For months, the Rev. Falicia Campbell kept a secret from her congregation, her friends and even her adult children. It was a secret she was ashamed to divulge: She was living without running water.Like a growing number of Americans, the 63-year-old Chicago resident couldn't afford to pay her rising water bills. She inherited her mother's house in Englewood, a poor neighborhood on the city's South Side, and last year received a $5,000 bill.Campbell is partially blind and lives on a fixed income from disability payments. She dedicates most of her time to helping her community. Her church includes a resource center that provides food and shelter for poor and homeless people.She couldn't pay off her water debt, and in August her water was turned off. The Chicago Water Department offered her a payment plan but required a $1,700 deposit before restoring her water. She didn't have it.
Insects are the most abundant animals on planet Earth. If you were to put them all together into one creepy-crawly mass, they’d outweigh all humanity by a factor of 17.Insects outweigh all the fish in the oceans and all the livestock munching grass on land. Their abundance, variety (there could be as many as 30 million species), and ubiquity mean insects play a foundational role in food webs and ecosystems: from the bees that pollinate the flowers of food crops like almonds to the termites that recycle dead trees in forests.Insects are also superlative for another, disturbing reason: They’re vanishing at a rate faster than mammals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles.“The pace of modern insect extinctions surpasses that of vertebrates by a large margin,” write the authors of an alarming new review in Biological Conservation of the scientific literature on insect populations published in the past 40 years. The state of insect biodiversity, they write, is “dreadful.” And their biomass — the estimated weight of all insects on Earth combined — is dropping by an estimated 2.5 percent every year.
Environmental groups plan to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to prevent the recent loss of the last herd of mountain caribou in the Lower 48 states. The handful of remaining animals were relocated into Canada last November, ending decades of efforts to save the southern Selkirk Mountains herd, which were located in a remote part of northern Idaho and Washington state.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell traveled Tuesday to a historically black university in the Mississippi Delta to deliver a message that the nation’s prosperity has not been felt in many such areas around the country.Powell said that many rural areas had been left out and needed special support, such as access to affordable credit to start small businesses and high-quality education to train workers. In his comments, Powell did not address the future course of interest rates or the Fed’s decision last month to announce that it planned to be “patient” in its future interest rate hikes. That decision triggered a big stock market rally from investors worried that the Fed was in danger of pushing rates up so much it could bring on a recession.Addressing the current economy, Powell said that economic output remained solid and he did not feel the possibility of a recession “is at all elevated.” He noted that unemployment is currently near a 50-year low.“We know that prosperity has not been felt as much in some areas, including many rural places,” Powell said in an address to a conference on economic development at Mississippi Valley State University. “Poverty remains a challenge in many rural communities.”He noted that 70 percent of the 473 counties in the United States designated as having persistent levels of poverty were in rural areas. Among the problems being faced in the Mississippi Delta, Powell said, were the loss of jobs in agriculture and low-skilled manufacturing because of automation and outsourcing of manufacturing jobs.
Support was strong at a Senate hearing for spending public funds to spread the benefits of high-seed internet, but many questions remain such as how much money will be available and for whose benefit.The Inslee administration has put forward a bill to connect every home and business in Washington with internet fast-enough to meet the federal definition of broadband by 2024. A new office within the Commerce Department would oversee "central broadband planning."The bill does not appropriate a specific amount of money. As a start, Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed $25 million over the next two years for projects, plus $1.2 million for the office.
Despite the large amount of funding coming from the Rural Utilities Service and the F.C.C., rural America has not seen broadband deployed and adopted at the same speed and effectiveness that it had with electricity and telephone service almost a century ago. The reason for this lag is a lack of coordinated federal policies, which in turn has allowed major telecommunications companies to receive a large portion of these funds without much regulatory accountability. An opaque set of grant and loan stipulations make it difficult for communities to apply for funding, and in some states, a series of laws actively prohibit or inhibit towns and cooperatives from wiring their own communities.
Humans have a ''disproportionately huge effect'' on the other species of vertebrates that share Earth's surface with us, causing more than 25 percent of the deaths among an array of species all over the globe, according to a recently published study.A team of scientists from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in Syracuse, New York, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture analyzed the deaths of 42,755 animals that were reported in 1,114 published studies. They found that 28 percent of the animals' deaths were directly caused by humans.
The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.The new analysis selected the 73 best studies done to date to assess the insect decline. Butterflies and moths are among the worst hit. For example, the number of widespread butterfly species fell by 58% on farmed land in England between 2000 and 2009. The UK has suffered the biggest recorded insect falls overall, though that is probably a result of being more intensely studied than most places.
The federal government is encouraging rural communities to take advantage of new opportunities to expand broadband internet service. The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched a new toolkit to support the deployment of high-speed internet service in rural communities. The toolkit features 27 USDA programs meant to facilitate the expansion of broadband, including grants, loans and technical assistance from multiple mission areas of the USDA.“High-speed broadband e-connectivity is becoming more and more essential to doing business, delivering health care, and, for schoolchildren, doing homework in rural communities,” said Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development. “This user-friendly tool will help rural customers find the many resources USDA has available to support the expansion and use of e-connectivity in rural America.”
On the other hand, all across this country, I’ve visited (and lived in) small towns from Maine to Indiana to Virginia to Colorado to New Mexico that are flourishing. Sometimes the ones that are flourishing are just miles away from those that aren’t, providing a natural experiment to determine what makes a difference and what works. There are quite a few commonalities among the towns that are doing well. One that stands out is that these thriving places have high-speed internet service and reliable cell service. What seemed like a “nice to have” only 20 years ago is absolutely a baseline requirement these days to attract and retain citizens and businesses.Another commonality is what some people call “placemaking.” Most of these towns have invested in themselves. They spruced up downtowns with new sidewalks and street lights. They helped landlords repair and enhance storefront facades. They supported the real estate investors who come in and rehabilitated signature, historical buildings, like old textile mills in New England, tobacco warehouses in North Carolina, Victorian-era houses in Colorado mining towns and adobe buildings in New Mexico. Most of all, these towns celebrate their history, rather than tear it all down.