PREMIERES THURSDAY, JUNE 22 at 8:00PM
"Alabama's Bicentennial celebrated the dramatic development of the state over the course of its first 200 years," says Doug Phillips at the beginning of his latest DISCOVERING ALABAMA episode, Alabama Quadricentennial, which premieres this coming week. It also got a lot of people thinking about what changes will happen in the next 200 years - and how progress could change the very nature of our state.
Phillips and a number of guests in the program, including the late Dr. E.O. Wilson, testify to the amazing natural diversity we enjoy in Alabama. "Alabama has the largest number of species of plants and animals in North America," Wilson says. "The largest number of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, fish. And the largest number of species native to a state."
Scott Boback, Associate Professor of Biology at Dickenson College in Pennsylvania, brings a group of students to Alabama every year as part of a course on invertebrates. "The reason we come to Alabama is because it is an amazing hotspot of biodiversity down here. The value of that is just irreplaceable."
But there are warning signs that the natural wonders Alabama is now blessed with may not survive far into the future. If population growth continues at the same rate it has over the first 200 years, 80 percent of Alabama will be urban or suburban sprawl when Alabama's quadricentennial comes around, meaning hundreds or thousands of species will lose their habitats and disappear. Population growth poses an existential threat to the world we grew up with and the quality of life we - and thousands of other species - enjoy.
So what will Alabama look like 200 years from now? We don't know. What we do know is how amazing our state is right now, and this DISCOVERING ALABAMA really highlights all the many things we have to be thankful for - and might have taken for granted.
"The plans and policies we pursue today will be crucial in shaping the Alabama of tomorrow," Phillips says. "If we lose the land, we lose the very nature of Alabama."