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Rural News

As biomass energy gains traction, southern US forests feel the burn

Mongabay | Posted on June 12, 2018

An estimated 50 to 80 percent of southern wetland forest is now gone, and that which remains provides ecosystem services totaling $500 billion as well as important wildlife habitat. Logging is considered one of the biggest threats to the 35 million acres of remaining wetland forest in the southern U.S., and conservation organizations are saying this threat is coming largely from the wood pellet biomass industry. \Touted as a renewable energy source, research shows wood pellets release more carbon dioxide than coal per megawatt of electricity produced and industry critics worry that incentivizing this energy source could actually be accelerating climate change. Experts argue that biomass energy effectively acts as a loophole for countries to under-report their carbon emissions and give a false impression of meeting Paris Agreement objectives. Research indicates pellet production plants also have a negative impact on air and water quality. But industry proponents say biomass energy is an important component of mitigating climate change and that regulations will ensure its sustainability.


Rural America has too few dentists — and too few patients who can pay

The Washington Post | Posted on June 12, 2018

About 43 percent of rural Americans lack access to dental care, according to the National Rural Health Association, and West Virginia, among the poorest and most rural states, is at the center of the crisis. All but six of the state’s 55 counties include federally designated “Health Professional Shortage Areas,” “Medically Underserved Areas” or both. The state’s Oral Health Program found in 2014 and 2015 that nearly half of counties had fewer than six practicing dentists, just half of adult West Virginians had visited a dentist in the previous year, and more than one-fifth hadn’t seen a dentist in five years. By comparison, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in 2015 found that 64 percent of all American adults ages 18 to 64 reported seeing a dentist in the previous year. The rate of total tooth loss is 33.8 percent among West Virginians over 65, compared with roughly 19 percent for all seniors nationally. One seemingly obvious solution is to persuade more dentists and other oral-health providers to come to places like West Virginia, a goal of various public efforts. The federal National Health Service Corps program, for example, offers up to $50,000 in loan assistance to doctors and dentists willing to work two years in a designated shortage area. And several states have passed or considered legislation authorizing “dental therapists” — midlevel providers akin to nurse practitioners — to provide certain kinds of primary dental care in areas where dentists are scarce. But while it is true that West Virginia has a dentist shortage, adding more providers will not solve the problem of rural oral health. People don’t go to the dentist if they can’t afford to, no matter how many dentists there are. “Affordability is the big thing,” said Richard Meckstroth, chair of the department of dental practice and rural health at West Virginia University.


Microbiome differences between urban and rural populations start soon after birth

Science Daily | Posted on June 11, 2018

An analysis comparing the intestinal microbiomes of both infants and adults living in rural and urban areas of Nigeria has revealed that not only are there many differences in adults living in subsistence environments versus urban ones but also that these variations begin at a very young age.


Measuring broadband's return on investment

Daily Yonder | Posted on June 11, 2018

A new study commissioned by the Blandin Foundation may help small communities put some hard numbers behind broadband’s public benefit.  “Return on Investment: Measuring Impact of Broadband in Five Rural Minnesota Communities” looks at communities that have spent public funds on building out networks. The words “high speed” are critical. These communities have run fiber to homes and businesses or have plans to do so in the near future.   Treacy’s estimates were based on formulas developed by other researchers. The resulting numbers are big. For the five areas in the study (Beltrami, Crow Wing, Goodhue, Lake and Sibley counties) the study showed a community benefit of about $150 million annually and another $450 million in the increase in real estate values. The estimates varied widely among the five communities, and they are far from a comprehensive picture of the potential impact of high quality broadband. But for communities wondering whether broadband is a good investment of public money, the implications are clear. 


In rural health, location matters

Daily Yonder | Posted on June 11, 2018

When it comes to your health, place matters. If you live in a rural county, the bottom-line truth is that you’re less apt to be healthy than if you lived in a more urban one. A couple of recent reports shed some light on both the issues and potential solutions.  According to the 2018 County Health Rankings, published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, rural counties continue to lag behind more urbanized ones in factors that play a critical role in a community’s overall health. These include child poverty, low-birthweight babies and teen birth rate. But rural communities have within their DNA the resources to rise to these challenges.  In another report, titled “Exploring Strategies to Improve Health and Equity in Rural Communities,” researchers at the University of Chicago’s NORC Walsh Center write that while much of the research exploring rural health issues in the U.S. focuses on disparities – increased health risks “related to geographic, socioeconomic, environmental and other factors” – seldom is attention paid to the strengths and assets within these communities that can be, and often are, deployed to improve health.  


US high-tide flooding twice what it was 30 years ago

ABC News | Posted on June 11, 2018

A new report finds that high-tide flooding is happening across the United States at twice the rate it was just 30 years ago and predicts records for such flooding will continue to be broken for decades as sea levels rise. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday that high-tide flooding, sometimes called sunny-day or "nuisance flooding," tied or set records last year in more than a quarter of the 98 places the agency monitors around the country. The report found Sabine Pass, Texas, had 23 days of high-tide flooding last year. The area is part of Port Arthur, where most houses now stand on stilts after the community was hit repeatedly by destructive hurricanes. Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Boston had 22 each. Cities in other parts of the country experienced fewer tidal floods, but many of those cities still saw records set.


What Unites and Divides Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on June 11, 2018

Amid widening gaps in politics and demographics, Americans in urban, suburban and rural areas share many aspects of community life. Large demographic shifts are reshaping America. The country is growing in numbers, it’s becoming more racially and ethnically diverse and the population is aging. But according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center, these trends are playing out differently across community types. Urban areas are at the leading edge of racial and ethnic change, with nonwhites now a clear majority of the population in urban counties while solid majorities in suburban and rural areas are white. Urban and suburban counties are gaining population due to an influx of immigrants in both types of counties, as well as domestic migration into suburban areas. In contrast, rural counties have made only minimal gains since 2000 as the number of people leaving for urban or suburban areas has outpaced the number moving in. And while the population is graying in all three types of communities, this is happening more rapidly in the suburbs than in urban and rural counties.


Even in prosperous times, rural Wisconsin economy faces an uphill climb

Wisconsin State Journal | Posted on June 11, 2018

By many standards, Wisconsin’s overall economic condition has never been better. Its core unemployment rate is the nation’s eighth-lowest; it ranks fifth among the states in the percentage of adults who are part of the labor force; it ranks 11th in the per capita growth of its gross domestic product since 2010; and it ranks 19th among the states in the percentage growth of total business establishments in this decade. Those are statewide snapshots from a mix of sources, but there is really no such thing as a “statewide” economy. Depending on where you stand in Wisconsin, you might see a thriving tech-based economy in Madison, manufacturing vibrancy in the Fox Valley or a struggling small-town economy in many villages and cities.The survival challenge for rural Wisconsin, which includes many municipalities of 5,000 or fewer people, is one of the state’s most vexing issues.Unless current trends reverse, rural Wisconsin will be much older in 2025 than it is today or than it was 10 years ago. In northern Wisconsin, it is projected that people 60 and older will make up at least 30 percent of about two dozen counties. In some counties, the 60-and-over share could be as much as 50 percent.


Canada and EU produce plastic charter at G7

Plastic News | Posted on June 11, 2018

Ocean litter, recycling and more environmentally sustainable uses of plastics in general get significant attention in the Ocean Plastics Charter adopted June 9 by five of the G7 member nations. The non-binding charter, signed by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union, suggests those governments want to see significant improvements in how plastic is used and how plastic waste is managed.It includes a commitment to recycle and reuse at least 55 percent of plastics packaging by 2030, and recover all plastics by 2040, and as expected, calls for “significantly reducing” unnecessary uses of single-use plastics.The document includes 23 specific points in five broad categories, and also suggests stronger government roles in supporting markets for recycled plastics, including increasing recycled content by at least 50 percent in plastic products by 2030.


Human encouragement might influence how dogs solve problems

Science Daily | Posted on June 9, 2018

Human encouragement might influence how dogs solve problems, according to a new Oregon State University study.


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