Join the Library Society and the Coastal Conservation League as they celebrate the release of A WHOLLY ADMIRABLE THING: Defending Nature and Community on the South Carolina Coast by Virginia and Dana Beach. This event is free and open to the public. To RSVP, call 843-723-9912 or email email@example.com
A few weeks before Hurricane Hugo made landfall in September of 1989, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League opened shop in a one-room office in downtown Charleston. Armed with founder Dana Beach’s personal desktop computer and the local phone book, the three-person staff sent out its first membership mailing, rushing to the post office each day to check for responses. The organization grew from a hundred members that first fall to a thousand the following year and several thousand by the end of the first decade.
Prior to Hurricane Hugo, the 1960s, 70s and 80s had seen a surge of resort and residential growth in the South Carolina Lowcountry, displacing whole communities of people and wildlife along the coast, overtaking what had traditionally been a resourced-based economy. The storm triggered a pause, a reset, which the Conservation League seized upon. Lawsuits, back-room deals and corruption in high places conspired against the public trust at every turn. Nevertheless, a deep-rooted love of the Lowcountry, combined with practical opportunism and longstanding friendships cultivated across the generations, unified and empowered South Carolina conservationists to prevail.
The stories in A WHOLLY ADMIRABLE THING chronicle these transformational successes and failures over three decades of community activism, led by one of the country’s most innovative, persistent and controversial conservation groups. The book highlights the Coastal Conservation League’s founding principles and culture, institutional evolution, dogged work ethic, fearless advocacy, pragmatic politicking, and mastery of communication and community organizing. It also features the voices of countless citizens and activists on the front lines—through a mix of narrative, personal interview and first-person memoir and reflection.
Finally, the book reveals the critical importance of place—the biological, historical, political and social backdrop of an ancient and troubled region—in shaping a conservation ethic and agenda for the present day. The history of the Conservation League and its diverse collaborators spotlights a region in the throes of wrenching change: staggering out of the hazy mist of an insular, pre-modern world of planters, yeomen farmers and Gullah slave descendants, into an era dominated by global economic forces and instantaneous communication. The struggle continues today. It is a never-ending tale of a formidable alliance of courageous citizens, standing up for wild species and human communities so that all can thrive and endure.