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Death Valley

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

In these days of global warming, I thought I’d visit the hottest place on earth….. (although obviously arranging to do so in winter, rather than summer!). The current record-holder is a 1913 reading in Furnace Creek, California — within Death Valley — where it reached 134.1 degrees F (56.7 degrees C) on July 10th of that year. There was a slightly hotter reading in Libya in 1922, but that was decertified by the World Meteorological Organization a few years ago. Although some folks dispute the Death Valley reading as well, any place that has 154 consecutive days above 100 degrees F (38 degrees C) — as happened in 2001 — gets pretty damn hot!

Salt flats at Badwater basin

I headed over from Owens Lake (see posting below) to catch the sites. Not only is Death Valley the hottest place on earth, it is also the lowest & driest of all the U.S. National Parks. Badwater basin marks the lowest point in North America, at 86 meters (282 ft.) below sea level, and the salt flats there — making the water undrinkable — gave the place its name.

Zabriskie Point is another well-known Death Valley landmark…. & I’m old enough to remember the controversial 1970 movie with the same name. That movie offered a European view of American violence, capitalism (paving the desert with housing developments) and the 1960s counterculture…. made by a highly-regarded Italian director, Michelangelo Antonioni. I had never seen it, & decided to check it out — knowing in advance that its young protagonists used Zabriskie Point to do what young protagonists often do in Italian movies. Despite such promising themes; and despite Sam Shepard being listed as a contributing screen writer; and despite an early (un-credited) appearance by Harrison Ford in a prison lockup scene (although I couldn’t find him); and despite the film now having a certain, limited ‘cult’ status…. I’m more inclined to agree with the critic who wrote: “the worst film ever made by a director of genius.”

But I’ll admit that the scenery in it — both the movie & reality — is stunning!

Zabriskie Point

Finally, my thinking about Death Valley has been influenced — like so many other Americans — by Death Valley Days, a TV western (& Ronald Reagan’s last acting gig), that was sponsored by 20 Mule Team Borax (a cleanser). The history of collecting & processing borate crystals in Death Valley is somewhat complicated, but two things caught my attention: first, the Harmony Borax Works was an early operation, and its relics are still evident in Furnace Creek (see photo below). It pioneered the use of 20 mule teams to haul the product to the rail junction at Mojave, and that later became a major marketing feature for its successors; and second, not surprisingly, Harmony & other firms had trouble finding recruits to work in the blistering temperatures in Death Valley….. & so they ended up relying upon Chinese laborers. There’s a picture of Chinese workers raking borax from the Valley floor at Harmony in the 1892, and that’s also how nearby China Lake (home of the Rhode Island-sized Naval Air Weapons Station) got its name.

Harmony Borax Works and 20 Mule Team wagons

Owens Valley

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

Those are the memorable last lines of the movie Chinatown, a 1974 fictionalized account of the early 1900s ‘California water wars,’ when Los Angeles surreptitiously acquired land and water rights in the Owens Valley (running along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains). The city then built an engineering marvel — a 233-mile aqueduct to take that Owens water down to L.A. William Mulholland, the project’s chief engineer, was called ‘Hollis Mulwray’ in the movie — and was quickly bumped off. In real life, however, he lived a much longer life (79 years), and is best known for being the namesake of L.A.’s Mulholland Drive.

Given recent visits to Southern California and my ‘engineering tourist’ proclivities noted in earlier postings, it’s probably not surprising that I’ve wanted to check things out — & so, in addition to re-watching Chinatown, I picked up a copy of Les Standiford’s Water to the Angels and Marc Reisner’s modern classic Cadillac Desert, and headed over to L.A. on HNC’s semester break.

After stopping at scenic overlooks on Mulholland Drive, I made my way to The Cascades in the San Fernando Valley — a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark marking the aqueduct’s terminus, where 40,000 people gathered in November 1913 to see the initial Owens water flow, and to hear Mulholland’s taciturn remarks: “There it is. Take it.”

The Cascades

Since the Owens Valley is at roughly 4,000 feet in elevation and L.A. is at sea level, one remarkable aspect of the aqueduct is that it didn’t require any pumping. There are mountains in-between, however, so the 233 miles did include 53 miles of tunnels — and where that didn’t work (because of geology or faults), they used monstrous “siphons.” These took the water over the top instead [and strictly speaking, these are now referred to as ‘sag pipes’ or sometimes ‘inverted siphons’]. About twenty miles north of Mojave, several miles off Route 14, is one of the most famous: the Jawbone Siphon, seen in the photos below.

Jawbone Siphon

It’s almost 200 miles from L.A. before you actually enter the Owens Valley, at the site of a much-depleted Owens Lake. The lake lost so much water that it became a major source of air pollution, and the city ultimately spent considerable sums trying to regenerate marshlands. Owens Lake was also the point of departure for a much-anticipated side trip, into Death Valley (noted in the posting above).

The remainder of the Owens Valley was scenic, but Mono Lake — further north, and a later L.A. withdrawal target — was another reminder of the radical impacts of taking so much water. Besides L.A., Cadillac Desert does a great job of showing how the government spent billions & billions of dollars on irrigation projects in the West, creating new farms from borderline scrubland — while paying farmers in the East funds NOT to grow the very same crops.

The valley trip ultimately led north to other tourist destinations: Lake Tahoe, the Comstock Lode & Virginia City mining meccas, and the casinos at Reno. But one other notable site lay deep within Owens Valley itself: Manzanar, the internment site for Japanese-American citizens during World War II. A cemetery there still holds several graves, and is marked by a memorial whose inscription reads: “soul consoling tower.”

Manzanar memorial

And those Chinatown final lines? They really are effective in conveying that feeling of being in a strange & foreign land, where things aren’t always quite what you’d expect — accompanied at the same time by an undeniable world-weariness.

All Things Ming

Monday, December 18th, 2017

The Ming Dynasty was one of the golden eras of Chinese history, lasting for a bit less than three centuries between 1368 and 1644. It had the world’s largest economy at the time; built the Forbidden City in Beijing; constructed most of the Great Wall; and is well-known even today for its ceramic excellence (and those blue and white porcelain vases). It was also the time of the Porcelain Pagoda and Zheng He’s epic voyages noted in earlier postings.

It all started here in Nanjing with Zhu Yuanzhang (the Hongwu Emperor), buried now on Purple Mountain. His crown prince son passed away, so he chose his grandson as successor – but another son, Zhu Di, had a rather different idea. After a multi-year battle, Zhu Di defeated his nephew to become the 3rd Ming Emperor (the Yongle Emperor) – and since his political base was Beijing, he built the Forbidden City & moved his capital there.

Although the Ming burial grounds on Purple Mountain were an obvious must-see years ago, I’ve had several other historical Ming site visits over recent weeks:

The stele at Yangshan Quarry

First was a visit to the Yangshan Quarry, located about fifteen kilometers east of the city…. and arranged by Dr. Yu Ningping and her hubby Lejing. [Dr. Yu is the same person who had humored me by arranging a visit to the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge…. but this request was even stranger!] I had first read about the quarry in Louise Levathes’ book about Zheng He….. and had trouble believing the story. The Yongle Emperor had wanted to honor his father (the Hongwu Emperor) by building the world’s largest stele (i.e., upright stone columns marking the tomb). But after considerable stone-cutting work had been completed, there was a terrible realization: the pieces were simply too big & heavy to move! So now, more than 600 years later, they remain in the quarry — the stele column (on the right) and its top section (on the left) in the photo above. The bottom section – another massive piece – lies nearby.

Stele Pavilion at Ming Tombs near Beijing

A second outing was a wonderful visit to the Ming Tombs located outside Beijing, and arranged by CUSEF as part of our ‘China Energy Transition’ tour (see posting below). This is, of course, a world-famous site, and I had been there once before (in 1991) – but admittedly didn’t have sufficient understanding of China’s history to fully appreciate it then. After completing the Forbidden City, the Yongle Emperor employed feng shui and chose the site where he was to be buried – and twelve other Ming Emperors subsequently followed him there.

On this visit we took a stroll down Spirit Way, the pathway leading to the tombs that is lined with large statues of guardian animals and officials; stopped next at the Stele Pavilion, to see the (much more reasonably-sized) stele, evident in the archway of the picture above, and resting upon a carved turtle’s back; and finally headed to the Dingling tomb, the mausoleum of Zhu Yijun (the 13th Ming Emperor) and his two empresses. The latter has an underground section (unearthed in the 1950s) we were able to visit, and a nearby display holds some of the relics found there.

Back in Nanjing again, my third Ming excursion — on a brisk December afternoon — was to the original site of the dynasty’s Imperial Palace (i.e., the illustration below showing Nanjing’s earlier ‘Forbidden City’). Not much remains today, except a few column bases, the Meridian Gate (in lower left of picture below), and some moat bridges and statues. But the city has developed a pleasant park around these relics…. and it’s a powerful reminder of the ebb of even such an illustrious history.

Relics of Nanjing’s Ming Palace


Monday, December 18th, 2017

In November, Professor Rui Wang and I led a twenty-student SAIS delegation on a ten-day ‘China Energy Transition’ tour, sponsored by the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF). We visited three cities – Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai – and had a wonderful opportunity to meet with governmental agencies, private companies, carbon exchanges, energy/environmental and public policy NGOs…. and even the new city near Shanghai where Tesla is expected to build a factory for its electric vehicles. The whole trip was a truly memorable affair, with first-class accommodations and detailed attention from CUSEF, as well as logistical support from the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC).

Shenzhen waste-to-energy plant

The really difficult task was selecting tour participants, since more than seventy (very, very qualified!) SAIS students applied. We ended up with ten students from the DC campus; eight from our HNC campus in Nanjing; and two from Bologna.

Our first stop was Beijing, and here the focus was on governmental policy and direction. We met with senior officials from the National Development & Reform Commission; the Energy Research Institute; the National Energy Administration; and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. Beijing also offered a chance for me to catch up with many other good friends and colleagues, both as part of the tour (the Beijing carbon exchange at CBEEX & the Paulson Institute) and individually (Prof. Zhuang Yahui from my UN days, as well as four former students). CUSEF also treated our delegation to a Ming Tombs visit (see posting above).

We then flew down to Shenzhen, a city bordering Hong Kong…. & China’s ‘Silicon Valley,’ focusing on information and other new technologies. We had a chance to visit with BYD, the electric car/battery company that received a substantial investment from Warren Buffet a few years ago; the Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute in the Nanshan Intelligence Industrial Park, a high-tech research center surrounded by universities; and the Shenzhen carbon exchange CEEX (the first of seven emissions exchanges to begin operations in the country’s domestic pilot ETS program). Of particular interest to me (since I spent five years working on waste-to-energy [WTE] systems several decades ago!) was a visit to a SE Environment Engineering Company (SEEE) 400 tpd mass-burn facility…. the very first WTE facility I’ve visited in China!

Virtual reality in Nanhui

Shanghai was next, although we started out with a one-day side-trip to nearby Changzhou – site of TrinaSolar, which has set 16 solar energy efficiency records over the past six years; and the Guodian coal-fired power plant (site of a previous HNC student visit). The latter visit enabled us to discuss the recent Guodian merger with Shenhua, China’s largest coal company…. and likely changes in the future coal-based power system. A visit with the Shanghai Institute of International Studies targeted the country’s outward reach for energy supplies and commodities; one with Nicobar, a boutique market intelligence firm, explored China’s nuclear strategy; and Nanhui, a new city in the Pudong area, showed the enormous scale of China’s development ambitions. Almost half of Nanhui was built on land reclaimed from the sea, and the city has a man-made lake even larger than Hangzhou’s West Lake. A virtual reality show featured plans for considerable high-tech industrial development, closely tied to manufacturing support; the nearby Yangshan deep-water port; an associated free trade zone; the urban/green-belt/residential areas; and the 60,000 university students already living there.

The tour ended with visits to the Yu Garden, dinner in the revolving restaurant up in the iconic Pearl TV Tower, and a wonderful nighttime cruise on the Huangpu River. Truly a spectacular and memorable energy program – and our sincere thanks to the folks at CUSEF who made this all possible!

On the Huangpu River in Shanghai

Mykonos and Delos

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

At the very end of the first Jason Bourne movie, The Bourne Identity, a young Matt Damon – after considerable trials & tribulations — is finally able to re-connect with Marie, who has found a hidden (and much more relaxing!) lifestyle renting scooters to tourists on the Greek isle of Mykonos. So….. who wouldn’t want to go to such a place?

Mykonos windmills

Indeed, that island has now become a bit of a tourist mecca, well known for its upbeat party scene, as well as the narrow, maze-like, white-walled and stone alleyways of its main town Chora. It’s a very windy place, so I had special interest in the windmills built by Venetians back in the 16th Century, which were used to grind flour…. and are now a distinctive landmark.

I also took a trip to the nearby island of Delos – birthplace of the gods Apollo and Artemis, and an ancient religious site that became the world’s largest trading port in the year 166 BC (when the Romans made it a free port). The town had 30,000 residents and handled 75,000 cargo ships a year – and since the region at that time had a slave economy, also sold 25,000 slaves a year in its Agora. Unfortunately it all came to an end in 88 BC, when Mithridates, the King of Pontus (in northern Turkey) attacked the island, killed all its inhabitants (or sold them into slavery), looted the city’s treasures, and razed it to the ground. Much of the marble was similarly stripped away over the years, so most of what remains is granite. Today, it is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO; excavations began in 1872, and are still underway today.


I noted below (in the Athens posting) that some see Hellenic architecture as a forerunner to Modernism…. and the hotel we stayed at in Mykonos decided to take the new & fuse it with the old — with absolutely delightful results! The Alkistis Hotel is located a bit outside of town, near the Agios Stefanos beach, and if you check out their website, you’ll see that it was “inspired by Cycladic minimalism,” and that its “stark, uncluttered design brings out the minimalism characteristic of Mykonos’s traditional architecture with a contemporary sense of style….” Sitting in its open-air restaurant (built with pilotis and sliding glass doors), sipping a local wine, and checking out a beautiful sunset view…… truly sublime!!


Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

If you’ve ever seen a travel poster for Greece, chances are it either shows the Parthenon/Acropolis (see posting below), or the whitewashed structures & blue-domed/white-crossed churches of Santorini, clinging to the side of a lava-encrusted hillside above a pristine blue Aegean shoreline. I too had seen those posters, and yes, they were extremely effective…. because I’ve always, always wanted to go there!

Sunset on Santorini

Santorini is a volcanic caldera – the result of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history, occurring about 3600 years ago. There are lots of speculative ideas that link that eruption to the lost city of Atlantis, or to the Biblical disasters & plagues that led to the Exodus out of Egypt. In 197 BC, a small islet broke above seawater in the center of the caldera, and six eruptions in the last 430 years (the latest occurring in 1950) ultimately led to the formation of a small islet called Nea Kameni. I hiked across that islet, visiting the lava fields and monitoring sites described by ISMOSAV (the Institute for the Study and Monitoring of the Santorini Volcano; note that their website even offers real-time seismicity readings!). It still has active fumaroles emitting hydrogen sulfide and other gases. We also had a chance to visit the buried Minoan city of Akrotiri, which is on the main (Thera) island. That was buried during the major eruption, which is estimated to have occurred in the early 1600s BC. While it is like Pompeii in many respects, no bodies or jewelry have been found during the excavations; obviously volcanic tremors gave its citizens plenty of warning & time to leave.

The volcano and its historical impacts were certainly very interesting, but we also had an additional modern quest in mind: the wines grown in Santorini’s ‘volcanic terroir.’ Even before leaving New Jersey, I had met up with a good friend and former business partner, Joel Epstein, who recently moved back to the East Coast after 16 years in California. Joel is an oenophile, with great taste and knowledge about wines….. and he suggested that I try a white Santo Assyrtiko before our trip. I found a local N.J. shop that sold it – and that wine subsequently became indelibly linked to our vacation plans (Note: It probably didn’t hurt that I was reading Daniel Klein’s Travels with Epicurus to get ready as well!)

We visited the Santo Winery in Santorini to taste it and other local varieties – but the Assyrtiko remained the favorite, and we sought it throughout the visit, on our numerous Greek gastronomic stops. (I know you’ll have to take my word for it….. but the building that you can fuzzily make out through the wine bottle glass in the photo above is the Parthenon.) Thanks much, Joel!


Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

After a trip to Athens, Ohio this past summer (see three postings below)….. we had a chance to visit the real thing on our way back to HNC: Athens, Greece! Yes, yet another seat of learning – but this one the very foundation of Western Civilization.

A couple of obvious targets were the Parthenon on the Acropolis and the new Acropolis Museum housing many of its original treasures…. & for these I had Mary Beard’s lively & rather witty book The Parthenon as a guide. She delves into the complicated history of that edifice: an ancient temple for the goddess Athena; a Christian church, complete with bell tower; an Islamic mosque, with the tower extended to become a minaret; and a valuable treasure source for Britain’s Lord Elgin in the early 1800’s (i.e., the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum). Lately, of course, it has assumed the role of cultural icon, with restoration still on-going (as evident in the picture)…. and never-ending controversy about the return of major pieces from London, now that a suitable museum home for them exists at the site.

The Parthenon

Its classic beauty has been appreciated by architects around the world, and – given my recent postings about modern architecture – I found it interesting that Beard pointed out that even an iconoclast like Le Corbusier “rooted his new vision of architecture in the sheer perfection of the Parthenon.” Le Corbusier had written: “There has been nothing like it anywhere or at any period,” and suggested that “one clear image will stand in my mind forever: the Parthenon, stark, stripped, economical, violent, a clamorous outcry against a landscape of grace and terror.”

The people, food, climate, and lifestyle of Greece have always held attraction – a major reason for our trip! — but others see an even more profound Mediterranean influence on Le Corbusier. Alain de Botton & John Armstrong, in their work Art as Therapy, state that “what we now know as Modernism is in large measure an attempt to recreate white vernacular Hellenic architecture in a northern climate, with the help of steel, glass and concrete.” The sun-drenched, outdoor, laid-back attitude of Greeks and other southern Europeans contrasted with the cold, rational and efficient mores of northerners, and these authors suggest that Le Corbusier was fascinated by “the whitewashed seaside villages and the spirit their simple, uncluttered, unornamented designs exuded.” A solarium on the Villa Savoye in northern France was thus “making an argument for a paganism of the spirit, whatever the weather might be doing outside.”

It’s a bit of a leap from the classical columns of the Parthenon to Le Corbusier’s pilotis & other design elements – but I suspect that those Hellenic whitewashed seaside villages and the Mediterranean food & lifestyle were indeed as enticing to him as they were to us…. & those factors were key to our next two stops, in Santorini and Mykonos.

China’s ETS & EVs

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Given the considerable international attention being paid to China’s new national emissions trading program, the editors of IFP School’s Alumni Mag invited me to prepare an article about this important topic (which we address in both my HNC & IFP School lectures). The resulting paper was published in July (in Issue No. 266)….. & basically represents an update on the article I wrote back in Issue No. 249 (in 2011, when the journal was still called L’Hydrocarbure).

I was also quoted recently by Xinhua in an article about China’s auto industry. The electrification of transportation — & subsequent integration of electric vehicle battery storage systems into the grid – is exactly the type of game-changing technological shift that will ultimately allow us to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

Oil Creek

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Given that I’m an ERE professor, you’d probably guess that one of the places I’ve always wanted to visit was the area around Oil Creek in western Pennsylvania, where the oil industry had its beginning…. & you’d be absolutely right! Colonel Edwin Drake drilled for oil there in 1859 at a site just south of Titusville, PA, and today there is a museum and a replica of his drilling rig on that exact location.

Replica of Drake’s drilling rig

The museum does a really nice job of showing just how important this industry is, and the many, many technical issues it faced: drilling technology (originally hammered spikes and steam engines, later rotary drill bits and diesel engines); storage (washtubs and wooden barrels at first, followed by wooden & then metal tanks); transport (barrels & wooden tanks on rail, followed by tank cars & then pipelines); refining (crude distillation tanks, ultimately evolving into modern refineries and petrochemical plants); and final product marketing (kerosene for lamps initially, with gasoline a waste product; all that changed with the internal combustion engine).

In addition to the museum, we wandered around nearby Oil City and Oil Creek State Park, checking out the abandoned boomtowns of Petroleum Center and Pithole. The former is located within Wildcat Hollow, a place that gave the term ‘wildcatters’ to those independent types who drilled in such risky, unproven areas.

Oil Creek in Oil City, PA

This area gave birth to an industry that had a radical impact upon the world…. & of course, I have to mention Daniel Yergin’s wonderful The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, 1992’s Pulitzer Prize winner for non-fiction, on that count. But given today’s ERE focus, it’s also appropriate to mention a more recent work by Dieter Helm at Oxford University that portends its demise. Burnout: The Endgame for Fossil Fuels suggests that there are three unstoppable forces at work in the world today: endless supplies of fossil fuels (i.e., no more ‘peak oil’!); de-carbonization for climate change; and new digital and information technologies. After discussing these three forces, he discusses both the geopolitical effects they will have (on the U.S., the Middle East, China, Russia, etc.) and on energy companies (oil companies, electric utilities, etc.).

Over the years, Helm has been quite harsh about emissions trading, the EU ETS and the Kyoto Protocol – unduly so, I believe — and (like many other readers) I think he doesn’t really pay sufficient attention to how we move from a technological ‘here’ to ‘there.’ But overall, I think he’s got the big picture right…. and it promises to be a rather disruptive energy transition over coming decades!

Southern Ohio anomie

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

I graduated from high school in Youngstown, Ohio; spent four years at Ohio U. in the southeastern part of the state (in Athens, OH); worked & then went to grad school in Cincinnati; and married a girl from Lancaster, Ohio…. so you can see that I’m somewhat familiar with that area. Still, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s been going on lately within the U.S., and – let’s be honest here – I’m also trying to understand (at least in some small way) how 63 million fellow American citizens could vote for someone like Trump. A summertime visit to Southern Ohio gave us a chance to catch up with some old friends and former neighbors, & offered a glimpse of that world….. although I first did a bit of reading prep.

Brian Alexander’s Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town begins with the author’s description of a cop & other local residents in my wife’s hometown, Lancaster, choking to hold back tears as they described “just how much the foundation of the town they once knew had crumbled.” Adult males “heavily tattooed and skinny, hoodies drawn up over their heads” accompanied by “girlfriends dressed in Hello Kitty pajama pants who pushed strollers” now haunted Main Street…. all linked to the twin scourges of job loss and drugs.

When I first started visiting that current “pajama pants capital of Ohio,” the town had a thriving dominant employer, the Anchor Hocking glass company – and what makes Alexander’s book so powerful is that he shows that it was not globalization, or China, or some foreign entity that caused the decline. Instead, it was a domestic threat: Wall Street. The firm that locals called ‘the Hockin’’ employed 17,000 people and had little debt in the early 1980s – until corporate ‘private equity’ raiders (led by Carl Icahn) loaded it up with debt, stripped away that wealth, put little into maintenance or R&D, and ultimately drove the company into bankruptcy.

Sam Quinones’ Dream Land: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic deals with the drug side of the equation. I’ll admit that the whole opioid problem was not even on my radar screen before the election – but Quinones documents how “OxyContin’s popularity was spreading west just as the trafficker… brought Xalisco black tar heroin east. They collided in central and southern Ohio [emphasis added].” His book, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction in 2015, shows how a group of entrepreneurs from one small town in Mexico (Xalisco) set up a delivery system in the U.S. that sold heroin like pizza…. and met up with a pharmaceutical-delivery system for opiates every bit as effective (but legal).

J.D. Vance’s best-selling book Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis shows just how devastating such an opiate addiction can be…. especially when entwined with a culture that – although fiercely patriotic – also displays elements of despair & what psychologists call “learned helplessness” (i.e., when persons believe that the choices they make have no effect on the outcomes of their lives). Vance discusses the latter trait, but found its antithesis in the Marines – a “learned willfulness” that enabled him to break out of that mindset and achieve considerable personal success (including graduations from both Ohio State University and Yale Law School, before his authorship acclaim).

Such a result for one individual is certainly encouraging — but this collection of books also makes it clear that these issues are very, very deep-rooted within the community, the result of culture, personal decisions and economic activities undertaken over decades…. and they are not readily amenable to simple or easy fixes. Southern Ohio has been hit hard in recent years, and the on-going demise of its coal industry seems likely to portend continuing economic difficulties.

Our visit provided considerable evidence for the story told in these books – new ‘pain management centers,’ unfamiliar flashy storefronts offering ‘quick cash for car titles,’ and the like….. but our friends are doing fine, and there was also some new construction, & new stores and homes. Such books alone do not explain Trump; Mugambi Jouet’s Exceptional America and Edward Luce’s The Retreat of Western Liberalism probably give a better overall picture. But lots of bumper stickers told the same story (I certainly didn’t see any Hillary ones!) — and more than 60% of Lancaster’s Fairfield County voters helped elect Donald Trump President.