The mysterious Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve in Atlanta is no longer a lake, nor a nature preserve, but a private two hundred–acre wilderness next to a landfill. This former public lake has a long and complicated history, including a suburban fishing club, a tragic debutante, botched plans for an inner-city campground, dumped bodies, and a landfill thwarted by organized Black neighbors. How did this once prized destination end up preserved in a state of arrested development? In 2019, as the landfills are capped and this corner of Atlanta begins to gentrify, the city considers whether to preserve Lake Charlotte again. In this personal essay, the author creeps through the fence to see what's left of the lake, the dam, and the Paleolithic quarry sites. Can Atlanta overcome a development pattern that paired neighborhoods for "Negro expansion" with industrial contamination? Fenced off for forty years, can nature—and the community—repair itself?
John Lusk Hathaway's photographic project One Foot in Eden takes as its subject the Cherokee National Forest and its visitors, who use this place extensively for day tripping and recreation. Largely a rural, undeveloped place, the waterways that appear time and again in Hathaway's explorations are part of a system of reservoirs built by the Tennessee Valley Authority for flood control and hydroelectricity generation a century ago. Built and unbuilt environments in One Foot in Eden speak to bigger questions about our existence as organic beings in a world increasingly given over to the high-modern ideology that drives mammoth undertakings like the TVA. Hathaway's images are suggestive of a deep-seated human need to connect with the world around us, evoking ideas like E. O. Wilson's biophilia.
How does one respond to the history of a place that has eagerly consumed its violent pasts at the expense of Black life? This question became particularly relevant in April 2018 when the city of Sugar Land, Texas, unearthed the remains of ninety-five former convict laborers on the grounds of a former sugar plantation turned prison farm. "Eating Dirt, Searching Archives" speculatively plays with a history of Sugar Land that does not rely on the city's industrial legacies. Instead, this essay turns to dirt as the archive of Texas's invisible Black geographies. Dirt is theorized as a means of preserving Black Texas life and memory alongside the difficulty of Sugar Land's violent pasts.