I hope the place won’t change, but it probably will ... I have thought about this a lot. I guess what I hope is that I don’t change.Ken G. Halvorson, the eight-term county sheriff and coroner is more skeptical, indeed outright negative: “We’re going to get nothing out of this except a headache and a heartache.” The skepticism stems not only from a concern about loss of a way of life and the environment, but also because another nearby city suffered in an earlier "oil boom." In the early 1980s, when oil prices were on the rise, nearby Williston invested $20 million in infrastructure to facilitate the city's growth, which never came. So, the oil's presence has been known for some time, but it's taken the spike in oil prices to renew interest and investment in this onshore exploration. For better or worse, that has put towns like Stanley and Killdeer back on the map.
Monday, December 31, 2007
We have perhaps all read enough on the demographic profile of U.S. soldiers dying in Iraq to know that many are young men and women who join the military due to lack of other opportunities, and that a disproportionate number are from rural places. But this story in the National Journal on December 14, 2007 discusses yet another angle on the phenomenon -- the role of the National Guard. Turns out that the National Guard, which is set to increase its numbers in Iraq by about 10,000 in 2008 (over the current 46,000 level, that is), flourishes in small-town America. Generally speaking, according to the report, a state with a lower population density and a lower percentage of minorities will have a higher percentage of its populace serving in the Army National Guard. In North Dakota, for example, 52 of 10,000 persons is serving in the Guard; in California, it is only 4 in 10,000.
Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., who wrote the story for the National Journal, explains this phenomenon by reference to the nature of small towns: "Since the first colonial militia mustered on the village green, National Guard units have been hometown troops. ... An Army National Guard unit recruits from its local community and may keep the same soldiers together for decades. That those communities keep producing volunteers six years into a global war speaks to the depth of their military traditions." He also points out that the ties among a guard unit's members -- and to its community -- are strongest in small towns, more so than in both more rural areas where people are more spatially dispersed and in "large cities, with their abundance of social an economic alternatives." He quotes David Segal, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland: "Being in the guard is how one earns one's bona fides as a member of the community."
Easy as it is to be put off, even numbed, by the constant news stream about the Presidential campaign, I have enjoyed following the news in the run up to the Iowa caucuses because it provides a window into rural America -- or at least into rural Iowa. When, except in days and weeks before the caucuses, do you see datelines like Pella (population 10, 245), Indianola (population 14, 227), Storm Lake (population 9,882), and Denison (population 7,339) in the national media? Noting where the candidates are spending time gives one the impression that rural America actually matters. Of course, this fact is crazy-making for many who decry the disproportionate power of states like Iowa (along with New Hampshire and South Carolina, which also feature significant rural populations and rural associations) to make or break candidates early in the game.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Incentives are one way to go. I am also interested in comparing city recycling programs and when cities or towns decided to begin recycling. The Nebraska State Recycling Association was founded in 1980. According to one former resident, Omaha, Nebraska began recycling before 1995. Cary, North Carolina began recycling around this time as well. Fresno, California began recycling around 2005, right around the time I moved there. I wonder what accounts for the differences. Some of these towns have transformed into cities since the 1980s and are no longer rural. But I still wonder what determines how successful the green movement will be in cities and towns of varying sizes and rural areas.
I found this link to a blog entitled "Going Green in Rural America."
Apparently, outdoor recreationists flock to lesser-known forests and other public lands where administration of justice is lax, presumably due to the lack of law enforcement in rural locations. The federal government is having trouble adequately enforcing the law due to a lack of "manpower." A deputy state director for the Bureau of Land Management in Salt Lake City said "you'd have to have Patton's army."
Due to increased rural development, more than 28 million homes sit approximately 30 miles or less from federally owned land. According to the article, people now view those lands as "extended backyards." Arguably, ranchers have had this view of these areas for some time, but now ranchers are competing with ATVs and climbers for this "extended backyard space." Perhaps, its not that the urban newcomers or exurbanites are introducing a new "extended backyard view," but rather are using the public lands in a different manner.
In the North Carolina News & Observer today, an AP article entitled "Kids Exploit Suicide to Avoid Exams" described cell phone text messaging in a rural Arkansas town. The town, Augusta, Arkansas, has a population of approximately 2,400.
The article explained that after a former student's suicide, students text messaged, by cell phone, other suicide plans and plans to bring weapons to school. In the 200-student school, officials believed the threats were attempts to avoid semester finals. What prompted me to post this article was the quote from police that "the proliferation of cell phones gave electronic-age wings to small-town gossip." The police captain said that rumors spread in the town "like you just cannot believe because everyone knows everybody. . . ninety percent of people is kinfolks with somebody else..."
The police responded to the threats by scanning students with a hand-held metal detector, but they found only cell phones.
I wonder what the explanations are for the increase in rural teen texting compared to urban teen texting (as referenced in the Texas Texting Blog Post). The News and Observer article seems to suggest that the increase in technology increases the spread of rural teen gossip. What is not addressed in the article, though, is the teen suicide in a school population of 200 and its effect on such a small student population, apart from technology and gossip.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Perhaps the thing I find most curious about the publication of this story is its attraction among New York Times readers. As I write at mid-day on Christmas day, a day after the story first appeared, it is the second most emailed story on the newspaper's website. It's right up there with "The Minimalist: 101 Simple Appetizers in 20 minutes or less" and "A Threat so Big, Academics Try Collaboration" (about cross-disciplinary efforts to solve the problem of global warming). OK, so maybe it is a slow news day, but I wonder what it is about reports like this that Times readers, a presumably affluent and well-educated set, want to share with friends and family by emailing it. Are we readers surprised that this degree of deprivation still exists in our own fair country? that rural poverty exists, along with the urban poverty that is at least slightly more visible to us. (I must add that the story does not surprise me because it is the story of many of my older relatives and acquaintances in rural Northwest Arkansas; I still regret -- especially on my semi-annual visits to the dentist -- the unflouridated well water of my childhood there). Just as likely, reading about the stark reality of others so much less fortunate than we are makes us especially grateful for our affluence, particularly at this season. Indeed, another of the most emailed stories today arguably makes a similar point. "Anarchists in the Aisles; Stores Provide a Stage" is about so-called "shopdroppers," who seek to draw our attention to "hyper-consumerism."
Monday, December 24, 2007
As a native Arkansan (albeit one long out of the state when Huckabee became governor), I have been surprised at Huckabee's ascent in the polls not only in Iowa, but also in states like California. It's made me wonder if part of Huckabee's appeal lies in his rural roots -- or at least what voters perceive to be rural roots.
Huckabee comes across as an earnest, down-home guy from a proverbial Maberry. A recent feature on Huckabee in the NYT Magazine reported that he was born in Hope, Arkansas, a micropolitan area in southern Arkansas made famous because it is also Bill Clinton's birthplace. This story in the NYTimes a few days later noted the frequency of Huckabee comparisons to Jim Nabors. (Incidentally, the earliest online version of this story used the word "rural" in the headline, as in noting Huckabee's appeal in rural Iowa). Many of the places Huckabee has lived and worked in Arkansas (e.g., Pine Bluff and Texarkana) are not thought of by most Arkansans as rural. Huckabee may nevertheless be perceived by the wider electorate as a product of rural America, in part because Arkansas is a largely rural state and in part because of the rural persona in which Huckabee cloaks himself.
So, is there something in our collective nostalgia for our rural past that makes Hucakbee an attractive presidential candidate? Does Huckabee's appeal lie partly in the straight-talking, right-wrong, hard work, Christian-and-family values simplicity associated with rurality? (Perhaps his quasi-rural background also explains his attachment to fences as solutions -- even at the border!) Since long before Huckabee became a Presidential candidate, let alone a viable one, non-Arkansans who know him personally and those who just knew of him told me he could be a contender because he comes across as being so "nice" and "likable." Maybe Huckabee represents an antidote to Rudy Guliani, the ultimate urbanite, sophisticated but hard-edged?
I recall marveling in 1991 and 1992 at Clinton's ascent in the polls. I had then relatively recently moved on (at least in a literal sense) from my small-town Arkansas roots and was living in cosmopolitan London. I thought the British press surely had it wrong as they wrote of the viability of Clinton's candidacy. I was sure Clinton had no hope of getting the Democratic nomination (let alone the presidency) because he would be seen as a rube from the South. The negative stereotypes associated with rurality, I assumed, doomed his candidacy. Happily, I was proved wrong.
As different as I believe Huckabee and Clinton to be in outlook and in their pre-Presidential capacity to grasp complex foreign affairs matters, they nevertheless share more than a home town and stints as governor of Arkansas. Perhaps the viability of each of their candidacies was/is rooted, to some degree, in their rural identities and our own longing, however naive it may be, for a simpler time.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Call me naive, but I expected a greater, more consistent appreciation for the economic shot in the arm that immigration has provided to places like Storm Lake. This NYT story, however, indicates considerable resentment, as well as a misplaced sense that the immigrants -- many of them admittedly illegal -- are competing with long-time residents for jobs. In fact, various studies indicate that this is not the case. Rather, most indications are that as immigrants come in to do work that the native population is no longer willing to do, the native population have an opportunity to move up the labor hierarchy. Perhaps if there were a greater understanding of this reality, long-time rural residents and Latina/o newcomers could stop focusing on their differences and begin to see that which could unite them: shared values such as family and hard work.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
He keeps to himself, works in a nondescript job, and drives an old car. One day his life changes when he orders Bianca, a life-sized doll, from the Internet. He manifested a delusion that he was ordering a real girl, a Brazilian missionary in a wheelchair. When she arrives, he starts referring to her as his girlfriend. Much to the shock of everyone in his little town, he takes her to parties, speaks with her as though she is real, and expects his brother and sister-in-law to bathe, clothe, and feed her. The premise is a little strange, but the movie is so touching -- and it reflects some of the best aspects of rural life -- that I would highly recommend it.
The most heartwarming part of the movie is that everyone in town goes to great lengths to welcome Bianca and, underneath it all, to show their love for Lars. They start treating her like a real girl, and in doing so, Lars realizes that he is truly loved. You can read a synopsis and see a trailer of the movie here.
As I watched this film, I couldn't help but think about the way rural themes shaped the story line. The fact that the town rallied around this young man with a mental illness shows the rural value of independence and the preference to "take care of our own." In a suburban or urban setting, I suspect a family member would have been much more likely to take Lars to a hospital or treatment center. But here, Lars's brother and sister-in-law seek the services of the kindly doctor, who is also a psychologist ("You have to be, this far north," one character tells us .) The religiosity of the people -- social life revolved around the church --is also a strong rural theme that unifies this town. And, the informal communication networks (a kind version of a "rumor mill") played an instrumental role when Bianca fell ill.
I was curious about whether others had written about the rural angle of this film, so I did some research and found this article by Utah-based film critic Eric D. Snider. In reviewing the film, he wrote, "You have to take the film as a fable and not as a strictly realistic account of rural America. It's valid to point out that in real life there's no way the entire town would humor Lars -- but only because in real life, 'entire towns' don't do anything. You accept it as a necessary element of the story."
I disagree with Snider's idea that "entire towns" don't do anything. In this tiny town, which may well have had fewer than 100 people, the entire town may have in fact rallied around Lars. We just don't know. We do know that several dozen people from church and work all cared deeply about this young man. It was easy for the community to rally around Lars because he looked like they did -- he is white and of Nordic ancestry. Lars and his family are insiders and rural communities tend to support those who have established themselves in the region.
I refuse to believe that the kindness of the rural residents in the film is part of a larger "fable." A strong sense of community spirit is a uniquely rural value and one that I hope never leaves rural communities. I firmly believe -- and hope -- that somewhere in America, members of rural towns still rush to the assistance of those who are sick and need help.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The first discusses the difficulties that people in rural areas have accessing grocery stores. Because grocery stores are often long distances away, people shop at them only occasionally. Locals do much more shopping at convenience stores, which have more junk food, higher prices and less fruits and vegetables. This impacts finances and health. The image of Fannie Charles pushing her shopping cart six miles to the nearest grocery store about once a month seems much more like an urban image to me than a rural one. According to the study the article is based on, 75% of the stores that sell food in Orangeburg County, SC, are convenience stores. So much for the bucolic images of rural farmers living off the land. http://www.newsweek.com/id/76929
At the same time, I found this article about how San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood is finally getting a full service grocery store after a ten year battle. The issues in Bayview are largely the same as above. Bayview has limited grocery stores and lots of fast food options. People need to travel to get to large grocery stores. Here, what is different, is that this is part of the city's plan to improve the neighborhood and neighborhood health. Still, despite city funding, the major chains all said no before this agreement with Tesco, a British chain expanding into the U.S. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/12/12/BUI5TSD7U.DTL
Perhaps the issue isn't really rurality, but poverty. The advantage in the city is that there might be, at times, the political will to solve these kinds of problems. These problems may also be easier to solve without distance playing a part. Certainly, the neighbors in Bayview do not have to push their shopping carts six miles along unpaved paths to get to Safeway, but their healthy, economical choices are still limited. And despite the differences, I suspect the new Fresh & Easy store may find a few patrons pushing shopping carts home.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Monday, December 3, 2007
Sunday, December 2, 2007
|Effie Lea Shatwell, Lisa Pruitt and Elver Shatwell, |
at their home in Vendor, Arkansas, 1995
A rural life ended this week with the death of my maternal grandmother, Effie Lee Shatwell of Vendor, Arkansas. She was 92 and is survived by six children, 18 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, and 10 great-great-grandchildren.
Reflecting on the life of "Grannie Shat" has served as a reminder of so many of the aspects of rural living that have drawn me to think and write about rural people and places. Certainly, her life and times were worlds away from "The Rural Life" depicted by Verlyn Klinkenborg in his popular blog by that name. While Klinkenborg makes a good living as a writer and keeps a farm in Columbia County, New York, as an avocation, my grandmother spent the vast majority of her life actually eking a living out of a subsistence farm in the Ozark mountains of Northwest Arkansas. Born in the community of Red Rock in 1915, she married my grandfather in 1939 and lived out her adult life in nearby Vendor. Both of their families had already lived in the area for several generations. She and my grandfather made their living almost entirely from their hill farm, putting in a full garden every year until my grandmother had a stroke and went to live in a nursing home more than 9 years ago. That year, my grandfather's last, he put in and harvested the garden without her.
Throughout her married life, my grandmother canned and stored all summer to have food to get the family through the winter. Only a few years before her stroke did they stop keeping chickens, pigs, cattle, and a mule to pull the plow. They sold eggs, milk and butter to their neighbors, and supplied them also to their grown children. As the mother of young children, my grandmother took money earned from selling eggs and other produce to buy dry goods to make all the kids' clothes. The fabric was used again and again, as girls' skirts were turned into shirts for the boys, then quilt tops. The food I most associate with my grandmother is a pot of pinto beans with a big ham hock in it for flavor. Second to that, there was the "big mess of squirrel" she'd fry up after my grandfather had gone hunting.
My grandfather worked as a logger in the timber woods and did some work stints in Kansas City when there was no work to be had in Newton County. Only after I moved to California did he tell me of his stint working in a cooperage in Oakland, presumably during the Dust Bowl era. "I hated California," he said, "and I wanted to be back here, so I caught a ride back to Arkansas in the bed of a pickup truck as soon as I could." In their latter years, my grandfather brought in a little extra money from carving miniature wooden plows and making birdhouses to sell at the tourist stops along nearby Scenic Highway 7. My grandmother never worked outside the home, never paid into Social Security, but I have no doubt that she contributed as much to her family's survival as my grandfather did.
Many of the themes of rural living that we have discussed this semester are reflected in my grandmother's life: poverty, hardship, and deprivation (she and my grandfather got indoor plumbing in their home only in 1990; they drew water manually from a well at the corner of the front porch, and you can see part of the wringer style washing machine in the photo above); the informal economy (as noted above); social and spatial isolation (my grandparents came to the county seat, traveling in part on dirt roads, every Saturday to buy feed for the animals and what few foodstuffs they didn't grow); and attachment to place (although no one has lived on the farm for almost a decade, my mother and her siblings have been unwilling to sell it).
And then there's law's relevance to rural lives like those of my grandparents. Or, perhaps I should say complete lack of relevance (except, of course, to the extent that the rule of law permitted them to own their farm and live there in peace). Perhaps law has become more relevant only in their absence. My mom tells me that a meth house is operating down the road from their vacant farm. Now that I think about it, maybe this doesn't represent change in terms of a role for law. Law remains largely irrelevant to their lives (or more precisely, those of their heirs) if law enforcement resources are so strained, or so influenced by local considerations, that the meth house is ignored.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
This piece in last week's New York Times is about a place in rural, coastal Maine that is representative of the phenomenon. The elderly depicted in this story are often living on their Social Security payments (around $600/month for several interviewed), sometimes supplemented by meager state fuel allowances and such. For the most part, they spent their working lives doing menial labor, sometimes seasonal, like blueberry picking. They now have little to show for it, as they struggle to survive on their limited fixed incomes. The isolation associated with rurality, aggravated by the isolation associated with aging is sobering indeed, although some note the considerable benefits associated with a sense of community and family nearby.
Friday, November 30, 2007
The current discussion regarding health care reform has a tremendous impact on rural America. One of the proposed funding cuts is to seniors’ Medicare benefits for skilled nursing facilities. At least in Kentucky, 55 percent of its nursing homes are located in rural areas, which means that rural areas may be hit particularly hard by any such Medicare cuts.
One article finds, “[S] eniors in rural America would shoulder approximately 25 percent of the total five year,
With less Medicare funding, it would not only hurt the quality of care for seniors, it also has an impact on rural economies which rely on nursing homes for employment. It would have a disproportionately negative impact on rural facilities, which make finding and retaining qualify staff more challenging that it already is.
Often times, nursing facilities may be the largest local employer, and those rural economies depend on such facilities for jobs and economic development. Cuts from Medicare could result in lost jobs, less hiring, and higher unemployment
For more info: http://insurancenewsnet.com/article.asp?n=1&neID=200711291680.2_32a60067db4c4ba8
It might be necessary to separate those rural protests for the benefit of the local community compared to those rural protests that seek to generate media coverage, or reach a closer urban center. For this posting I will focus on labor and agrarian reform protests
One example I came across was the Mount Olive Pickle boycott in Mount Olive, North Carolina. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee's strategy was to convince consumers to no longer buy Mount Olive pickles as leverage so that the company increased wage and labor conditions. Protests occurred in Mount Olive, NC, a town of population of about 4,000. Additional protests occurred at local grocery stores throughout the state. The 5-year protest eventually gained success in the right-to-work state. Also notable is the claim as the first collective bargaining agreement for H2A guestworker employer in the state.
What is interesting is that one of the protests gathered union members from across the state to speak in the town itself. There was minimal media attention, and although it occurred near the "town center" not many residents came out of their houses or were present, except to attend the protest itself. The point is, these isolated protests must have a purpose of creating unity, or raising morale, rather than "getting the word out." (to some degree).
The Agrarian Reform movement in Nicaragua during the Somoza regime is of particular interest because although protesters resisted in "isolated" areas, by resisting landowners who attempted to regain "unused" land, the movement (and through political negotiations), they received media attention nationally. (And eventually internationally). Some 50,000 families were involved in the protests throughout rural Nicaragua. Maybe it was the mass, albeit isolated, movement that garnered so much attention (not to mention the violence of suppression in the rural areas).
I am not sure what the real answer is to the effects of rural protests and whether isolation decreases effectiveness, but I think it merits examination.
This also led me to a study on the use of rumble strips in rural areas. Every time I am back in Wisconsin, the rumble strip is one of those incredibly useful tools that I miss in urban areas. For those who are not familiar, rumble strips are bumps placed on the pavement or grooves cut into the pavement near intersections that remind the distracted driver that they will need to stop soon. This has always seemed to me to an incredibly good idea, and a useful one in other locations, such as urban/suburban intersections where people frequently run red lights or stop signs. The study showed that rumble strips really influence behavior. Maybe this is a case where the urban can take a practical rural tool and use or adapt it to enhance urban safety.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
One association I have with the rural is its static nature. I expect and rely upon rural people to retain old traditions and preserve old ways of life. I am counting on rural areas to preserve alternative, idyllic lifestyles that I can adopt in a few years, once I tire of city life. I had fully expected I would take my children and children's children on trips to rural parts of the country and to rural parts of other countries. Now I wonder how possible that will be.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
A clothesline as an eyesore? My own associations with clotheslines are positive. That is partially because I link them with the rural idyll, with pleasant rural landscapes populated by industrious and frugal people. Of course, clotheslines are a good thing in that they save energy (which now matters more in these days of awareness about climate change), and that may ultimately save them -- no matter how ugly urban folks think they are.
And on a somewhat related note . . . this in today's NYTimes: "Farmyard Stills Quench a Thirst for Local Spirits." The "farmyard stills" language conjures up a familiar image that I associate with rurality. So does the entrepreneur featured here, who references six generations of moonshine makers in his family. The phenomenon is taking off in the Midwestern states and some others with significant rural populations. Nevertheless, the micro-distillery trend seems largely not to be a rural one, as California is currently the leader in small-scale distilling.
Monday, November 19, 2007
The article suggests that Sen. Obama's claim about his 2004 Senate primary, ""we won the white vote, we won the rural vote, we won the farmer vote" isn't well supported by the election results from that race, though he did well even amoung white districts in Chicago that are historically hostile to black candidates.
If race can't account for his underperformance in downstate Illinois in 2004, perhaps something about rural communities? But then again, he is leading the pack in Iowa...
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The community members hope to attract surfers and others in order to increase their economic livelihoods. The community opened a small surfing camp, complete with "rotting bunk beds," and some of the new jobs include cooking and teaching surf lessons.
The example of El Paredon is certainly an optimistic one for many rural communities. Rural regions can bring work and money into their communities through tourism. Of course, opening a rural community to visitors may be inimical to the tranquility that characterized the rural region in the first place.
Many rural communities are finding ways to attract tourists without compromising their rural identity. In fact, this site, from UC Davis, provides a wonderful variety of resources for those interested in agritourism. Furthemore, agritourism is now part of popular culture, thanks to a recent episode of "The Office," in which Dwight Schrute explains that "agritourism is a lot more than a bed and breakfast. It consists of tourists coming to a farm, showing them around, giving them a bed, giving them breakfast."
While I fully support agritourism and other methods of economic development, I wonder what will become of communities that lack natural resources that are tourist-worthy. El Paredon is fortunate to be located near such great waves, and the fictional Schrute Farms in rural Pennsylvania is located in a lovely wooded setting. But what about other regions that no one wants to visit? How can those residents develop a sustainable livelihood?
Friday, November 16, 2007
Listening to the story caused me think that Bethel must be a sort of "wide spot in the road" place that happens nevertheless to be a regional center for many surrounding villages. While Bethel is clearly remote, however, its population of 6,262 means it doesn't even qualify as a "rural" place, as that term is defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Nevertheless, at 340 miles from Anchorage, a commercial hub for 56 surrounding villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, it is surely more rural than many places with smaller populations that are within an urban shadow. Material consequences of this rurality include the increased cost of transportation (and other facets of inconvenience associated with spatial isolation), along with the fact that such costs drive up prices for all sorts of goods and services.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
The second story plays up "rurality" in the context of a story that is less centrally about a rural place than the football story. The story is about Ryan Shay, the 28-year-old elite runner who died in the Olympic marathon trials last weekend in New York City. Ryan grew up in the town of Central Lake, Michigan, population 990, and the reporter begins by focusing on his hometown's response to his death. That is just a poignant jumping off point, however, for a story that is more about the athlete as a person, his extraordinary career, and the circumstances of his death.
I think both stories illustrate, perhaps to differing degrees, nostalgia for our rural past and how rurality still attracts and sells -- even in the context of sports reporting.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Monday, November 5, 2007
Sunday, November 4, 2007
So now, in contrast to the exurban phenomenon that takes the city to the country, the country is coming to the city?
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The article quotes Russell Henk of the Texas Transportation Institute saying, "At first blush, I would have expected kids in urban environments to be taking part in that activity more. But the more we've thought about it, I think for the typical urban teen driving in San Antonio or on the 610 Loop in Houston, a lot of those things they can't do. It's too congested, too dangerous and they can't take part."
The Texas Transportation Institute website also has a ton of reports on rural transportation in Texas.
Later I went back to the site and read through many of the 300-plus comments. One gentleman noted that the fires are “a blessing in disguise to stop sprawl,” because people should not be able to build wherever they please. Another wrote that in assigning blame for the fires, she only wanted to “point fingers” at the developers who she said profited greatly by overdeveloping the region.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I have to wonder if this is just a winning battle in a losing war. House prices in that area more than doubled between 2000 and 2005, while median income rose by only 18%. The NY Times article makes it sound like there will be additional attempts in the future to handle the nuisance issue. I suspect it is only a matter of time before the newcomers have enough clout to cast this as a "quality of life" issue.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Sometimes it is hard to understand how globalization plays a role in changing remote places like Scotia that have been reliant on natural resources and raw materials such as timber. This tale of economic restructuring is almost certainly linked to price pressures that are associated with globalization -- unless, of course, you believe the company's owner, who blames it on the environmentalists.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
To follow up on a previous comment, I wanted to introduce previous experience I had in fundraising/networking for a rape crisis network in North Carolina.
I was appointed as a “safety and security chair” for student government while attending UNC-CH. A student government representative most likely appointed me because I am a feminist. This was because nurses at UNC-CH were paying out their own pockets to provide rape victims/survivors who had just undergone rape kit tests with clothing, shelter, etc. Police generally took the clothing as evidence after the rape kit test. (Hence the reason nurses were paying out of pocket/out of charity).
It turns out that there are two ways in which rape victims/survivors can get funding for rape kit tests which in North Carolina costs somewhere between $500.00-$1,000.00. Additionally funding for preventative treatment for pregnancy and STIs are available. Funding comes through the State as well as the University (for students) in the Chapel Hill area. Paying for the actual processing of DNA samples is an area I am unfamiliar with and seems to have generated national controversy, controversy2, especially in 2002.
However, attending the coalition meetings that included, rape crisis activists, counselors, police, and nurses, it became very apparent that “word was not getting out to the rural areas.” Part of the reason being that the laws governing funding for rape kit tests and disease and pregnancy prevention funding was/is not institutionalized. When I say institutionalized, what I mean is that some rape crisis centers are run by non profits, some volunteers, some, as in Detroit, Michigan are run by the police department. This greatly affects the way administrators are able to come into knowledge regarding funding.
In the end, the University had plenty (in the 5 figure digits) of funding given the number of persons who use the funds each year. (Although the numbers we had were twice as high as those shown on the UNC-CH crime report, I was told by coalition members that this was due to a difference in number of people who seek care for rape v. the number of people who actually file a report, go on to through the prosecution process, etc.) .
My role ended up being very simple, to link the funding (that had been sitting in Student Activities Funds for years) to the patients/nurses. Perhaps this is an indication that this type of funding needs to be a part of routine administrative law enforcement and/or hospitalization-of- rape-victims process. And not the responsibility of a 19 year old.
Applying this to the rural, the bureaucracy in my experience seems to create greater barriers for centers trying to figure out how to access state funding. Some of these barriers relate to the greater distances nurses, police, etc. would have to travel in order to have these types of coalition meetings. Some solutions I have seen work in rural communities have been secured blogs and/or teleconferencing, for those communities with funds for the technology.
Maybe in the future there would be ways that law enforcement or health care responders (ambulances) could carry with them these kits or the emergency contraception that (under general health care practitioner advisement) is more effective the sooner it is administered. Having law enforcement and health care workers so equipped seems especially important in rural areas, where rape survivors may live considerable distances from typical health care resources.
(I do acknowledge some problems with this proposal: namely that victims will often go to hospitals prior to reporting to police, greater security/comfort that hospitals/nurses provide than law enforcement officials, etc.)
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Migrant workers comprise a large portion of the unskilled labor force in the
Yet all the dilemmas mentioned above seem to be questions for an ideal world (i.e. one in which an employer would be forced to provide migrant workers benefits associated with a stable and more permanent work force) This issue is difficult to articulate in writing – but just a thought for a later class discussion.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Goshen, CA, a US census population of approximately 2,394 (C-SET, a non-profit in Goshen, estimates around 3,000 due to the undocumented immigrant population) makes for a telling case study of rural gang issues.
According to some of the common definitions of "rural," this unincorporated area would not classify as "rural." This is due to its proximity, 6 miles from approximately 100,00 people (Visalia, CA), in a county of 419,000. Additionally, the presence of the CA 99 bisects the small town, which would give less credence to its rural definition. Despite common definitions, people living in Tulare County have frequently referred to the County as having "more cows than people and pews than people." Also noteworthy, residents of Goshen still face many of the challenges that rural areas face such as access to health care, transportation, stores, and schools. However, these "challenges" are also attributable to socio-economic status, given that 28% of individuals fall below the poverty level.
Goshen is one of the many towns that the California Highway system profoundly and systematically changed. Much like the towns described in Sonya Salomon's Newcomers to Old Places. Goshen closely resembles the town of Splitville, also bisected by the highway. Although the presence of a major highway system would seem to alleviate transportation problems that are common to such areas, in a town of such high levels of poverty, it does not.
For the purposes of this discussion, I focus on rural gangs. Given the proximity of the highway, Goshen has become a major "claiming territory" for the Norteño and Sureño gangs. Goshen is not alone, as the U.S. saw a systematic increase of gangs in 41 percent of more cities with populations between 1,000 to 2,500 by 1998.
What I see in Goshen is a large population of Latin@ youth (approximately 3/4 of the population of Goshen identifies as Latin@) who become "easy targets" for gang related activity. However, what I also observed was the intergenerational aspect of gangs in the area. The majority of youth who associated with a gang had parents who were also affiliated with that gang. Often these families lived on small subsistence farms with a small garden and generally goats. Youth would get up around 5am in the morning to do "farming" related activities, and then some would go to school. Perhaps these "farming" activities make them “rural” gangs?
The U.S. Department of Justice has found that poverty is less of an indicator of gangs in rural areas compared to urban areas. Instead, data has shown that economic growth is what "moves gangs into an area" that has not previously seen gang activity. Perhaps the ever expanding city of Visalia, so close to Goshen would explain the gang presence. [In fact annexation has been a hot topic between these two cities, which the local militia is ready to bear arms in case that occurs... stay tuned for that discussion.]
Attitudes from the militia as well as “old timers” (often referred to as “Okies” and Portuguese Americans) reflect outrage towards vandalism and other gang related activity that occurs in Goshen. This supports the Judicial observation that “rural communities respond with greater outrage than urban ones to crimes that occur in their midst, apparently because crime is rare and thus more shocking in rural areas than in metropolitan ones. (Rural Rhetoric 232). However, it is hard for law enforcement and social workers to pinpoint whether gang related activity is occurring from members from within the community as much as it occurs from passersby on the CA 99.
Monday, September 24, 2007
During Morning Edition on NPR this morning, they were discussing Dell's announcement that they have created a PC to market specifically in rural China as part of their overall strategy to increase sales in China past their current 10% market share. Lenovo (a Chinese company which includes the former PC division of IBM) has announced their own low cost computer for the rural market that will use a person's TV as a monitor. Back to the anecdotal: when I was last in Wisconsin, the July 4th barbecue (all the brats cooked in beer that you can eat) included a teacher who was excited about the new iMac she had bought, but frustrated because it came without a modem and her area only had dialup access. She found that her old modem was not USB and could not be used with the new machine. As a rural customer, she was frustrated that she would have to pay extra to buy an additional modem just to get lower quality Internet service than everyone at the party. Clearly, the computer industry is not as focused on the needs of rural America as they are on the needs of rural China.
Finally, on the subject of abortion, the great state of Missouri has passed a law that requires locations that perform 5 or more abortions per year to register as ambulatory surgical centers, which requires them to meet a higher set of safety standards. NPR's Morning Edition discussed the impact of this law and the lawsuit to enjoin it. If not enjoined, the law could force the closure of all but one of Missouri's available clinics which perform abortions. One clinic claims that it would cost over a million dollars to bring the clinic into compliance with the new law. For those who are interested in the fair and balanced approach, Operation Rescue has a different take on the new law.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
But why is this happening mostly in rural America? A Maine reporter quoted in the Daily Yonder speculated: “Maine's rural nature and relatively homogenous culture make residents more susceptible to prescription drug addictions.” He concluded that "tight-knit, static communities make it easy for prescription drugs to change hands between friends and relatives.” But he also observed that some places are at greater risk than others, noting in particular a county "positioned along common routes for drug trafficking between New York and the Downeast portion of the state.” I am not sure I am entirely convinced by this speculation, though it rings at least partly true.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Is it fair to say that the Rumsey Band have imposed an urban phenomenon upon their rural neighbors? The reporter refers to the casino's "Las Vegas-like footprint," and even the manager of the casino says, "If I could put this in the middle of San Francisco, I would in a second, but the trust land is here."
Like the story I posted yesterday about vigilante justice in Tennessee, this one reports on a rural "good Samaritan" neighbor who assisted the victim.