Timeline of Processing and Extraction of Land, People, and Livelihoods: Pre-1830s
The Midwest is characterized by a vast, deep-rooted prairie and trade routes defined by the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. The Northwest Terriroty Purchase and the Louis and Clark Expedition, and several homesteading acts catalyze violent colonization, privatization of land, and industrialization.
Timeline of Processing and Extraction of Land, People, and Livelihoods: 1850s
The construction of the Chicago and Illinois Canals change the centers of commerce from the river to Chicago.
Timeline of Processing and Extraction of Land, People, and Livelihoods:1860s
The railroad crosses the Mississippi and changes the centers of power definitively from St Louis and New Orleans to Chicago. To meet the high volume of grain moving through the railroad, gran elevators were built and a new way of understanding crops, as commodities to be traded as "amounts" rather than a physical object. The railroad is built to facilitate profit, and prompts an abstraction from nature.
Timeline of Processing and Extraction of Land, People, and Livelihoods: 1870s
Coal extraction continues in order to fuel industrialization. Native land theft is almost complete.
Timeline of Processing and Extraction of Land, People, and Livelihoods: 1900s
Chicago is the definitive center of commerce in the region, and cities like Minneapolis boom.
Timeline of Processing and Extraction of Land, People, and Livelihoods: 1930s
The early 1900s promoted a promise of plenty tied to industrial jobs brings people from the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia. Through redlining, disruption of union and labor power, and similarly racist farm-lending policies undermine Black wealth-building in the 20th century.
Timeline of Processing and Extraction of Land, People, and Livelihoods: 1950s
The Post-War years brought the construction of highway system, which like the railroad and canals before, again reshaped the movement of goods and locations of plenty and ripped through established Black communities.
Timeline of Processing and Extraction of Land, People, and Livelihoods: 1990s
The later 1900s and early 2000s brings the rise of neoliberalism, the expansion of policing, surveillance, and prisons, the slashing of social programs, and the rise of natural gas pipelines.
Timeline of Processing and Extraction of Land, People, and Livelihoods: Present
Today, we have a commodified landscape of both people and land.
Movement and Extraction through Changing Mobility and Economic Channels
The Midwest is a region characterized by movement. First, people moved through the rivers and lakes, then through canals, then railroads and highways. Indigenous people were violently forced out, and Black families from the South reunited up north in search of opportunity and prosperity. The region has always promised plenty and not always delivered, prompting movement in and out.
Corn Belt, Rise of a Monoculture
The Corn Belt is one of the belts people most frequently associate with the Midwest. The state of Iowa is the largest producer of corn.
The commodity crop subsidy structure favors large, monocrop operations. These farms tend to erode land with unsustainable farming practices like tilling and neglecting to add cover crops. Growing one crop year over year also decimates the nutrients in soil. This is in stark contrast to the deep-rooted prairie of the past.
Food Basket - Fuel Basket
Much of the Midwest's agricultural production goes to creating ethanol. The United States government started incentivizing ethanol production through corn to depend less on Middle East oil reserves.
Rust Belt, Extraction of Labor Power
As urban manufacturing centers, boom during the post-WWII years, they change as the myth of scarcity takes over. Labor power is chipped away at by an elite owner class and increased mechanization (weaponized by elite owner class) leads to cities in economic decline; not because there isn’t plenty to go around, but because there is greedful mismanagement of these resources.
Extraction of Energy Resources and Land
In the energy sector, the midwest has served largely as a processing center. Like with coal before, the Midwest has become a center of movement and REMOVAL (not just fossil fuels, removal of indigenous people, land) for natural gas. This has led to the destruction of prairie land, farms, and indigenous land and the illegal breaking of treaties.
Extraction of People
Due to a hoarding of plenitude, prisons serve as rural jobs quasi-guarantees. What if instead of promoting a culture of punishment, we fund and promote industries of care in the same way?
Carceral Capitalism: Prioritization through Pay/Funding
Teachers make systematically less than cops across the Midwest and the country, especially in larger cities. Police and court systems are given the largest chunk of cities' budgets, begging the question of why punishment economies rather than care economies are prioritized?