This post combines a set scene of daily life from a rural town (Chassell, Michigan, during the economic recession of the early 2000’s) to underlying topics in health and environmental toxicity. Spring and natural beauty can be contrasted to poverty, in terms of social impacts, and environmental toxicity from legacies of past mining booms.
Sufjan Steven’s song Upper Peninsula is fairly depressing, melodramatic, but nonetheless sets the scene by capturing the destituteness and ramifications of rural poverty, in this case the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the early 2000’s. It was part of a compilation album by the artist on the state of Michigan, well-known for poverty, past automobile manufacturing, and natural lands perfect for snowmobiling, hiking and hunting. The artist’s goal was for the album was as a “metaphysical expedition through the idiosyncrasies of middle America….” For the purposes here, it serves as an alternative media source to offer in understanding the socioeconomic setting of what may be a far-away land and once-upon-a-time, resonating with rural poverty and impacts to health and the environment, which most likely is far more understandable than perhaps this particular location and the details associated with it. What it cannot demonstrate is that while a scene was set, the awareness of it and subsequent potential for future change cannot be yet seen, but can be used to motivate such change. (more…)