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Month: April 2018

Dan Egan and “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes”

Now that we have made the exciting announcement for the 2018/2019 Go Big Read book selection, let’s dive a little deeper. What’s the book about? Who is Dan Egan?

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes chronicles the recent changes to the Great Lakes and the new species invading them in the past several years. Some of the species, who may have started out in one of the Great Lakes, have now spread to all of them.

What does this mean for the Great Lakes?

According to a New York Times article reflecting on Egan’s book, although these invading species clean out the lake, they are also “sucking up 90 percent of the lake’s phytoplankton,” and that does not mean the lakes are benefiting from this change. As Egan puts it, “It’s the sign of a lake having the life sucked out of it.”

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes has been chosen for the 2018/2019 Go Big Read year.

In recent years, various invading species have made these lakes their home, largely thanks to shipping vessels dumping these foreign species directly into these Great Lakes. Some of these include: spiny water fleas, fishhook water fleas, bloody red shrimp, and most extreme, the zebra and quagga mussels, which have spread more rapidly than any other invasive species. Egan refers to the spreading of these mussels “like cancer cells in a bloodstream.”

Egan pairs these problems with potential solutions for the future. Achieving tangible solutions to this problem in the Great Lakes requires action from the E.P.A and other legislators, Egan suggests, which right now, might be difficult.

So, who is Dan Egan?

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes author Dan Egan.

Egan is a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist for his investigative reporting on the Great Lakes. He is also a senior water policy fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Hitting close to home, Egan has spent his life studying how the Great Lakes around Wisconsin and other Midwestern states have been changing and potential solutions for this issue.

For more information on Egan and his book, check out the publisher’s website: The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.

 

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office

 

Majority of Americans See Drug Addiction as a Disease

A recent survey summarized by the The Daily News revealed that a majority of Americans view prescription drug addiction as a disease. However, most respondents still would not welcome those addicts into their living environment.

According to the survey by the Associated Press- NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, results show that more than 1 in 10 Americans have had someone close to them die from an opioid overdose. In the past 18 years, opioid-related deaths have quadrupled. The national life expectancy has also decreased due to this epidemic.

According to the survey, 53 percent of Americans view addiction as a disease, but less than 1 in 5 Americans were willing to closely associate themselves with an individual suffering from a drug addiction.

Opioids have taken the lives of many in the past decade. CC Image Courtesy of Health.mil.

The Daily News article interviewed Emily Fleischer, a 36-year-old librarian who has been affected by the opioid epidemic. She understands why certain individuals may want to keep their distance from those addicted to opioids.

“‘I can see why people wouldn’t want that to be up close and personal, even if they do feel it is a disease and not the person’s fault,’” Fleischer said.

Unfortunately, a very few amount of those battling opioid addiction receive treatment: about 1 in 5.

Some medical professionals are trying to to de-stigmatize drug addiction by comparing it to well known physical health diseases. Baltimore Health Commissioner Leana Wen feels that it is “counterproductive to blame people for their conditions.”

“’If somebody is afflicted with heart disease or cancer then everybody brings that person or their family a casserole, but if someone is afflicted with addiction then they don’t have the same community support,’” Wen said.

For many, the battle with opioid addiction begins with an exposure to painkillers that becomes difficult for them to stop. As seen with J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, his own mother was prescribed narcotics that turned into an addiction.

“I believe the problem started with a legitimate prescription, but soon enough, Mom was stealing from her patients and getting so high that turning an emergency room into a skating rink seemed like a good idea” (113).

Author J.D. Vance’s close family was affected by prescription drug addiction. CC Image Courtesy of the J.D. Vance website.

These survey results demonstrate that although opinions have begun to shift on how opioid addiction is viewed in the United States, there is a long way to go on finding a complex solution for this detrimental epidemic.

 

Appalachia’s Employment Struggle

J.D. Vance’s family was not the only family to struggle with employment shifts in Appalachia. This CNBC article follows the story of Tony Bowling following changing times in the employment industry in Appalachia.

Tony Bowling was born and raised in Hazard, a small town in Kentucky. Along with many of the others who live there, he was employed in the coal industry.

The Appalachia region. CC Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

“‘Every male on both sides of my family, going back at least three generations, worked in the mines,'” said Bowling.

Unfortunately, Bowling was laid off in 2012, due to a decline in the coal industry across the country over the past ten years. The coal company that he worked for was shut down completely, and his company was not the only one to do so. Bowling enrolled in a technical college in Hazard two years later to pursue a career as an electrical lineman, and this new employment route has been a successful move for Bowling.

“‘I’m making more money now than I ever did in the mines,'” Bowling explained. He is also an instructor in the program on weekends.

Bowling’s story appears to have a positive ending. However, thousands of other coal miners in the Appalachia area remain unemployed.

“‘We’re still dealing with the aftermath of layoffs in the coal industry,'” said Michael Cornett, director of agency expansion and public relations of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program. “‘You don’t recover from the loss of 13,000 coal industry jobs [in eastern Kentucky] since 2011 overnight.'”

Although there is hope in new careers for people like Bowling that are created for individuals who are affected by the decline in the coal industry, most of the positions are out of town and require a large amount of travel, something not everyone can do. Lots of previous coal miners also lack college degrees since their previous positions did not require one.

Coal mining has been a career for many individuals in the Appalachia region throughout history. CC Image Courtesy to Flickr.

Coal mining has been a career that has been passed down through many generations in the Appalachia region. Along with its vast amount of history comes a sense of pride in the job. Although there is an increase in new job opportunities, for those who have grown up with mining as a part of their lives, it is more than simply a job.

“‘There’s a sense of pride and purpose, and nothing to be ashamed of,'” said Cornett. “‘To see the industry downturn tears at the cultural roots of how people perceive themselves and where they live, because it pulls the rug out from underneath you.'”

 

Gillian Keebler
Student Assistant, Go Big Read Office