Saturday, November 24, 2007

Meth in Europe: A rural phenomenon there, too?

We've talked some in class about associations between methamphetamine manufacture and rural places. One reason for this link, we speculated, is that making meth stinks, literally, so that doing so wouldn't be feasible in a city, where nearby neighbors would (again literally) get wind of it. So, it was interesting to see this story in the NYTimes about the burgeoning meth problem in Europe. Only near the end of the story is the word rural mentioned. There the reporter characterizes Jesenik, the reputed center of meth production in the Czech Republic (and all of Europe, for that matter), as "rural" and "isolated." The reporter notes, interestingly, that Jesenik (population 12,000) is not typical of small rural places in that local residents do not have deep roots there; previously ethnically German, that population was expelled after WWII. I am unsure why the journalist notes this fact -- perhaps to suggest that the lack of attachment to place accounts for how such a terrible thing could be happening in a rural locale. Of course, if bad things -- drug use in particular -- aren't supposed to happen in rural locales due to residential and community stability, it's hard to figure out the meth problem in rural America, in communities populated by the same families who have been there for generations. Well, hard to figure out, that is, until you consider the poverty and lack of opportunity that tends to mark such communities.

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.

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