For several years I have been directing something called the Coweeta Listening Project (CLP). A subset of this group has just published a first-cut effort to think through the rapid exurbanization within southern Appalachia through megapolitan geographies, urban political ecology, and notions of urban metabolism.
Drawing on megapolitan geographies, urban political ecology, and urban metabolism as theoretical frameworks, this article theoretically and empirically explores megapolitan political ecology. First, we elucidate a theoretical framework in the context of southern Appalachia and, in particular, the Piedmont megapolitan region, suggesting that the megapolitan region is a useful scale through which to understand urban metabolic connections that constitute this rapidly urbanizing area. We also push the environmental history and geography literature of the U.S. South and southern Appalachia to consider the central role urban metabolic connections play in the region’s pressing social and environmental crises. Second, we empirically illuminate these human and nonhuman urban metabolisms across the Piedmont megapolitan region using data from the Coweeta Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, especially highlighting a growing “ring of asphalt” that epitomizes several developing changes to patterns of metabolism. The conclusion suggests that changing urban metabolisms indicated by Coweeta LTER data, ranging from flows of people to flows of water, pose a complicated problem for regional governance and vitality in the future.