Rural America

Wednesday, Jul 29, 2020, 11:04 am  ·  By Carolina Norman

From Tractors to Phones, Companies Don’t Want You to Repair Stuff. Appalachians Are Fighting Back

Volunteers fix all sorts of items at events like this one hosted by the Cville TimeBank Repair Cafe in Charlotteville, Va. in fall 2018.   (Photo courtesy of Cville TimeBank Repair Café)

Editor's Note: This article was originally published by the Appalachian Voice and is republished here with permission.

Replacing your phone screen, turning the rotors on your car and fixing the shutter on your camera – for many people, it is hard to imagine that you could not be allowed to fix the things you own. But this is exactly what a lot of companies want: to prevent public access to the information and parts to make repairs.

Making it harder to fix items influences consumers to throw away everything from smartphones and televisions to dishwashers and tractors. But there is a nationwide mobilization to disrupt this linear, disposable system. In addition to promoting legislation that allows consumers the ability to repair their own devices, the right-to-repair movement is focused on defending the things we own against obsolescence. These efforts include several community groups focused on helping people repair their items as well as transform their relationship with their belongings into one that does not end with the landfill.


Friday, Jul 24, 2020, 8:15 pm  ·  By April Simpson

Between Dwindling Revenue and Rising Virus Cases, Rural Hospitals Face a Reckoning

A Covid-19 preparedness tent is set up outside the hospital emergency room entrance at Gritman Medical Center in the northern Idaho city of Moscow. In many parts of rural America, virus cases are on the rise.   (Photo by Don and Melinda Crawford / Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Editor's Note: This article was originally published by Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

As the Covid-19 pandemic battered large, metropolitan areas this spring, rural hospitals prepared to be next on the frontlines.

But in order to ready their facilities for a potential surge in patients, those small hospitals had to forgo many of their most profitable operations. Months later, a few rural hospitals are fighting outbreaks. But others have empty beds, further threatening their viability in an era of shrinking health care options for people living in rural communities.


Saturday, Jul 18, 2020, 3:17 pm  ·  By Johnathan Hettinger

Bayer Engineered a New Corn Seed That’s Resistant to Five Herbicides. But How Long Will It Work?

A farmer sprays the herbicide glyphosate on a corn field.   (Photo by Jean-Francois Monier / AFP via Getty Images)

Editor's Note: This story was originally published by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

A new genetically engineered corn seed designed by Bayer to be sprayed by up to five herbicides could represent the future of farming, providing growers with more pesticides to combat the problem of weed resistance.

But for how long? That’s the question raised by weed scientists, who say farmers need to start switching to non-chemical options to keep weeds under control.


Monday, Jul 13, 2020, 4:33 pm  ·  By Jordan Green

‘We Get There First or White Supremacists Do’: How These Rural Canvassers Disrupt Racist Narratives

Ian Hany-Lopez, second from right in the back row, who developed the Race-Class Narrative framework for electoral organizing, joins canvassers from Down Home North Carolina in Burlington.   (Photo courtesy of People’s Action)

Alamance County, a rural industrial county in central North Carolina, has become a flashpoint in recent years for battles over immigrant rights and Confederate monuments.

The county is more than 70% white, and Donald Trump carried it easily in 2016, winning 54.6% of the vote. Sheriff Terry Johnson—whose office was sued by the U.S. Justice Department in 2012 for racial profiling—ran unopposed in 2018 to win his fifth term. Un-chastened by years of criticism, Johnson told county commissioners during a January 2019 meeting that criminal immigrants were “raping our citizens in many, many ways,” while asking them to allocate $2.8 million in federal funds to house inmates for ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service.

In short, Alamance County might seem like an unlikely place to try to build a progressive movement for multiracial solidarity and economic justice. But the stew of punitive policies and racial demagoguery was precisely why progressive organizers deemed Alamance County a crucial battleground in the wake of the 2016 election.


Wednesday, Jul 8, 2020, 1:38 pm  ·  By Julian Agyeman and Kofi Boone

Black People Own Less of the U.S. than 100 Years Ago. A ‘Black Commons’ Could Help Reverse the Trend

This photo shows a group of people who had escaped slavery gathered on a former plantation. After Federal troops occupied the plantation, these former slaves began to harvest and gin cotton for their own profit.   (Photo by Corbis via Getty Images)

Underlying the recent unrest sweeping U.S. cities over police brutality is a fundamental inequity in wealth, land and power that has circumscribed black lives since the end of slavery in the U.S.

The “40 acres and a mule” promised to formerly enslaved Africans never came to pass. There was no redistribution of land, no reparations for the wealth extracted from stolen land by stolen labor.


Friday, Jul 3, 2020, 12:55 pm  ·  By Emma Burnett and Luke Owen

Coronavirus Has Shown that Our Food System Is Broken. Now Is the Time to Make It More Resilient

(Photo by Amy Sussman via Getty Images)

Most people rely on supermarkets, and these megastores dominate our food economy. They are part of a system that depends on large-scale agriculture and production, smooth-flowing international food trade and fast turnaround times.

But what happens when system vulnerabilities are exposed and they break down? What catches our fall?

We need a resilient food system. This means going beyond the ecological idea of resilience as merely survival during times of stress, and instead proactively building a food system that can both respond quickly to changing circumstances and act as a safety net.


Sunday, Jun 28, 2020, 12:35 pm  ·  By Gaurav Madan

Global Agribusiness is Devouring the World’s Last Forests. We Need Local Food Systems, Now.

An excavator works on an acacia plantation in Riau, the Indonesian province that lost 22% of its primary forest cover between 2002 and 2019.   (Photo by Rhett A. Butler)

Editor's Note: This article was originally published by Mongabay News and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

It was the middle of the afternoon in one of the world’s largest metropolises when the sky went black. Thousands of miles away, tens of thousands of fires raged, plunging Sao Paolo into darkness. For some, the blackout of Brazil’s largest city was a sign of humanity’s destructive course. A month later, across the globe in Indonesia, entire villages were swallowed by blood-red skies. Reports likened the Mars-like scenes to something from an apocalyptic film.

Last year in Brazil, fires set by illegal loggers and ranchers – and encouraged by neo-fascist President Jair Bolsonaro – were the worst in a decade. The burning Amazon sparked international protests and condemnation. Over 40,000 fires ravaged the lungs of the earth, blazing the path for soy and cattle production to expand ever deeper into the forest.

In Indonesia, palm oil companies that routinely drain peatlands and raze forests were once again guilty of burning large swaths of land for plantations. One report stated that 900,000 people suffered respiratory problems caused by smoke from the blazes.

All told in 2019, nearly 10,000 square miles of forests were destroyed between the Amazon and Indonesia. The impacts have been dire: increased greenhouse gases emissions, greater encroachment on Indigenous Peoples’ lands, and further destruction of endangered species habitat.


Tuesday, Jun 23, 2020, 5:18 pm  ·  By Stephanie Woodard

Bringing Back the Buffalo Was Always Important to the Rosebud Sioux. The Pandemic Made It Urgent

Soon the Rosebud Sioux Reservation will be home to 1,500 buffalo ― the largest Native-owned bison herd in the country.   (Photo by © Thomas Lee / WWF-US)

“We have always believed that bringing back the buffalo is important, but the pandemic shows that it is urgent,” said Wizipan Little Elk. “We are all talking about food security and what the new normal is going to be…We [at Rosebud] have to get back to our roots and provide an example for the rest of the world.”

Little Elk, CEO of the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO), is referring to the alarming problems the pandemic has exposed in the huge, centralized system that provides most Americans with their food. Over the last several months, numerous large meat packers closed down after workers were found to be infected with coronavirus. Supply chain problems have caused many farmers to have to kill and dispose of millions of pigs and chickens, dump milk and plow under vegetable crops. Meanwhile, sporadic food shortages have been reported around the country, adding to the fear and insecurity created by the pandemic.

With 1,500 buffalo given by the Department of the Interior over five years, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe will establish the Wolakota Buffalo Range and take a step toward economic sustainability and their own food sovereignty—independent of the nation’s ailing food system. The tribe also hopes the herd can help reestablish its historical relationship to the buffalo. As the largest Native-American-owned herd, it will revitalize the tribe by supplying school meals on the reservation, welcoming visits from Lakota-language immersion classes and making spiritually important items such as hides and skulls available to community members. The tribe also plans to build a small-scale meat-processing operation to make the grass-fed, humanely raised meat available locally and, to generate revenue, to the public as well, said Little Elk. By improving the health of the prairie ecosystem and its ability to sequester carbon and remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, he said, the herd will also help fight climate change.


Saturday, Jun 20, 2020, 12:35 pm  ·  By Johnathan Hettinger

Deadly Drift: The Herbicide Dicamba is Damaging Trees Across the Midwest and South

The mural declares Campbell the "Peach Capital of Missouri." But peaches don't grow in Campbell anymore. At least, not the way they used to.   (Photo courtesy of the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting)

Editor's Note: This story was originally published by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

Everything in Campbell, Missouri, is peaches. Peaches are on the water tower. You can order peach ice cream at the Sugar Shack on the edge of town. There is even a mural downtown depicting rows of peach trees and a full basket of fruit that declares the town the “Peach Capital of Missouri.”

The largest orchard in the area belongs to Bill Bader. His 1,000 acres of peaches have supplied grocery stores across eight states for more than three decades.

But today, Bader can’t grow much of anything. His trees have been hit year after year by herbicides drifting from nearby farms. Bader’s farm has all but gone out of business. A couple years ago, in June, Bader went with his grandson to pick a peach, but couldn’t find a single one on the branch. The trees were so weak they couldn’t hold fruit.

It’s not only happening on Bader’s farm and it’s not only happening in the southeast Missouri town of Campbell, an investigation by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found.


Thursday, Jun 18, 2020, 11:51 am  ·  By Yereth Rosen

‘An Abrupt Wake-Up Call’: Alaska Peers into a Future Without Oil

This pullout offers tourists a closer look at the Trans Alaska Pipeline. Since before the pipeline began operating in 1977, Alaska has depended on oil revenue.   (Photo by Yereth Rosen)

Siqiniq Maupin, a young Inupiat mother and activist trying to help steer Alaska away from its fossil-fuel dependency, is convinced that the coronavirus pandemic will be a turning point. Oil prices have cratered, the industry has shed hundreds of jobs and the usual flow of oil money has dried up, signaling the urgent need for a “Plan B,” she said.

“Personally, I think this is absolutely the end of the oil era, and I think this is going to be an abrupt wake-up call for people,” she said in a phone interview from her Fairbanks home.

Though a harsh critic of oil development, Maupin acknowledges that oil money brought important improvements to rural Alaskans’ lives, like running water and flush toilets. “It’s nice to have the necessities,” she said.

But oil money came with costs. For her family members and others living on the North Slope, the coronavirus pandemic has put those costs into stark relief, she said.