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Southern Oregon University

The idea of an American West that is timeless and unchanging stands in sharp contrast to the social reality. 

Over the past two centuries, drastic changes have taken place in the societies that occupy the west, and changes--especially economic ones--continue to this day. 

This is the subject matter for the book Historical Archaeology Through a Western Lens, by Margie Purser of Sonoma State University and Mark Warner of the University of Idaho. 

They are the guests in this month's edition of "Underground History," co-hosted by Mark Tveskov and Chelsea Rose of the Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology

University of Oregon

Michael Copperman left college with his degree and a burning desire to teach children who need a little extra help. 

He joined Teach For America and took charge of a classroom in the Mississippi Delta.  And the learning did indeed begin... but more for Copperman than for his students. 

He learned hard lessons about race, class, culture, and inequality, lessons he shares in his book Teacher: Two Years in the Mississippi Delta

Oregon Employment Department

Oregon started counting the unemployment rate in the current method back in 1976. 

And in that entire time, the rate has never dropped to 3.8%.  Until now. 

Unemployment dipped to a record level in March, lower than the national average (which is 4.5 %; California stands at 4.9%).

There are plenty of stories behind the numbers.  Timothy Duy at the Oregon Economic Forum at the University of Oregon tracks the numbers and the stories, as does David Cooke at the Employment Department.


A lot of rain and snow fell over the winter.  But that does not mean a year without water controversy in the Klamath Basin. 

The Klamath Tribes recently exercised their senior water right in the basin to call for more water to stay in certain streams, potentially withdrawing irrigation water from thousands of acres of agricultural land. 

Klamath Tribal Chair Don Gentry tells us the water is needed to duplicate flood conditions that are a natural part of the ecosystem.

At the same time, ag groups filed suit against the federal government for its plans for water allocations to wildlife refuges. 

The Klamath Water Users Association is in the middle of much of this.


The world is full of populations of people who wish or demand that they had their own countries. 

Think Taiwan, Tibet, and Crimea, for starters.  But there are many more... enough to fill a book, it turns out.  And that is Nick Middleton's An Atlas of Countries That Don't Exist

There are examples you've heard of, like the three above.  Many more will surprise you, like the Native American lands declared independent in the middle of the United States. 

Eric Sanford/UC-Davis

The increasing acidity of the oceans creates problems for sea creatures. 

Some of the animals that live in shells have a harder time building their shells in the current conditions. 

And scientists at the University of California-Davis discovered one creature, similar to coral, that just dissolves in certain conditions

Riding Beyond

Even if a woman's treatment for breast cancer is over, with cancer gone, life is not the same. 

Physical and emotional effects from the treatment linger. 

Riding Beyond aims to pair women with horses, to improve the health of both. 

Think of it as a large-scale version of a therapy pet. 

The Keenest Observers: The Urban/Rural Divide

Apr 24, 2017
Gary Halvorson/Oregon State Archives

Our region is full of out-of-the way places. 

But being off the beaten path is not a good thing for everyone.  Small towns can feel boring and even repressive to young people looking to make their way in the world. 

The urban/rural divide is the focus of this month's edition of "The Keenest Observers," hosted by Robert Goodwin.

President Trump and people concerned about climate change will observe the president's 100th day in office.  But not in the same way. 

Just as day one of the Trump era featured demonstrators in the streets of Washington and other cities, day 100 will also feature marches and gatherings. 

The People's Climate March is set for Saturday April 29th, organized by Green for All and other groups. 

Albert Herring,CCby-SA2.0,wikimedia curid=29806162

The days of massive clearcuts of massive trees are largely over, at least on public land. 

And in this age of smaller-diameter trees, there's plenty of talk of biomass.  Think of biomass as the leftovers... woody material too small to turn into lumber, but still big enough to burn. 

The big question is whether it burns in the forest, or burns in a boiler, creating energy. 

Both the federal Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry have programs that guide and encourage the use of biomass, as an economic development tool for rural communities. 

Beatrice Murch/Wikimedia

Eden Collinsworth wrote a book for Chinese people on what to expect when interacting with Western business people. 

Now she feels compelled to understand the way Westerners act to each other (if that can, in fact, be understood). 

Collinsworth's new book is Behaving Badly: The New Morality in Politics, Sex and Business.  It examines what she charitably calls the "flexibility" in morals demonstrated in today's America. 

U.S. Fish & Wildlife/Public Domain

With carbon in the atmosphere now above 400 parts per million, reducing carbon emissions on the surface is no longer enough. 

What's needed is a Drawdown, also the title of a book laying out and ranking 100 ways to achieve a reduction in atmospheric carbon. 

Some you'd expect, like protecting tropical forests at number 5.  But reducing food waste at number 3, and educating girls at number 5? 

We have many questions for Katharine Wilkinson, the senior writer on the project. 


Almost 50 years later, we're still celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd. 

Good thing, too... it means the Earth is still here to celebrate. 

How will you observe the day, if at all?  We invited event organizers from several regional celebrations to visit with details. 

Library of Congress

It's one of the less pleasant words in our language: eviction. 

Its meaning is worse than the sound: getting removed from the place where you live. 

And Matthew Desmond analyzed how eviction is used and abused in one American city, Milwaukee, in his book Evicted.  The book won a Pulitzer Prize last week. 

Applegate Trails Association

Break out your hiking gear, there will soon be new places to ramble in the region. 

The Applegate Ridge Trail is envisioned as part of a trail network extending from Ashland to Grants Pass.  And trail builders broke ground a few weeks ago. 

The Applegate Trails Association leads the effort; Luke Ruediger is one of the leaders of the project. 


The numbers of child abuse cases continue to climb in Douglas County, and not just in the population center around Roseburg. 

So the organization taking the lead on child abuse prevention is working to recruit volunteers in the many rural corners of the county. 

Up2UsNow is a coalition that brings several groups and agencies together, to turn the focus from responding to child abuse, to a focus on prevention. 

Marion Kotowski is a violence prevention specialist with the Mercy Foundation; Pat Moore is a lieutenant with Roseburg Police. 

David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0,

Jonathan Lethem is well-known for his own writing; books like A Gambler's Anatomy and Motherless Brooklyn

But he also has a keen eye for the work of other writers.  And we get to see his writing about their writing in a book of critical essays by Lethem called More Alive and Less Lonely

Christopher Boucher edited the collection. 

Eurico Zimbres/wikimedia

The wet winter reminded many people--some of us the hard way--that the land around us is not necessarily stable. 

Heavy rain and snow caused landslides in a number of places in the West. 

Now the Oregon geology agency is joining forces with its Washington counterpart to help land owners recognize and avoid landslide hazards. 

Recent technological advances allow greater mapping of places where the earth is prone to move. 

Tiia Monto, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Housing is tight in much of Oregon, and the state legislature is aware of the problem. 

While the current session considers measures like rent control, some state agencies are making moves authorized by previous sessions. 

Case in point: a pilot project to allow two Oregon cities to speed up the process of building affordable housing by fast-tracking expansions of urban growth boundaries. 

The project is administered by the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD). 

WiLPrZ, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Many women find it tough to go back to work after delivering a child. 

But economic realities limit most American women to around ten weeks off with the new baby. 

It's a critical time for the child's development, as Erica Komisar points out in her book Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters

Komisar, a psychotherapist, points out the many ways in which children develop more fully with mom's attention.