Author: Bailey Reutzel

Vermont

Vermont could benefit from Donald Trump becoming president. It pains me to write that sentence, but in a nuanced continuum of cause and effect and unintended consequences, Trump’s stance on immigration could save Lake Champlain from pollution. Illegal immigrants from Central and South Americans allow the mega-dairy farms in Vermont to exist. The large farms run 24/7 and milk their cows three times a day. Cows, it should come as no surprise, eat grass. But grass fed cows don’t produce as much milk as those that gorge on corn. So the large farms grow corn to feed the cows. Farmers must use artificial fertilizers and spray the corn with pesticides. Farmers apply chemicals to the land, and the excess runs off into Lake Champlain. These chemicals add to the phosphorus deposits in the lake, causing a green algae to form on top of the water. Swimmers then have to wade through the unsightly slime. Plus the algae uses large amounts of oxygen, limiting the amount of O2 for lake bed plants and fish, eventually killing off these creatures. “So if Donald Trump becomes president and therefore arrests and deports all of the illegal immigrants in Vermont, many of the large dairy farms would close” reducing the runoff into the lake, says James Maroney Jr., an art dealer, ex-dairy farmer and self-described, societal gadfly. Maroney makes the case (all the...

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Pennsylvania

Cracks in the earth breath fire and spit smoke. Toxicity hangs in the air. The trees die as their roots scorch. The pavement melts the soles of your shoes. Centralia is a ghost town where only a bull-headed handful still reside, angrily declining interviews. Or at least that’s how the stories go. But it turns out, the grid-like roads that once passed through a small coal town in eastern Pennsylvania are now overgrown with the dense forest that thrives in the Appalachian. No smoke billows from sinkholes that act as windows to the red and orange that flickers beneath. Our lungs and shoes stayed intact. The old highway, spray painted with love of drugs, boyfriends and dick jokes is the only thing to be see in Centralia anymore. This lack of apocalyptic wasteland makes it easier to understand why residents think conspiracy. In the early 1960s, a coal vein caught fire in the town, presumably after a trash fire spread. Attempts to put out the fire failed eight different times over the next two decades. People continued to live in Centralia. Accounts of people passing out from the fumes surfaced. And then in 1981, a 12-year-old boy fell through the ground but was rescued. “A two-year-old could have crawled out of that hole,” says Bobby Snider, an elderly man with a ‘RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS’ belt buckle and a...

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More from Dennis…

Dennis is in his usual ensemble: a white, long-sleeved button up shirts and pleated pants. We’re talking about the insurance system and affordable health care when he says,  “I was on food stamps.” I almost ignore it, wanting to ask a loaded question about insurance coverage being predicated on morality–the idea that Viagra is covered but birth control isn’t–but my brain finally registers what was said. No one would guess that Dennis took government assistance at one point. Or at least, I wouldn’t because in the Midwest, a “food stamp recipient” is a black woman with five kids that’s too lazy even to work the drive-thru. “The scamming of the food stamp program is a false narrative,” Dennis says. Fraud is negligible. During graduate school in Pittsburgh, his wife got pregnant. Graduate research income isn’t much. So they took applied and received food stamps. “I could have gone out at any time and gotten a ‘real’ job,” he says. “But we believed in this degree and what we were doing, and knew we’d make a difference later.” The evidence for fraud in the welfare system is most often anecdotal. The idea of Welfare Queens, women that scam and manipulate the system to collect excessive welfare payments, dates back to Ronald Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign. Reagan chronicled the life of a woman in the south side of Chicago abusing the welfare system. The folklore of the...

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Ohio

Cleveland A hip, creative culture has taken over the ruins of the industrial age. This is no more apparent than in the Rust Belt. Clevelanders are jacks of all trade. And in turn, the city itself is adaptable, which has helped it survive the manufacturing exodus starting in the 70s. Becky calls herself a chameleon. She has a bachelor of arts in Italian. Five years ago gave up her gig managing a bar/restaurant in Cleveland Heights to develop synthetic platelets that rush to the site of an injury for the biomedical engineering department at Case Western Reserve University. Her job is supported by grant money, like many Clevelander’s salaries. Becky enjoys the job, financed usually by the Department of Defense or the National Institutes of Health. She learns something new everyday, but it isn’t her passion. Her boss is moving to Baltimore and taking the program with her. Becky has been asked to come along, but it’s time to try something new. She tosses around the idea of opening an art gallery. She’s always dreamed of living on the beach in Hawaii or Costa Rica, maybe even Cuba. And starting in the next week, she’ll be helping out at the local winery. Paul Mason talks about these career moves his work on postcapitalism. “As a result, large parts of the business class have become neo-luddites. Faced with the possibility...

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Michigan

Detroit It’s easy to pick on Detroit’s urban decay, but there’s a softheartedness towards the blight. This sentiment brings tourists–more than 275,000 annually, according to the website–to The Heidelberg Project. City native, Tyree Guyton decided to paint colorful polka dots all over a house on Heidelberg Street in east Detroit after coming home from the army and finding his neighborhood in disarray. He then started crucifying stuffed animals to trees and erecting mounds of found object art in the yard.     As the mad scientist worked, he garnered media attention. As word traveled about the Tim Burton-esque whimsy, people sheltered from Detroit’s crisis came to leer. More houses were painted, more crippled dolls added to the pile, more discarded shoes hung on a leaning fence. Guyton brings in local artists to build onto the project as well; their go-to medium: trash. Neighbors watched as traffic increased, and as all great opportunists and entrepreneurs do, decided to use the attention for their own benefit. At the end of the block, Belle sits on a newly renovated porch behind a yellow house, soliciting a dollar for the chance to write your name on the siding. She collects the money to remodel. My name will soon be painted over. My dollar’s consumer-facing value, to see my name–unique–on the porch post, will expire. The dollar will then be used to purchase paint; the porch posts will be white with a trim...

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