Few places on the U.S. eastern seaboard better exemplify the economic and societal utilization of a local ecosystem by human populations than the tidewater sections of South Carolina and Georgia. For four centuries Euro-and-Afro-centric cultures in the region have adapted to their particular environmental circumstances—salt marsh ecosystem, fresh water and tidal systems and their hydrology, soil fertility, and meteorological considerations, among other prevailing conditions—to enhance their lifestyles and economies. An antebellum agrarian economy, interwoven with a distinct maritime culture, all linked to the land and water resources of the region, has spanned more than two centuries, and is set against the fascinating backdrop of coastal history. The ecology as history in this book resonates with a recurrent theme, one that relates the story of community, particularly that which involves the use of its land, its economy and the dynamics of its labor, from the perspective of the local environment.
The twelve “case studies” in this book examine the unique correlation between the ecosystem and environment of the Georgia tidewater in association with the dynamics of economics and culture. In this regard, one area is scrutinized as a microcosm of the south Atlantic coast, McIntosh County, Georgia. This is a story of land use in association with the intangibles of place and permanence—and by extension, perseverance—as they relate to McIntosh County. It is a story that is applicable to all of coastal Georgia and lower South Carolina. It is argued that the human occupants of the county simultaneously adapted to the ecological circumstances of their locale while utilizing local environmental conditions as an increasingly effective, and resourceful, means of furthering their economic and cultural well-being. The relevance of a communal and cultural sense of place is an important blended theme, as is the significance of the applied scientific research relating to the ecosystem that has evolved since the 1950s in determining the effects of ecology on human life-ways.