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The Appalachia Issue

Small Towns

This issue was going to be called the Poor Issue. We looked at the numbers and found there were a lot of poor people in the north.
VICE Staff
Κείμενο VICE Staff

his issue was going to be called the Poor Issue. We looked at the numbers and found there were a lot of poor people in the north. Through out Scandinavia, that’s where the economical depression has ravaged, it’s where everyone is on welfare or on sick leave, and it’s where no companies will go. We decided to go visit Laisvall. It’s a place that has gone from a population of a couple of thousand to a couple of hundred in the five years since the lead mine closed down. But really, the same thing has been happening all over Scandinavia. Wherever there is a desolate community rich with wood, ore, oil or rivers with hydropower potential a major company will step in, pick the place clean, spread prosperity for a couple of decades, and then leave with the big bucks. In 1970 the mining company in Laisvall was granted permission to up the ante at the mine, and went from exploiting 500.000 metric tons of ore per year, to 1,4 metric tons per year. This was just a couple of years after two miners were killed in less than a week in what used to be called “The Death Mine.” The workers’ salaries weren’t simultaneously tripled, but as a result the lifespan of the mining society was cut in half. BUT if the amount of ore hadn’t been so drastically raised, the mining company would have sailed happily (albeit with slightly smaller profits) through the slump in prices that forced them close down five years ago, and instead would have hit the jackpot with the fantasy prices of today (probably due to the aggressive boom in China). Doh! Too late now though, the mine has been filled with water and the mining tower has been blown up (took two tries though, more on which on page 30). But pretty soon after arriving in Laisvall, we realised it wasn’t as simple as “rich” or “poor.” Looking from the outside, places like this—villages like Ragunda or Strömsund, Enebakk or Drammen or Bornholm—in numbers they’re all going straight to hell. But when you get there everyone is doing OK, apart from the fact that their town has been left for dead. Mostly people are aching to work, but since everyone has left, there is no one left to work for or with, there are no women to marry and no school to go to. Not being included in the rest of society is actually one of the key factors in determining poverty, and alienation will do lots of bad things to you. So depopulation and isolation are the real shit-stains here, in Laisvall and in just about every other desolate small town in this entire, cold area of the world. But the big question isn’t “Why are people leaving?” In a place where kids start driving their snow scooters from the age of four, everyone you meet can handle a gun, the “No Smoking” rule is routinely ignored and the bar doesn’t close until people leave, the big question is really “Why aren’t everyone moving here?”