Grant to Assist Bear Safety in the Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy recently awarded a $4,000 grant to assist with bear safety in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The grant, administered by the Friends of Smokies, will be used to upgrade cable and pulley systems used to keep food out of the reach of bears at the park’s backcountry campsites. In related news, the A.T. Conservancy also announced that revenue received from the sale of Appalachian Trail specialty license plates, first released in 2005, in Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, exceeded $1 million.

All Air Travel Goes Through Atlanta

Atlanta, Ga.

If you’ve ever waded through the sea of people at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this will not be a surprise, but the Airports Council International recently confirmed that it is indeed the busiest airport in the world. According to a recent report, Hartsfield-Jackson was visited by more than 94 million travelers last year. The Georgia airport saw nearly 10 million more people than the second busiest airport, in Beijing, China. Another Southern airport, Charlotte’s Douglas International was the 23rd busiest with more than 43 million travelers in 2013.

Southern City Tops Obesity Poll

Huntington, W.Va.

A recent Gallup Poll found that residents of the Huntington-Ashland, W.Va.-Ky.-Ohio metro area had an obesity rate of 39.5 percent. That’s tops in the nation among 189 U.S metropolitan areas surveyed. According to Gallup, Huntington-Ashland has been among the 10 most obese communities every year since the poll started in 2008. Other Southern cities in the top 10 include Hagerstown-Martinsburg, Md.-W.Va., Charleston, W.Va., and Clarksville, Tenn.-Ky. On the flip side, Charlottesville, Va., at a percentage of 18.7, landed at number four on the list of the least obese U.S. communities, a ranking that was topped by Boulder, Co., at 12.4 percent. Gallup also noted that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 program had a goal of reducing obesity to 15 percent in each state, but no state and only one U.S. metro area has achieved this goal.

Troubled Waters in the South

Troubled waters are running in the South. Two regional waterways recently made a list of the country’s top 10 endangered rivers, as named annually by watchdog nonprofit American Rivers. Coming in at number 6, South Carolina’s Edisto River is being threatened by excessive agriculture withdrawals, which, according to American Rivers, can take up to 35 percent of the river’s flow during the summer months. As the longest free-flowing blackwater river in the country, the Edisto runs for more than 250 miles from its headwaters between Columbia and Aiken to the Atlantic Coast, along the way serving as a popular waterway for both paddling and fishing.

To the north, the Haw River was named the ninth most endangered on the list, at risk from millions of gallons of wastewater and polluted runoff. The 110-mile central North Carolina river and its watershed provide drinking water to nearly one million people between Greensboro and parts of the Triangle area, and the Haw is also a beloved city escape for paddling, fishing, and swimming. But population growth, antiquated wastewater systems, and recent protection rollbacks are all now threatening the long-term health of the river.

Biking: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Boston, Ma. 

In an effort to get its residents moving, the city of Boston recently started a program that allows some doctors to prescribe biking to low-income patients. According to a story in the Boston Globe, the new “Prescribe-a-Bike” enables doctors at Boston Medical Center to prescribe low-income patients with a $5 yearlong membership to Hubway, the city’s bike-share program. With an obesity rate of 1 in 4 among Bean Town’s low-income residents, city officials hope the incentive to ride will help some people become wicked slim. 

Paying Top Dollar for Mountain Air

Beijing, China

Citizens in rapidly industrializing China are finally becoming vocal about their dangerous smog-filled skies. In one well-publicized awareness stunt, artist Liang Kegang took a business trip to the craggy Provence region of France and came back home with a jar of fresh mountain air. He then sold it at auction for 5,250 yuan ($860). In the story he said: “Air should be the most valueless commodity, free to breathe for any vagrant or beggar. This is my way to question China’s foul air and express my dissatisfaction.”

Driver After Hitting Cyclist: “I Just Don’t Care” 

Koroit, Australia

Fortunately Kimberly Davis of Koroit, Australia won’t be on the road for a while. She lost her license for nine months and was fined $4500 after showing little remorse for hitting a cyclist from behind with her car. Following the incident, Davis, who used her phone 44 times leading up to incident, told police: “I just don’t care because I’ve already been through a lot of bullsh*t and my car is like pretty expensive and now I have to fix it. I’m kind of pissed off that the cyclist has hit the side of my car. I don’t agree that people texting and driving could hit a cyclist.” The cyclist spent three months recovering from a spinal fracture, an injury that required surgery and could have resulted in paralysis. Davis eventually pled guilty to dangerous driving.