The rise and fall and (?) of regions like ours

This Willie Davis article at The Daily Yonder is must-read if you follow my coverage of the rural industrial corridor of Minnesota’s Iron Range. Davis looks to Kentucky’s coal mining country and its efforts to find economic and cultural footing amid the decline of coal mining.

It begins like this:

Not long ago, there was a rural region that based its economy entirely on one industry.  Though the region itself was poor, it used its surfeit of natural resources to benefit the nation as a whole.  The workers took immense pride in the industry, and most of the locals claimed it was a way of life.  Though they knew this economy wasn’t sustainable, they couldn’t conceive of a time when the resource would not be there.  When the industry collapsed, the region, having no backup plan, fell into disarray.  Unemployment and poverty spiked.  Young people fled.  Worse, having their way of life stripped from them, many locals felt hopeless.  There was an epidemic of drug and pill abuse so bad that it crippled the region for a generation.  Many locals felt resentment toward the government, to the environmentalists perceived as the industry’s enemy, even to the people who warned of the collapse.

The region was Newfoundland, the country was Canada, and the industry was cod. 

The story weaves through cod fishing to the one you’d expect: coal country’s decline and the many resulting economic and social problems. These problems, though perhaps not as extreme, have affected northern Minnesota’s Iron Range and likely will again someday. Unless, of course, they already are, which is equally possible. Do read the story. I think you’ll find it interesting, particularly the section on the false choice of being “for” or “against” mining. Thanks to reader Michael in Ely for sending it to me.

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