They'd been on our planet for millions of years, but 2018 was the year several species officially vanished forever. Three bird species went extinct this year, scientists said, two of which are songbirds from northeastern Brazil: The Cryptic Treehunter (Cichlocolaptes mazarbarnetti) and Alagoas Foliage-gleaner (Philydor novaesi), according to a report from the conservation group BirdLife International. According to BirdLife, the other extinct bird is Hawaii's Po'ouli (Melamprosops phaeosoma), which has not been seen in the wild since 2004 (the same year the last captive bird died). A disturbing trend is that mainland species are starting to go extinct, rather than island species: “Ninety percent of bird extinctions in recent centuries have been of species on islands,” said Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s chief scientist and lead author on the paper.“However, our results confirm that there is a growing wave of extinctions sweeping across the continents, driven mainly by habitat loss and degradation from unsustainable agriculture and logging," he said.
The number of Mexican-born immigrants in the United States dropped by about 300,000 people between 2016 and 2017, according to Census Bureau data, a shift that experts say is likely driven by changes on both sides of the border. While the drop, from 11.6 million to 11.3 million, coincides with the election of President Donald Trump, who made border enforcement and deportation of unauthorized immigrants top priorities of his administration, analysts said Trump was not the only factor. The 2016 decline was just the latest turn in a shift that began years earlier, they say.“It’s part of a long-term decline in the Mexican immigrant population in the United States, which appears to have peaked about 10 years ago, just before or during the beginning of the Great Recession,” said Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute.The decline has contributed to a shortage of labor in the U.S., particularly within the agriculture industry, where Mexicans who would usually take jobs here are now in shorter supply, according to Ana Otto, government relations manager for the Arizona Farm Bureau.
Ever since the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl started showing up in the U.S. illicit drug supply eight years ago, experts have surmised that drug traffickers were using the inexpensive white powder to boost the potency of heroin, sometimes adding too much and inadvertently killing their customers.In a series of interviews with heroin users in Rhode Island in 2017, Brown University researchers reported that users “described fentanyl as unpleasant, potentially deadly, and to be avoided.” They concluded that demand for the deadly contaminant was low and that its presence in the drug supply was “generating user interest in effective risk mitigation strategies, including treatment.”But here in San Francisco’s gritty Tenderloin district, where fentanyl was only rarely seen until last year, drug users tell a starkly different story. For many of them, fentanyl is a high-value drug that, if used carefully, can prevent dope sickness and deliver a strong high for a fraction of the price of heroin.
Rural communities face clear economic and environmental risks from a changing climate, according to the 2018 National Climate Assessment. The report documents changes in the timing of seasons, temperature fluctuations, increased incidence of extreme weather and change in rainfall – all patterns with the potential disrupt rural economic activities. Climate change in rural communities poses an outsized risk to the national economy, the report says. “Rural America’s importance to the country’s economic and social well-being is disproportionate to its population, as rural areas provide natural resources that much of the rest of the United States depends on for food, energy, water, forests, recreation, national character, and quality of life,” the report stated. While not all regions face the same impacts due to increased greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, the assessment explains how increased volumes of carbon, methane and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere will lead to changing climatic patterns. The report’s authors predict that changes will likely increase volatility in agricultural commodity markets, shift plant and animal ranges, increase the number and intensity of droughts and floods, and increase the number and size of wildfires throughout the rural landscape. For portions of rural America with an economy based on agriculture, climate scientists are most worried about shifting geographic suitability of particular crops and abnormal timing for planting and harvest.
My mother texts me four photos of a dead moose the week I leave Alaska. It is freshly hit. The animal will not go to waste. For the past 50 years, Alaska has been the only state where virtually every piece of large roadkill is eaten. Every year, between 600 and 800 moose are killed in Alaska by cars, leaving up to 250,000 pounds of organic, free-range meat on the road. State troopers who respond to these collisions keep a list of charities and families who have agreed to drive to the scene of an accident at any time, in any weather, to haul away and butcher the body. During a recent trip to Fairbanks, my hometown, I asked locals why Alaska’s roadkill program has been so successful for so long. “It goes back to the traditions of Alaskans: We’re really good at using our resources,” Alaska State Trooper David Lorring told me. Everyone I talked to — biologists, law enforcement, hunters and roadkill harvesters — agreed: It would be embarrassing to waste the meat. In the past few years, a handful of states, including Washington, Oregon and Montana, have started to adopt the attitude that Alaskans have always had toward eating roadkill. A loosening of class stigma and the questionable ethics and economics of leaving dinner to rot by the side of the road have driven acceptance of the practice in the Lower 48.
The state is offering money to companies who hire workers to telecommute from rural Utah. The incentives -- as much as $6,000 per full-time job -- are meant to help boost unemployment in rural areas."It’s a great way for the businesses along the Wasatch Front that are having a challenging filling these positions. Things are booming here. The demand is great. Don’t go to India, look to our rural counties," said Rebecca Dilg, the rural and community outreach manager for the Governor's Office of Economic Development.The Utah State Legislature approved spending $1.5 million for the program. Dilg said they were starting to get interest from a few companies."If you can get online, you can have a business anywhere within the state," she said.
The issue we want to focus on in this column is the funding of land-grant universities and colleges. n recent years we have been dismayed by the significant decline in the share of the cost of operating these land-grant institutions being borne by the federal and state governments. The result of this has been the increasing dependence of these educational institutions on student tuition, grants (public, charitable, and commercial), and philanthropy. From our perspective, the most critical issue to be addressed is the increasing dependence of land-grants and other public institutions of higher education on student tuition. We were both able to graduate debt-free even though we received minimal financial support from our families. Tuitions were low, student employment was available, and the funding from the state and federal governments were a higher portion of the cost of operating these schools.
COPD is one of the five most common causes of death in the U.S. The other four are heart disease, cancer, stroke and accidents. Of those five, death rates due to heart disease, cancer and stroke are higher in rural communities than in towns and cities, but are coming down for both rural and urban people. Deaths due to accidents, including drug overdoses, are increasing in both areas. The pattern for COPD is unique. Death rates due to COPD are falling in urban people, but increasing among rural people.It’s not clear why more rural people are dying of COPD. Several typical rural jobs expose people to very dusty or dirty air….farm work, mining etc. Even non-agricultural rural workers are much more likely to be exposed on the job to high levels of gases, dust and fumes (27%) than urban workers (15%).
The state has found a way to beat even the White House on reducing the number of people there who are eligible for food stamps. Since October 2017 through March 2018, the state agency dropped some 356 people on average per month from the food stamp rolls for not meeting the work requirements for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program.From April through October of 2018, that number increased to nearly 8,000 a month, according to the newspaper.Able-bodied adults in Georgia account for 8 percent of the population who are food stamps recipients while some 71 percent of people constitute those classified as families with dependent children, according to reports. A third of recipients are made up of disabled and elderly population.
Congress has ignored requests from the Trump administration to zero out rural housing programs. But merely protecting current funding will not address rural housing needs adequately, advocates say. Building stronger rural communities requires creating new housing initiatives, not just preserving the housing stock that is already in place, says the head of a national rural housing nonprofit.“Rural is not just small urban,” HAC’s communications manager, Dan Stern, told the Daily Yonder. He gave an example of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit which, if adapted to rural markets, could do a lot of good. “But it would be great to have a program that is designed with the realities of rural in mind.”In an era of divisive politics, rural housing is less partisan than other issues.