An interdisciplinary study of conservation efforts and
attitudes in the Carolina lowcountry
Sustainability of the natural environment and of our society has become one of the most urgent challenges facing modern Americans. Communities across the country are seeking a viable pattern of growth that promotes prosperity, protects the environment, and preserves the distinctive quality of life and cultural heritage of their regions. The coastal zone of South Carolina is one of the most endangered, culturally complex regions in the state and perhaps in all of the American South. A Delicate Balance examines how a multilayered culture of environmental conservation and sustainable development has emerged in the lowcountry of South Carolina. Angela C. Halfacre, a political scientist, describes how sprawl shock, natural disaster, climate change, and other factors spawned and sustain—but at times also threaten and hinder—the culture of conservation.
Since Hurricane Hugo in 1989, the coastal region of South Carolina has experienced unprecedented increases in residential and commercial development. A Delicate Balance uses interdisciplinary literature and ethnographic, historical, and spatial methods to show how growing numbers of lowcountry residents, bolstered by substantial political, corporate, and media support, have sought to maintain the region's distinctive sense of place as well as its fragile ecology. The diverse social and cultural threads forming the fabric of the lowcountry conservation culture include those who make their living from the land, such as African American basket makers and multigenerational farmers, as well as those who own, manage, and develop the land and homeowner association members. Evolving perceptions, policies, and practices that characterize community priorities and help to achieve the ultimate goal of sustainability are highlighted here.
As Halfacre demonstrates, maintaining the quality of the environment while accommodating residential, commercial, and industrial growth is a balancing act replete with compromises. The book documents the origins, goals, programs, leaders, tactics, and effectiveness of a conservation culture. A Delicate Balance deftly illustrates that a resilient culture of conservation that wields growing influence in the lowcountry has become an important regional model for conservation efforts across the nation.
A Delicate Balance also includes a foreword by journalist Cynthia Barnett, author of Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis and Mirage: Florida and the Vanishing Water of the Eastern U.S.
Angela C. Halfacre is a professor of political science and sustainability science at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. She also serves as the director of Furman's David E. Shi Center for Sustainability.
"The book provides an exhaustive record of the singular Lowcountry conservation movement, an invaluable primer on how the movement has managed contemporary conflicts between development and conservation."—The Charleston (S.C.) Post & Courier
"A Delicate Balance thoroughly documents the rise of the conservation movement in the Lowcountry, leaving the reader with a sense of having read a well-told story and a reliable chronicle of the chain of events that significantly altered land-use patterns along the coast. Without our visionary leaders of conservation, it is certain that this book would have been entitled Paradise Lost."—The Charleston (S.C.) Mercury
"Having grown up on the mossy banks of the Edisto River and spent my summers on Edisto Island, I can personally attest to the wonders of the South Carolina lowcountry. In Angela Halfacre this beautiful and threatened region has at last found its chronicler. There are many stories needing telling about conservationists and others in the lowcountry, and Halfacre is very good at telling them."—James Gustave Speth, author of America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy
"Hope that a new generation of conservationists has arisen and coalesced is the core of A Delicate Balance. . . . Halfacre documents the rise and maturation of a culture of conservation among individuals, families, grassroots organizations, communities, planners, politicians, ethnic groups, even developers. Her honest look at what has happened on Hilton Head and beyond is not a warm and fuzzy story. But she has found a backbone gaining strength that may yet save an incredible place."—Hilton Head Island (S.C.) Packet
"Throughout the book Haflacre relies heavily on storytelling, making it easy for readers to get a feel for the communities she write about and understand the information being presented. . . . A Delicate Balance doesn't offer a prescription for the future, but rather seeks to give people an understanding of what has and is taking place and why, it's so special."—Pawley's Island (S.C.) Coastal Observer
"The South Carolina Lowcountry is an incomparably beautiful national treasure, rich with sumptuous vistas, beaches, marshes, live oaks, long-leaf pines, inlets, creeks, hummocks, and more. No longer a secret, the region is loved, visited, and occupied by more and more people each year. Angela Halfacre presents an optimistic picture of the positive steps that have been taken, especially in recent history, to help protect, manage, and carefully guide growth in the Lowcountry. More importantly, she also discusses the dangers of unwise, unmanaged, and unplanned growth and development—a valuable lesson for citizens and policymakers alike. A Delicate Balance encourages and challenges current and future residents of our precious South Carolina coast to accept our responsibility for stewardship of this special part of our planet. It is up to all of us to collectively care for its delicate, beautiful nature for the generations to come."—The Honorable Joseph P. Riley, Jr., mayor of Charleston
"Over the last quarter of a century, the conservation movement changed the trajectory and the future of South Carolina as hundreds of thousands of acres of land were protected, developments reconfigured, highways rerouted or deauthorized, and a culture of conservation emerged. Angela Halfacre is to be commended for this compelling and overdue assessment of the successful strategies, organizations, and leaders of the conservation movement. A Delicate Balance provides valuable insight into this important period of our state's history, with lessons about how this essential task can be enhanced as we face the challenges of a new century."—Dana Beach, Coastal Conservation League
"The lowcountry's conservation culture is not always harmonious. A Delicate Balance shows how the region's political, social, and cultural threads have become woven so tightly around common goals that it can endure—much like a unique coiled basket woven from historic memory with grasses harvested from the region's singular marshlands."—Cynthia Barnett, from the foreword