Altered Environments: The Outer Banks of North Carolina

Altered Environments: The Outer Banks of North Carolina

Altered Environments: The Outer Banks of North Carolina

Altered Environments: The Outer Banks of North Carolina

Synopsis

The constant assault of natural forces make fragile barrier islands some of the most rapidly changing locations in the world, but human activities have had enormous impact on these islands as well. In Altered Environments, Jeffrey and Kathleen Pompe explore the complex interactions between nature and human habitation on the resilient Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Pompes employ modern and historical photographs and maps to illustrate the geographic and ecologic changes that have taken place on the Outer Banks, evaluating efforts to preserve these lands and also meet the evolving needs of a growing population.The Pompes examine the various forces that have created an environment so very different from the Outer Banks of only a few decades ago. The defining event in the reshaping of the islands for expanded development was the dune-construction project of the 1930s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed a wall of self-sustaining dunes along 125 miles of Outer Banks shoreline in an effort to stave off beach erosion. This event created a historical demarcation in conservation efforts and heralded the beginning of a period of rapid economic development for the Outer Banks. The construction project reshaped the islands' geography to accomplish perceived economic advantages and prepared the Outer Banks for the last half of the twentieth century, when tourists increasingly visited this shore, bringing corresponding developments in their wake. The dune-restoration project is just one of the Pompes' examples of how human actions have altered the islands to meet the demands of a growing number of visitors and residents. While Altered Environments focuses on the Outer Banks, the narrative also considers social, environmental, and economic issues that are relevant to much of the seashore. Most coastal communities face similar problems, such as natural disasters and shoreline erosion, and in recent decades rapid population growth has exacerbated many conservation problems. Real-estate developments, the fisheries industry, tourism, climate change, and oil exploration all come under scrutiny in this investigation. Using the Outer Banks as a case study to frame a host of environmental challenges faced along the Atlantic seaboard today, the Pompes provide a valuable commentary on the historical context of these concerns and offer some insightful solutions that allow for sustainable communities.

Excerpt

Our fascination with the Outer Banks began when we first visited the islands twenty years ago. As we revisited the Outer Banks over the years, we soon recognized that the interaction between nature and humankind created a narrative that invited reflection and study. While nature’s forces make the Outer Banks and other barrier islands some of the most rapidly changing places in the world, humankind’s activities alter the islands as well. in Altered Environments we explore this complex interaction between humankind and nature and examine the forces that have created an environment so different from the Outer Banks of only a few decades ago.

When we first learned of the 1930s dune-construction project of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), we recognized a historical demarcation that altered life on the Outer Banks from what came before. Constructing a wall of dunes along 125 miles of shoreline changed the Outer Banks in many ways. Most important, the project ushered the area into the last half of the twentieth century, when Americans would increasingly coveted the shore. in Altered Environments our goal is to provide a historical perspective of how nature and humankind have shaped this unique area and to interpret the interaction between humankind and the changeable barrier-island environment. After all, things are not always what they seem. Indeed the 1930s ccc project sounded a theme that resonates throughout Outer Banks history: alterations of the islands may create unexpected and unforeseen consequences.

We introduce the reader to the Outer Banks environment and the concerns that many barrier-island communities must address. in general, however, we consider social, environmental, and economic issues that are relevant to many twenty-first-century coastal areas. Coastal communities face unique problems, such as natural disasters and rising sea levels, and in recent decades the rapid growth in coastal population has exacerbated . . .

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