Friday, November 30, 2012

University extension goes to town

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported a few days ago (November 26, 2012) on Cooperative Extension Service's newfound focus on the "urban, urbane."  Scott Carlson, dateline Denver, writes of "a new and evolving role for the 98-year-old program, a prominent part of the nation's land-grant institutions, designed to bring research out to communities for practical use.  As Americans have moved off farms and into cities, the extension service has had to follow them there--both to fulfill a mission to serve the public and to remain relevant in the eyes of policy makers, who hold the purse strings."  This push for relevance, Carlson reports, has extension programs focusing "more on he needs of city folk--with, for example, programs in gang prevention, youth education, and economic development in lower-income communities."

Cooperative extension has long been funded by a combination of federal (USDA), state, and county monies.  In Colorado, a third of extension funding is through the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, while counties supply more than 40% of the program's funding.  Because Colorado's legislature is predominantly metropolitan, comments Louis Swanson of Colorado State,  Cooperative Extension must be "relevant to the metropolitan sector" or "increasingly be marginal in terms of state allocations."

So, while rural youth still raise animals through 4-H, a youth-development branch of cooperative extension,  urban youth might "build rockets or robots."  In response to urban challenges such as obesity, diabetes and crime, extension programs in a variety of states, from North Carolina to Michigan, have implemented nutrition education and anti-gang programs.

Carlson's story insists that "farming is not left out," but the farming on which he focuses is urban agriculture, with examples from Michigan and Colorado.  The mayor of Denver, Michael Hancock, has set the goal of having urban farms supplying 10% of Denver's food.  Blake Angelo, an extension agent working in Denver, notes evidence that "small city farms can beautify and strengthen urban communities" where "consumers and high-end restaurants ... clamor[] for unusual, local produce."

While a third of Americans were farmers at the turn of the 20th century, just one percent farm today.  Angelo asserts that urban farms are "a valuable test ground" for those who may become the next generation of farmers.  Angelo's comment helpfully links this urban farming craze with larger farms, which are typically only accommodated in more rural places.  The farmers "get their start in urban environments where they can test the realities of these difficult and risky busnesses, and they are able to scale up or out."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Protests of Keystone XL Pipeline persist in northeast Texas

The New York Times reports today, dateline Wells, Texas, population 769, that some of those protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline were pepper-sprayed earlier this week by Cherokee County Sheriff's Deputies.  Saul Elbein writes:
Since September, when construction began on the Keystone, the Tar Sands Blockade, a grass-roots coalition of East Texas landowners and environmental advocates from across the country, has been waging a nonviolent guerrilla campaign against the pipeline.
Blockade volunteers have locked themselves to construction equipment during most weeks since the construction began. Thus far, 43 protestors have been arrested. This week was no exception, but this week marked the first time pepper spray has been used on protestors who had not locked themselves to construction equipment.  Elbein's story suggests that use of pepper spray on protestors locked to equipment has become standard operating procedure.

Among those pepper-sprayed this week was 75-year-old Jeanette Singleton of Nacogdoches, who said she worried about the pipeline's impact on the nearby Angelina River.  She commented:
I don’t like how they’ve treated people ... If you don’t want to sign, they just take your land from you. It doesn’t seem right.
Elbein reports that "widespread landowner resentment has created a fertile ground for the blockade’s resistance to the pipeline. "  He notes that Monday's protests were supported by "the landowners whose property the easement crossed."

Elbein also quotes the Cherokee County Sheriff about the decision to pepper spray those blocking a cherry-picker that was to be used to remove tree-sitters.  He said that "pepper spray was used because the driver of the cherry picker was 'scared out of his wits' that protesters would pull him from his vehicle."

Earlier coverage of Texas protests about the Keystone XL Pipeline is here and here.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Contaminated California: Water and the Central Valley

Last week the NYTimes covered a story regarding contaminated tap water in the Central Valley of California.  Journalist Patricia Leigh Brown focuses in on a particular unincorporated community called Seville, with a population of 300.  Seville, in Tulare County, has been dealing with issues of contaminated water for decades -- the hard truth is that many communities in California lack access to safe drinking water, a basic human right.

Years of fertilizer and pesticide use cause chemicals such as nitrates to leak into groundwater -- a source of potable water for many in California.  Nitrate contamination and poisoning can lead to a plethora of health problems: blue baby syndrome and a wide range of cancers are but some of the alarming examples.  Advocates from organizations such as California Rural Legal Assistance and Community Water Center have been working on issues of access to safe drinking water for some time in the Central Valley, especially in high-poverty and unincorporated communities.

Hopefully the recent report released from UC Davis which confirms just how serious the issue of water contamination is in the Tulare Basin and Salinas Valley -- an estimated quarter million of people in these two regions are at risk of nitrate contamination in their drinking water -- will mobilize new efforts from the state and from advocates on the ground to take on these problems through community-based local solutions.  There seems to be some momentum gaining stateside with Governor Brown signing the historic Human Right to Water Bill this past September

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Town seeks to leverage Marcellus Shale boom

John Schwartz reports in today's New York Times from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, population 29,534 in the midst of the Marcellus Shale formation that has become a hub of hydro-fracturing activity in the last decade.  Williamsport is the county seat of Lycoming County, which is barely "metropolitan" with a population of 116,747."  In fact, Lycoming County/Williamsport was the seventh fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States in 2010.  Schwartz explains why and how:
The common economic criticism of the drilling industry is that it booms and then busts, generating few local jobs and leaving little lasting economic benefit.
* * *
[Lycoming] county and ... Williamsport, are working diligently to position themselves not just as a host to the arriving companies, but also as a source of local workers for the industry and a long-term beneficiary of its local and national expansion.
Depending on whose estimates you believe, the number of jobs created by the Marcellus Shale extractive activity is between 20,000 and 234,000, with the low-end figure representing less than half a percent of all the state's jobs.  Some of those jobs are high skill, others low, as Schwartz notes that hotels and restaurants have popped up to accommodate the industry's workers.  

But as in other locales where fracking has taken hold, many locals are concerned about the environmental impact of the practice.  Among those in the Williamsport area with such concerns are Anne and Eric Nordell, who have had a 90-acre organic farm about 25 miles from Williamsport, in Trout Run, since the 1980s.  From the high point on their property, drilling rigs and the deforestation that have made way for them, are visible.  Schwartz quotes Ms. Nordell:
We’re just praying that our water will be safe.  ... The first indication that we have any type of contamination, we will shut down.  I eat the food that I grow, and I will not sell anything that’s unsafe.
One part of the Schwartz article contrasts this part of Pennsylvania with the extraction industry boom in North Dakota, which I have written about here.  An earlier post about the Marcellus Shale is here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Law and Order in the Ozarks (Part CIX): Tax measure to finance operation of jail fails

Voters in Newton County rejected the 0.75% sales and use tax that was on the November ballot, a tax that would have raised funds for the operation and maintenance of a new county jail.  Read more on the history of this issue hereherehere and here. The vote for the tax was 1,681, while 1,934 voters cast ballots against it.

And so the long-awaited new jail, finally completed in August this year with funds being raised by a sales tax passed by voters in 2010, will remain shuttered.  While I have remained unconvinced that building the new jail was a good idea, for reasons articulated here, it seems terribly wasteful--now that the jail is built--to have it sit unused.

I noted a quarter page ad in the Oct. 24, 2012 issue of the Newton County Times, paid for by "Committee for Newton County Jail."  It says:

Your Vote Counts
Vote Yes for 0.75% Sales & Use Tax For Operation & Maintenance of the Jail
This tax will equal 3/4 of a penny per dollar

  • Stop the flow of Newton County Taxpayers money to Boone County
  • Reduce costs to taxpayers for fuel and officers transporting
  • Create jobs in Newton County
  • Reduce backlog of hundreds of warrants we can't actively pursue due to housing cost
  • Keep Newton County inmates in Newton County
  • Easier for families to visit without having to go to Boone County
  • Provide work crews for projects throughout the county, i.e., roadside litter, cemeteries, community buildings and county owned properties
  • Stop alternative sentencing--incarcerate criminals that would otherwise receive no jail time
  • Deter crime because there will be consequences for their actions
  • The jail has been built with taxpayer money--Now we need to fund it.
* * * 
The ad is interesting that it appeals repeatedly to the economic interests of the county, e.g., jobs and law enforcement costs, while also pitting Newton County against Boone County.  Also interesting is the appeal to the families of prisoners, who now must travel to neighboring Boone County to visit their loved ones.  Of course, it also appeals to the "law and order" crowd by presenting the jail as an alternative to "alternative sentencing," and by touting the deterrent value of the jail.    

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rural voter as conservative voter, and vice versa

That seems to me the gist of this story by Jack Healy in today's NYT.  Here's an excerpt from the story, titled "In Wyoming, Conservatives Feeling Left Behind."
By now, voters here are over the initial shock. The ranchers, businessmen and farmers across this deep-red state who knew, just knew that Americans would never re-elect a liberal tax-and-spender president have grudgingly accepted the reality that voters did just that. 
But since the election, a blanket of baffled worry has descended on conservatives here like early snow across the plains, deepening a sense that traditional, rural and overwhelmingly white states in the center of the country are losing touch with an increasingly diverse and urban American electorate. 
* * *  
Still, if diversity is the future of American politics, conservatives in places like Wyoming, the least populous state, where 86 percent of residents are white, fear they may be sliding into the past.
While Healy mentions that Wyoming has many rural voters, he does not specify that it is, in fact, one of the most "rural" of U.S. states--as that term is used by the U.S. Census Bureau. More than 37% of the population is rural if you use the population cluster of 2,500 as the threshold for urbanicity, but it is 58% rural is you use 10,000 as the population cluster measure, and nearly 90% rural is you use 50,000 as your population cluster cutoff.  Here's the relevant U.S. Census Bureau webpage with all this information, also regarding population density.

For full coverage of the rural vote in the 2012 Presidential election, head over to the Daily Yonder.

Friday, November 16, 2012

More on federal failures to police Indian country

Timothy Williams reported a few days ago in the New York Times on federal cut backs in funding for the policing of Indian lands.  As with several of his stories (here and here) back in February this year, Williams refers specifically to the situation on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.  But he also provides data, anecdotes, and quotes from tribes across the West and Southwest.  He also makes frequent comparisons to law enforcement efforts in metropolitan areas.  The lede for Williams's story follows:
The federal government has cut the size of its police force in Indian country, reduced financing for law enforcement and begun fewer investigations of violent felony crime, even as rates of murder and rape there have increased to more than 20 times the national average, according to data. 
* * *
As one illustration of the profound increase in violence in recent years — despite generally declining crime in much of the rest of the nation — F.B.I. crime data reports that the number of reported rapes on the Navajo reservation in the Southwest in the last several years has eclipsed those in nine of America’s 20 largest cities, even though there are only 180,000 people on the reservation.
With 374 reported rapes on the Navajo Reservation in 2009, that territory outpaced even Detroit, with 335 rapes for the same year.  

Williams's article provides a great deal of data which illustrates the point that, while crime rates have risen in Indian country, federal investments in law enforcement there have fallen.  He also offers several comparisons with the investments that metropolitan police departments make in their police forces, even when those police forces are responsible for fewer citizens and much, much smaller land areas.  

While 1.6 million American Indians are spread over 56 million acres of Indian country, the federal government (through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Justice Department) contributed $322 million to tribal law enforcement programs in 2012.  Meanwhile, Philadelphia spent $552 million on a police budget to keep safe 1.5 million residents, and Phoenix spent $540 million to police 1.4 million residents.   

Failures to adequately fund public safety in Indian country extend to tribal prosecutors and courts, too, as Williams amply documents. 

Chronic failures of tribal law enforcement have led to underreporting of crime, with some estimates indicating that only 10% of crimes are reported.  Gyasi Ross, a lawyer and member of the Blackfoot tribe, explains:
I’m not going to have a bit of faith in the system unless you make it safe and the guy who did this to me is going to be behind bars for a very long time. ... I need some assurances because I’m taking my life in my hands.
In reading this devastating story, I was struck by how its theme is a central one of Louise Erdrich's most recent novel, The Round House, for which she was just awarded the National Book Award.   The New York Times describes the book as "a novel about a teenage boy’s effort to investigate an attack on his mother on a North Dakota reservation, and his struggle to come to terms with the violence in their culture."  Read Michiko Kakutani's book review here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Colorado town fooled by story of dying boy

The New York Times reports today on a hoax in Gypsum, Colorado, a hoax that united the town in support of a supposedly dying boy.  The hoax is that the boy, Alexander Jordan, never existed.  He was created by a 22-year-old Gypsum woman, who pulled the photo that she used to represent him from a cancer foundation website.  She created a tale about him, told to her work colleague who was the mother of one of the players on the Eagle Valley Devils High School football team.  As the story went, Alex was dying from leukemia and had asked to spend his last months in the mountains.

This quote from Jack Healy's story illustrates the extent which the city of Gypsum, population 6,477, rallied around the boy.
Walk into any lunch counter, church or small-town gas station, and you are likely to find donation jars and fliers describing similar stories of sick children, families displaced by fire and neighbors in need. And to many in this middle-class town a half-hour west of Vail’s ski condos and private jets, a story of a child at the end of a losing fight for his life had deep resonance.
The high school quarterback, Jordan Hudspeth, is quoted:
It brought us together.  We know somebody's hurt, and we want to help out.
The story reminded me of the myth of small-town solidarity, but also of the lack of anonymity associated with such places.  Healy writes of the gnashing of teeth of townsfolk in the wake of the discovery that Alex never existed.
The team was distraught. The newspaper published a long, apologetic account of the deception and the role it had played. School officials said they were trying to put the episode behind them. 
The football parent who had helped bring ... the story to the team hurried off the phone quickly, as though embarrassed.
The football coach, Mr. Ramunno, said he'd like to have back the signed football the team had donated to the boy, "to remind me I need to be a little bit more careful."

I wondered if folks in a larger or wealthier place would have rallied around a sick boy in the way this town did--and if they would have felt so burned, would have taken it so personally, when they learned that he had never existed.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Rurality and class as identity, in the context of an elite(ist) institution

I have been following recent news out of Amherst College about sexual assaults some students have committed against others--and the allegations that Amherst administrators previously tried to hush up these incidents, discouraging victims from pressing charges.  Indeed, victims of the sexual assaults have alleged that administrators acted insensitively to their reports, saying things like, "are you SURE it was rape?"  and "why don't you take the semester off and get a job at Starbucks until he graduates."  Read more here, and don't miss this student website featuring student victims of sexual assault who have "come out" about what happened to them.

In the context of news coverage of these matters, Amherst's president since summer of 2011, Dr. Biddy Martin, has received mostly positive attention for her handling of the crisis.  Richard Perez-Pena, reporting for the New York Times, wrote in his Oct. 26, 2012 story:
Dr. Martin, who is known as Biddy, released a statement that had neither the defensiveness nor the bland wait-and-see that are common to institutional responses, declaring that things “must change, and change immediately.” She made more administrative changes, and said in an interview in her office on Thursday that she is inclined to make more still, like having experts — rather than shifting panels of professors and students — adjudicate complaints.
Now, in a second NYT story published yesterday, Perez-Pena reports further on Dr. Martin's unusual response to the rapes--unusually confrontational and frank, that is.  In doing so, he picks up on aspect of Dr. Martin's background--one might even say, her identity--and implies that it has relevance to her handling of these sensitive matters.  Perez-Pena writes that "no college leader in the country" is as well prepared to face this Amherst controversy, in part because her academic work is about gender and sexuality, in part because she has a "history of tackling ... thorny disputes," and in part because even before this issue came to the fore at Amherst, Martin had begun "overhauling" how the institution deals with sexual assaults.  

But Perez-Pena has more to say about why Dr. Martin has responded as she has.  What he suggests is that not only Martin's gender, but also rurality and perhaps class are salient aspects of her identity. 

Perez-Pena notes in the story's lede that the Amherst controversy "began with a first-person account of an elite college's callous treatment of a rape victim," a "woman from the rural South who said she had never felt fully accepted on campus."  Then Perez-Pena writes of Dr. Martin, who grew up in southern Virginia:  
And [Martin] is, herself, a woman from the rural South, who attended an elite college where she did not feel fully accepted. 
* * * 
Her parents, a school secretary and a salesman, “thought girls didn’t need to go to college, and they worried that I would be turned into a liberal lunatic,” she said. “Their greatest fear was that, as they put it, those eggheads would think they were better than we were, and when I went to William and Mary, I did encounter some prejudice.” 
As a scholar of German literature, and a lesbian, she did not always fit in back home, either — where, she said, “what mattered was high school football.”
Wow.  Kudos to Perez-Pena for picking up on this part of Dr. Martin's bio--for seeing the relevance of her class background and the marginalization of the rural in relation to it--especially in the elite(ist) milieu in which Martin now operates.  Dr. Martin, it seems, is both insider and outsider; she has experienced being both, along various axes of her identity:  gender, sexuality, class--and even geography.  And maybe Perez-Pena is right in speculating on the capacity this gives her to empathize with a female student from the rural South, a woman who didn't feel she accepted at Amherst, even before she was raped there.  

It reminds me of this sentence from Perez-Pena's first report about the Amherst rapes: 
Are sex crimes more surprising at a school thought of as elite and supportive of women's rights, or less surprising at the kind of place often labeled as having a culture entitlement?  
Cross-posted to Feminist Legal Theory and ClassCrits

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Everyone Eats There." Yes, but what do they eat?

This Mark Bittman story in the annual NYT Magazine food and drink issue appeared last month under several headlines:
  • Heavenly Food
  • California's Central Valley:  Land of a Million Vegetables
  • Everyone Eats There
It is this last headline that has stuck with me--and continued to agitate me.  This is because I find the headline misleading or--perhaps more precisely--because it tells only part of the story.  Bittman's piece is an homage, of sorts, to California's Central Valley, which produces more than a third of the produce grown in the United States.  Bittman writes:
The valley became widely known in the 1920s and 1930s, when farmers arrived from Virginia or Armenia or Italy or (like Tom Joad) Oklahoma and wrote home about the clean air, plentiful water and cheap land. ... Unlike the Midwest, which concentrates (devastatingly) on corn and soybeans, more than 230 crops are grown in the valley, including those indigenous to South Asia, Southeast Asia and Mexico, some of which have no names in English. At another large farm, I saw melons, lettuce, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, chard, collards, prickly pears, almonds, pistachios, grapes and more tomatoes than anyone could conceive of in one place. ... Whether you’re in Modesto or Montpelier, there’s a good chance that the produce you’re eating came from the valley.
Maybe my annoyance with this headline is one of those "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" (versus "Eats Shoots and Leaves) issues.  That is, what Bittman's headline writers probably intended to convey with "Everyone Eats There" is that, wherever you live in the United States, you eat food from California's Central Valley.  The Valley is the "there" and we all eat from its bounty.  As he writes above, whether you are in Vermont or in the valley itself, you probably eat produce grown in this part of California.  What Bittman's story overlooks is that many people in the valley don't get to eat the produce at all.

You see, the headline could also be read to mean something perhaps more accurately expressed as, "Everyone There Eats."  That is, it could be interpreted as meaning that everyone in the valley eats.  Technically, this is true.  But what that interpretation--which might be the "first glance" one for many readers--glosses over is what residents of the valley eat. You see, ironically, the Great Central Valley is home to many food deserts, places where good, nutritious food is hard to get and where people--many of them farm laborers--live in poverty on "liquor store diets." While Bittman waxes poetic about the wonderful array of food grown in the valley, he doesn't acknowledge that many in the valley--including those who grow the food and their children--don't benefit from that bounty.

Others do.  Edie Jessup of Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program (CCROPPhas called the "poverty of the Central Valley of California and the abundance of the region's agriculture" a "conundrum." Or, as as Cesar Chavez said years ago:
It is ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest the fruits, vegetables, and other foods that fill your table with abundance, have nothing left for themselves.  
In a post a year ago on the California Institute for Rural Studies website, Jessup expanded on the issue:
Fresno County is iconic, and typical of all the Central Valley counties. It is the richest agricultural producing county in the nation and the poorest congressional district in the USA, with poverty and hunger at about 40% according to the California Health Inventory Survey. This paradox results in an abundance of food leaving the region, broken local produce distribution systems, rural corner stores that only sell cheap junk food and soda, fear of ‘la Migra’ (racism), compromised healthcare, and a lack of potable water and transportation access. In Fresno, 85% of school children qualify for free lunch, and 33% grow up in extreme poverty. One-third of children are obese, and 2/3 of adults are obese with a compendium of chronic diseases directly related to diet. Our food deserts are frequently food swamps, where there is ‘food’ available but it is often unhealthy and cheap. Fresno City and the surrounding metropolitan area have a population of over 500,000 and the outlying 14 incorporated cities and over 50 unincorporated areas total over 900,000 people. Significantly, Fresno County produces nearly $5.3 billion from agriculture; however with only one large urban area, most of the county is very rural, as is the entire Central Valley.
I recently wrote of one such area in Fresno County:  Mendota, sometimes referred to as the Appalachia of the West.  Jessup calls for remedies to this "entrenchment of food deserts and food swamps, sporadic emergency food distribution, multiple 'pilot' solutions to hunger, and a lack of connections between infrastructure make food access in the Central Valley a social justice issue."  More importantly, through CCROPP, Jessup is working to achieve those remedies.  It's a pity that work such as this--and the crisis to which it responds--do not get the sort of national attention that Mark Bittman commands.  It's also a pity that Bittman doesn't use his platform to talk about food issues like these.  

Cross-posted to Agricultural Law Blog.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rural women subject of recommendation at 30th anniversary meeting of CEDAW committee

The CEDAW Committee met in Istanbul last week, and one of the General Recommendations (GR) that came out of that meeting involves rural women in particular. It was introduced by Egypt's member on the Committee, Naela Gabr and is entitled "General Recommendation on Article 14 of CEDAW: Rural Women."

The following is quoted from the document:
For thirty years, the Committee had received initial and periodic reports from developing and developed countries, the experts had long discussions with the corresponding delegates about the implementation of Article 14. The concluding observations/remarks recommendations [COB's] are self explanatory ...many challenges do exist, problems need to be resolved, and in spite of some progress a lot has to be done. 
On October 2011, the Committee adopted a general statement on Rural Women stressing that "despite efforts undertaken to encourage overall empowerment of rural women, there are still many issues that need to be addressed as women, and in particular rural women, face discrimination in all spheres of life. [50th session of CEDAW]. 
At the same session, the Committee decided to establish a working group on rural women for the purpose of preparing a general recommendation on Article 14.
* * *
The working group had studied the main challenges facing rural women, it pointed out the additional information to be included in state reports under Article 14, suggested recommendations for future government action... This constitutes our plan while drafting the general recommendation. 
I- Main challenges facing rural women:

1- Access to key productive resources: only between 10 and 20% of all land holders are women.
2- Access to and control over land: Land property ownership rights and inheritance rights are de facto not recognized in many countries. Lands are registered only in male names as well as compensation payments.
3- Social rights and basic services:
  • In many parts of the world, sociopolitical and economic constraints limit girls and women access to education. These include restrictions in mobility, preferential schooling of boys over girls. 
  • Rural women exist principally outside official statistics relating to GDP and employment and have very often been ignored in development planning. 
  • Maternal mortality continues to be high in rural areas, mostly due to the absence of skilled birth attendants and medical personnel, malnutrition is prevailing as well as poor health services, the girl child is usually neglected because of traditional rural setting. 
  • Malnutrition as well as food insecurity affect livelihoods, lack of drinking water and long distance to collect water for daily family needs. 
  • Particular constraints to access to financial services (policies and legal barriers, cultural norms) as well as to their access to modern and new technologies. 
4- Political Participation: Inadequate expression in relevant community organizations, including legal decision making bodies... thereby reinforcing politically and in law the marginalization that rural women already experience by virtue of the physical geography that separates them from centers of power.

5- Girls from rural communities are at special risk of violence and sexual exploitation and trafficking when they leave the rural community to seek employment in towns.

6- Migration out of rural areas to urban areas and abroad is becoming an important livelihood strategy for women and men. In spite of migration of millions of rural residents to urban areas and the decline of rural populations in developed countries ... (high population growth in rural areas can increase pressure on land and other resources –migration).  
7- Access to justice: most of the women who stand to benefit from Article14 are likely not aware of these rights (legal illiteracy). The extent to which these women know about CEDAW in general, and Article 14 in particular, is very limited. Rural women in particular have fewer opportunities than their urban counterparts to enforce their rights because of the relative absence of law and legal actors in rural places.

 8- Rural women often bear the major burden in:
  • Armed conflict and p[o]st conflict situations. 
  • Economic and food crisis. 
  • Neo-liberal economic policy choices. 
II- Additional information to be included in State reports under Article 14: [related to
new challenges and problems]; specifically, measures taken on:

a) Enabling environment including necessary institutional set up and legal policy framework.
b) Impacts of macroeconomic policy measures on rural women.
c) Opportunities to access decent rural employment and livelihood diversification activities.
d) The impact of natural disasters and climate change on rural women.
e) Large scale land acquisitions and changes in land use.
f) Disadvantaged groups of women: disabled women, older women, indigenous ones.

III- Recommendations for government action. [Examples]

In addition to recommendations responding to each and every challenge and problem, the following are to be taken as a priority:

1- Implement a comprehensive national strategy to reduce the disproportionate number of rural women living in poverty and promote their well being.

2- Allocate adequate budgetary, humane and administrative resources to achieve rural women's substantive equality in national budgets.

3- Place a gender perspective at the center of all policies and programs affecting rural development.

4- Strengthen the mechanisms to claim rights,take measures to remove barriers to women's ability to claim those rights.

In conclusion:
The elaboration and adoption of this general recommendation will help raising the visibility of rural women's concerns on the checklist of matters about which state parties must pay particular attention when reporting to CEDAW, thus increasing the focus, among policy makers, on rural women's legitimate demands for equal rights and their aspirations for a decent life and a better future. Needless to say that the following step would be more attention given to complaint mechanism, mainly our optional protocol.
The GR also notes UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's recent comments on the occasion of the fourth International Day of Rural Women:
As we approach the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, it is time to invest more in rural women, protect their rights and improve their status. On this international day, I call on all partners to support rural women, listen to their voices and ideas, and ensure that policies respond to their needs and demands. Let us do everything we can to enable them to reach their potential for the benefit of all.
My work on Article 14 is cited in the GR, and can be downloaded here, here, and here. My coverage of CSW 56, which focused on rural women, is here.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gold mining resumes in the Sierra foothills

A few months ago, I wrote this post about the Sutter Gold Mine in Sutter Creek, California, population     2,501.

Now, today's Sacramento Bee offers this story and this photo feature on the undertaking, with a focus on the Lincoln mine in Sutter Creek, one of several being explored by Sutter Gold.  Here's an excerpt:
In the grassy slopes above these Amador County towns east of Sacramento, modern-day miners are blasting and mucking in pursuit of more than $1 billion in glistening deposits. 
That is the anticipated reward the Sutter Gold Mining Co. is banking on, based on current gold prices and projections that it can unearth up to 680,000 ounces of gold. It plans to reap its haul by boring new tunnels from an old mine and exploiting multiple layers of quartz veins, snaking south to the edge of Sutter Creek and, later, north toward Amador City.
In 1998, when the county approved the Sutter project, local residents were divided over mining's return. They argued over a since-abandoned plan to bury tailings on the opposite side of Highway 49 and trucks rumbling through quaint Gold Country towns.

Since then, the county has built a bypass route to Highway 49. And Sutter Gold says most traffic will be confined to the mining property, where tailings will be kept on site – most put back into the ground – "cleaner than when they came out," said general manager Ed McGoldrick.
Pat Carney, Sutter Gold's maintenance superintendent and an Ione resident who recently worked in clay and aggregate mining, hails the region's return to its gilded heritage. Sutter Gold is bringing in miners, mechanics, technicians, geologists and engineers to work the 3.5 miles of the historic Mother Lode Gold Belt under its control. 
But these days, the picturesque towns of Sutter Creek, home to 2,500 residents, and Amador City, population 150, celebrate the Gold Country heritage with wine and cheese and daffodil tours. 
So while Sutter Gold's new employees frequent Sutter Creek restaurants, enjoying leafy cranberry and walnut salads, the place hardly resembles a roaring mining camp.
Journalist Peter Hecht closes with a comment from the director of the Sutter Creek Visitors Bureau, a quote that sums up the tension between the area's two economic engines:
We tell people mining's back in town and they say, 'That's cool. What do we get to see?' It needs to be a tourist attraction.
Read more here:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wisconsin's northern tier said to be critical in 2012 election

Trip Gabriel of the New York Times reports today on the importance of the rural vote in Wisconsin.  His headline is "In Wisconsin, Real Battleground is Rural."  Here's the story's lede:
The presidential candidates rarely trek this far north, but on election night, experts in the Wisconsin vote said, they would pay close attention to the vast region west and north of Green Bay, viewing it as a telltale of whether the state’s political upheaval since 2010 has undermined President Obama’s bulwark of support.

The rural northern tier may be the most volatile area of the state, where Mr. Obama flipped 19 counties from red to blue in 2008, all of which then shifted back, hard, in a Republican wave two years ago.
Twenty percent of the state's voters live in this "northern tier," an electorate that is "rural, working class, and almost entirely white."  Gabriel's story quotes Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster in Madison, regarding the region, which he said "nobody ever bothers to go to, where the vote swings the most."    
If Romney wins, it'll be because he made major inroads there. If Obama wins, it'll be because he holds more of the 2008 vote.
PS:  The county-level map for the 2012 election shows that about half of those counties went for Obama, about half for Romney.  It looks like the same counties that went for Obama also went to the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin, who also won.