I was recently reading a very good series on West Virginia over at Al Jazeera. It’s the thing that you used to see from our media, but no longer. It’s a rather disturbing picture of what happens when an area is almost totally dependent on one industry, and one that is an “extractive industry:” Coal. The reports focus on one county, McDowell, which in the past was one of the major producers of coal. Today? Well, it’s not a very nice place. But there’s some lessons in there as well.
Tag Archives: employment
It’s officially “Spring,” according to the calendar, although the “look out the window” around here says “still Winter.” There are signs that spring will eventually get here, but exactly when is anyone’s guess. One of the evidences for climate change from my perspective is that “general predictability” has gone out the window in the past decade. There was a time when I could plan around when seasons would begin, within a week or two. Now, I have to guess within a month or so, and I’m usually wrong.
One of the first agricultural techniques, which is still practiced in many parts of the world, is “slash and burn agriculture.” It’s pretty simple:
Slash-and-burn is an agricultural technique that involves cutting and burning of trees and plants in forests or woodlands to create fields. It is subsistence agriculture that typically uses little technology or other tools. It is typically part of shifting cultivation agriculture, and of transhumance livestock herding.
It works by clearing an area, planting crops until the soil is depleted, and then moving on to the next area. Eventually, one may move back to the original area, after a period of allowing regrowth, but that isn’t always possible. Its use as a successful method depends on having a small population and a lot of land to move to. The problem with it is that it’s not a sustainable method of agriculture. Once you reach a certain population density, or have exhausted the land available, it becomes unsustainable. So, what does that have to do with the economy?
One of the things that amuses me is when I see the typical demographic of Tea Party or “true conservative” Republican Party members. Why does it amuse me? Well, I fall into that demographic as well. I’m in my 50′s, a rural white male. My childhood was spent in rural areas, and today I live in one. We were (and are) hard working, independent, “take care of yourself and your family” people. I had a strong religious background, in fact, many people assumed that when I grew up I’d be a minister. I went to college, joined the military afterward, and after leaving, went to work in the private sector. I even ran my own business for a few years. So “obviously” I should be a conservative Republican, not a liberal Democrat!
I’ve spent a while reading statements from various right-wing politicians – Rand Paul being one of the more prominent – that extended unemployment benefits are a bad thing. You see they may increase the deficit, and (gasp!) they may cause people to put off taking low-level, low-paid jobs! There seems to be two major core assumptions: That the extension of the benefits decreases people’s willingness to look for work; and that there are plenty of jobs available, if only those lazy unemployed would just take them. To back up their case, they’ll come up with an apocryphal business owner whose minimum wage jobs are just going begging, because the unemployed won’t take them.