The common wisdom is that rural America’s “best and brightest” want to leave home. New research shows these students are no more likely to want to leave than their counterparts. And when they do go, they have a stronger desire to return.
Although rural residents are more likely to live in states that rejected Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, West Virginia (the third most rural sate in the nation) bucked the trend. A health-care advocate describes how the Mountain State went about exceeding projections for Medicaid – and describes what remains to be done.
Filmmaker-turned- photographer Tara Wray lives in rural Vermont, where she’s known as a “flatlander” because of her relatively new status as a resident. While her Vermont photos are relatively light-hearted portrayals of daily life, her earliest work delved into her personal relationship with her family in small town Kansas.
North Carolina power company gets fined • Political power in rural Georgia • Recruiting workers to small towns • And more.
Photo by Gerry Broome/APAn Appalachian Voices employee checks the Dan River in Danville, Virginia, for coal ash in a February, 2014 incident. That spill led to recently enacted changes in state law.
There's lots of news from North Carolina regarding coal ash:
First, the state environmental agency is fining Duke Energy for contaminating groundwater around a retired power plant near Wilmington. Leeching from unlined coal-ash pits has been occurring for years, reports the Associated Press:
A letter sent to Duke [Power] says monitoring wells near dumps showed readings exceeding state groundwater standards for boron, thallium, selenium, iron, manganese and other chemicals. Thallium is a highly toxic poison.
In a separate incident in February, a Duke Energy coal-ash spill polluted 70 miles of the Dan River on the North Carolina-Virginia border. That led to passage, earlier this month, of a new law to help regulate coal-ash and clean up toxic waste generated by coal-fired power plants.
Gov. Pat McCrory (R) says he will likely sign the legislation, even though he says it unconstitutionally sets up a commission where a majority of members are appointed by the Legislature. The governor, not a legislatively appointed commission, should oversee enforcement of the coal-ash rules, McCrory said.
McCrory retired from Duke Energy in 2008 after working for the utility for 29 years. “The electricity company's executives have remained generous in supporting his political campaigns,” reports Michael Biesecker of the Associated press.
Last winter, months before your Facebook feed started filling with videos of folks taking the “ice-bucket challenge,” Native Americans did the “winter challenge.” Participants jumped in ice-cold streams or banks of snow and challenged others to do the same. Imagine what could happen if Indian Country focused social media on addressing health or civic issues.
Last winter, Native Americans adapted an old practice of private challenges to the new platform of social media. A swarm of Canadian cold-water plunges resulted.
I remember getting in trouble as a teenager. The story beat me home. I was stunned at the velocity of information in a small community. The chain went like this: Something happened. People talked. And the story spread. Fast.
I guess that’s why social media, to me, is an old form of storytelling. It’s how we naturally tell stories, spreading the word to one friend (or follower) in real time. And then another. And again. But while the forum is essentially the same, there are two new twists: the use of digital tools and the increased size of our network. (A generation ago our “network” might be a few friends gathered for coffee at the trading post. Today it’s a thousand friends on Facebook, their thousand friends, and definitely more on Twitter, Tumblr or Snapchat.)
The ice-bucket challenge to raise money to prevent ALS — Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — or Lou Gehrig's Disease is a great example of how social media works. The brilliant campaign has earned more than $70 million with the goal of creating a world “without ALS!”
Every day my Facebook feed has new posts from someone taking this challenge.
Of course this whole challenge thing is familiar anyway. It’s a lot like the Winter Challenge that spread across Canada and Indian Country. Carielynn Victor, from Chilliwack, B.C., told Global News Canada that the idea was not a new one, but the concept of taking it public was new.
So why ALS? It’s a fabulous cause and worth doing. That said: What if Indian Country could harness social media to affect the diseases that are killing most of our friends and family?
“What if everything you are being told about the demise of rural living is wrong?” That’s the question Robin Rather wants to ask participants at next week’s creativity and economic rural renewal conference in North Carolina.
Robin Rather, CEO of Collective Strength. "Over the past decade or more, way too many pundits have just stopped thinking of rural areas as equally important and have fallen all over themselves thinking that cities are the answer to the world’s sustainability problems. I don’t buy that at all."
EDITOR’S NOTE: Next week’s “Cross Currents” conference in Greensboro, North Carolina, looks at the intersection of rural community development and creativity. The event, sponsored by Art-Force and the National Rural Assembly, will examine how partnerships between creative-arts organizations and agriculture-related enterprises can promote economic and social well being in rural communities.
The opening speaker for the event (Wednesday, September 3) is Robin Rather, a fifth-generation Texan and CEO of Collective Strength, a communications and marketing firm. Rather, who is the daughter of former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, spoke with one of the conference’s organizers, Janet Kagan, about the role of rural America in building more vibrant communities for everyone. An edited version of this conversation is below.
Janet Kagan: The focus of your work ranges from transportation to city and regional planning, and from workforce housing to renewable energy -- critical issues in urban and rural communities. How do you traverse between these two contexts?
Robin Rather: I was born in Houston and am a fifth generation Texan on both sides of my family. I spent the school year in cities including Washington, D.C., and London but spent every summer with my grandmother in a small rural town on the banks of the Colorado River. To this day, I consider myself a hybrid: both a city and a country girl. I have a ton of first cousins who still live in Bastrop County(Texas), and their kids and grandkids are still there.
There really is no rural without a city nearby and no real city exists without a rural counterpart nearby. They are part of the same ecosystem and are, in truth, completely inter-dependent. I have no trouble integrating the fundamental issues of our time -- jobs, energy, water, air, and land -- into either an urban or rural mind-set. It is not either/or. It is both.
Over the past decade or more, way too many pundits have just stopped thinking of rural areas as equally important and have fallen all over themselves thinking that cities are the answer to the world’s sustainability problems. I don’t buy that at all. Cities have something to offer as we move forward, but rural areas have just as much and arguably even more. As an example, let me point to Maurice Strong, a respected businessman , and as an executive at the United Nations considered one of the grandfathers of the sustainability movement. He states, “…the future health of our planet will be determined in our cities.” With all due respect -- really? (See also this Fast Company article.)
RFD-TV campaigns against TV mergers • Economic downturn in the Midwest • Electrifying rural Africa • The FCC and dropped phone calls • Attracting young professionals to small towns
Photo by Axel Gerdau/The New York TimesThe chairman of RFD-TV, who is opposing the Time Warner/AT&T merger, is visiting events, like the “The Mollie B Polka Party” to get people to write anti-merger comments to the FCC.
The chairman of the company that owns RFD-TV has launched a national campaign over proposed mergers of cable and satellite television giants.
Patrick Gottsch, head of Rural Media Group, says rural, independent television programming could disappear from cable and satellite if big mergers go through. Two proposals currently under federal review are Comcast’s merger with Time Warner Cable and AT&T’s merger with DirecTV.
Many television executives privately oppose the mergers over fears that they will allow cable and satellite TV giants to dictate terms to cable TV channels and networks. But few TV executives are willing to speak out in public. Gottsch is the exception, reports the New York Times.
Another exception in Gottsch’s campaign is the audience he’s reaching. He’s visiting state fairs, polka dances, tractor pulls and other events where he’s likely to find viewers of his rural-themed television channel. And he’s asking them to write comments to the FCC about the proposed mergers.
In Washington, he has hired a lobbying firm and appeared before a House antitrust subcommittee, the FCC and the Justice Department. His two stations, RFD-TV and Family Net, have run spots urging viewers to speak out. Of the more than 63,000 comments filed to the F.C.C. about the proposed merger, about a fifth mention RFD-TV.
Midwest grain and farmland prices are sliding, farm equipment sales are at an eight-year low, and upcoming large crop yields that could outpace demand are making it a rough time to be in agriculture in the middle of the country. The problem has been measured on an index of economic activity in the Midwest. And because nothing happens in a vacuum, the problem is affecting more than just farmers:
“This decline has spilled over into the broader rural economy, according to our survey,” said Ernie Goss, an economist from Creighton University. “I expect readings to move even lower in the months ahead.”
Photo by Jerry Lara/San Antonio Express-News A pool table sits outside a Texas RV park that opened during an earlier oil and gas boom.
Energy boomtowns in North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas might be better off economically in the long run if they had never started pumping oil and gas out of the ground.
That’s one implication of new research looking at the impact of the “resource curse” in U.S. counties.
Grand D. Jacobson and Dominic P. Parker looked at the economies of U.S. counties that went through another boom period in U.S. energy production: the 1970s and ’80s. They found that after a time of rising incomes and employment, those regions did poorer economically than they would have – all things equal – without an oil and gas boom.
“The boom [of the 1970s and ‘80s] created substantial short-term economic benefits, but also longer-term hardships that persisted in the form of joblessness and depressed local incomes,” the researchers write in a paper due for publication in The Economic Journal.
The resource curse theory asserts that over-reliance on natural resources like oil, gas and coal in regional economies winds up hurting local economies more than helping. It’s also called the “paradox of plenty,” because a resource that we’d think of as helping build a local economy is actually hurting it, economists say.
Jacobson and Parker looked at 391 rural counties in the Rocky Mountain region of nine states that had booming oil and gas production from about 1975 to 1985. They measured various economic indicators before, during and after the boom.
The researchers chose the Western region, in part, because of similarities it has with current booming natural-gas and oil production in places like North Dakota, Texas and Pennsylvania. “Media portrayals of 1970s Western boomtowns resemble media accounts of oil-fracking boomtowns today,” the scholars wrote. “Media outlets at the time were reporting on the high wages and surplus of available jobs in Western boomtowns, but also on the social disruptions taking place.”
Report warns of impact of urban “heat islands” • Beef-marketing program hits major snag • North Carolina panel explains link between economics and health • And more …
Climate CentralThis graph represents a typical climb in temperature from a rural area to an urban center.We've been saying this all along, and science confrims it: It's cool to live in the country.
Or at least cooler.
A new report says that rural areas around the nation's 60 largest cities are an average of 2.4 degrees cooler than their adjoining urbanized areas. That's because of the phenomenon of "urban heat islands."
The report from the research group Climate Central says that climate change is making the condition more pronounced. Urban heat could get bad enough to create problems for city living in the future, the report says.
“Cites are almost always hotter than the surrounding rural area, but global warming takes that heat and makes it worse,” the report says. “In the future, this combination of urbanization and climate change could raise urban temperatures to levels that threaten human health, strain energy resources, and compromise economic productivity.”
The report also says the number of “searing hot days” is increasing each year in major cities. In most cases, urbanized areas are warming faster than rural areas, the report says.
Efforts to reform the national beef “checkoff” marketing program have hit an impasse.
The Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group, which represents 11 industry-related organizations, has been working for three years on a new plan. But their recently released report has drawn broad criticism for not going far enough to improve the marketing system.
The checkoff system imposes a fee on each head of cattle. That money is supposed to be used to market beef. But critics say the money has become general support revenue for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which receives 80% of the funds generated from the checkoff.
Early this week the National Farmers Union legislative committee recommended that the NFU pull out of the Beef Checkoff Enhancement Working Group, saying proposals so far would not make meaningful changes in the program.
[NFU’s Chandler Goule, senior vice president] said the work group at one point was close to a consensus, but one industry member stalled and the resulting memorandum does nothing to change the functionality of the checkoff, nor what many see as an almost monopolistic control by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. …
Nebraska state Sen. Al Davis, a rancher from Hyannis, has been appointed by Vilsack to the 103-member Beef Board. On Tuesday, he called the memorandum a step in the wrong direction.
Davis said no policy groups should have a connection to the committee awarding checkoff funds, and that concern isn’t addressed by the proposal.
The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska, while not part of the work group, called for rejection of the proposed memorandum.
Independent Cattlemen President David Wright questioned the need for raising the checkoff [from $1 to at least $2 per head of cattle] and said the proposed changes to the Beef Promotion Operational Committee would not address the lack of diversity that has led to accusations of favoritism in awarding projects.
Montana-based R-CALF USA, which is not a member of the work group, called the memorandum “smoke and mirrors.”
R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard said he attended a few of the work group meetings when they first started but was excluded after making it clear R-CALF wouldn’t consider supporting an increase in the checkoff until its concerns about conflicts of interest within the program were resolved.
Diners in Denver are winding down a four-day event celebrating locally produced meat and local neighborhoods. The event, Hoofin’ It, explored four neighborhoods over four nights, treating participants to food made from a different hoofed animal each evening. Meals centered around bison, pork, beef and sheep, reports the Denver Eater. Ranchers served as guests of honor for the events, and participants walked from restaurant to restaurant – hoofing it, get it?
Caters/Daily Mail You can't dress up a pig. Or can you?
A few years ago UNESCO sounded the alarm that half of the world’s languages may become extinct by the end of our century.
Serious hand-wringing and think-tank creating followed, along with a big push by National Geographic, among others, to document and preserve the world’s linguistic diversity under the rallying cry “Save a language. Save a culture.” As its moniker makes clear, agri-culture is, of course, a culture, and yet nowhere in the mad scramble to document the world’s endangered indigenous tongues did I hear mention of what my farmer grandfather lovingly called “Barnyard English.”
If you grew up on or around a farm or ranch you know exactly the linguistic bumper crop to which I refer—that fecund, richly metaphoric language that seemed to roll off your grandparents’ tongues but now seems awkward or incongruous on yours. My farm-girl grandmother Julia, for example, was fond of the phrase “pert near”—a contraction for “pretty near” if we’re splitting hairs. Even now I can see her sitting at the kitchen table on the farm with a Coca-Cola in one hand and a grocery list in the other saying something like “That Mary Louise is pert near crazy” or “Your cousin Andrew pert near ran that little car of his into the ditch.”
Pert near’s a perfectly acceptable, wholly grammatical contraction, of course, akin to substituting “I s’pose” for “I suppose.” And yet how many of us farm-kids-turned-circumspect-professionals feel free to drop a “pert near” with a straight face and sans disclaimer in a boardroom, conference center or lecture hall? Same goes for another of my favorites, fixin’. I s’pose opening a meeting with “Next we’re fixin’ to hear our annual shareholder’s report” strikes the average listener as a mite shy of Ivy League.
We’re unduly sensitive about our perceived linguistic warts and especially thin-skinned when it comes to cultural pasts we’ve tried mightily as a people to transcend and evidently would prefer to forget. I remember, for example, the unprecedented vehemence my elementary school teachers reserved for the word ain’t, which I was told, when occasionally I would let it slip, was a word used by ignorant country people.