for no useful purpose is a waste of resources. Yields and quality are also lower.

Canning and dehydration take energy. Freezers take energy. The tiller takes fuel to operate. Growing an actual garden takes work, energy, and monetary investment. Living on subsistence agriculture is misery.

There is a dispute about reusing empty mayonnaise jars for home canning. The USDA says no, but they work fine, use a new canning jar flat and ring.

The trick is to allow the pressure canner to cool slowly. Even mason jaws will boil out liquid if the outside is cooled too fast and the pressure canner lid removed.

This reuse saved the energy required to manufacture a new jar. Saves me money, saves the use of fossil fuels.

table built from new and scrap wood.
Table built from new and scrap wood.

Above is a table I built from wood discarded at work. The top was the only part bought from a store. Using hand tools is a valuable skill that can allow one to save money and repurpose used items.

I use a wood stove (behind the table). I burn dead wood, wood scrap, and cardboard, but never plastics or treated wood due to pollution. We also have a very efficient oil heater. The wood stove produces far more pollution than the oil heater or a commercial power plant for the same energy. And my stove is a new EPA-approved model with a heat exchanger.

Yet for the environmentalists wanting to limit or ban fossil fuels, I have this question: Do you want 300 million people using wood stoves? Third-World countries lack access to affordable energy and burn wood and animal dung. This situation is terrible for people and the environment.

While a wood stove can be cheap, there are several costs. One has to have a chainsaw. There is much labor involved, ashes to haul off. The danger of fire and injury also have to be addressed. Is wood available on my property? Do I even own the property? What about a truck to haul wood? Buying firewood is expensive, and cutting and splitting your own is much work. I don't own an expensive log splitter.

Ways to save energy can be practical such as junking old refrigerators and replacing them with a newer model. Same with many high-energy appliances. LED lighting is a great energy saver once it becomes more affordable and works properly.

Recycling for the sake of recycling sometimes makes no ecological sense. Recycling aluminum saves 90% of the energy used to produce new, thus creating economic sense. Plastic bottles can cost more in energy and time than what it is worth.

I use reusable grocery bags, not because of environmentalism but because they are better functioning bags. They are also insulated to keep items cold, which saves a little energy while maintaining cold items.

These thin grocery store bags are a joke to recycle: too little material, too much handling, sorting, and energy use. Remember: all processes use energy, and until we go nuclear, that means fossil fuels.

I have slashed my electric bill by at least 50% over the last ten years. Changes in technology are the key. There is plenty of food and energy available today, and the decades of whining from ecological doomsayers have been proven wrong.

Home built Arduino controlled solar panel charge controller.
Home built Arduino controlled solar panel charge controller.

Solar panels are expensive, energy-intensive, and produce much toxic waste. They become toxic waste when they wear out and can't be recycled. I use a few for charging batteries and as a backup if a power outage occurs. I built my system, and even saving money from that, they still are not cost-effective.

Wind mills are costly and inefficient. The rare earth metals in the magnets leave mountains of toxic waste in China. Same problem with lithium mining in 3rd world countries. Electric cars are too expensive until we get a breakthrough in battery technology.

One ton of rare earths for magnets produces 4,000 tons of toxic waste! See Green Technology Highly Polluting, Environmentally Destructive.

Common sense environmentalism may involve rejecting many of the "green" practices some advocate. Cost versus benefits must take priority over feelings. The situation varies from household to household. But if this is some spiritual journey or repentance from consumerism or climate guilt, find a new religion.

Paradise California Fire Product of Nature, Human Error The Paradise Ca. Fire was not caused by President Trump or Human induced climate change. Any fool could see this coming and they did nothing to mitigate the threat. This drought problem will get worse and started 800 years ago.

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