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Historic Preservation and Social Justice

Historic Preservation and Social Justice

When Brigitte McQueen Shew, the founder of the Union for Contemporary Art in Omaha, came out to greet me last September for an interview, she was toting her beautiful, bright-eyed seven-month-old daughter. This was my first indication that Shew did things a little differently. Delightfully differently. Shew is the mastermind behind the Union, an innovative nonprofit that works at the intersection of art and social justice in north Omaha, a predominantly African American neighborhood. I was there to write about the Union's brand-new building, a creative renovation of three…
On Becoming Amphibious

On Becoming Amphibious

For decades, backpackers looked at the sinuous blue ribbons of waterways on maps and saw obstacles. Now, they see fun and adventure. Packrafts are lightweight, inflatable boats that roll up to the size of a beagle and weigh as little as five pounds. They're maneuverable enough to run rapids as difficult as Class V and yet light and compact enough to carry in a backpack. Alaskan adventurers have been toying with similar rafts since the 1980s, but technological innovations and widespread distribution are allowing more people…
Is Climate Change Affecting Ancient Ruins?

Is Climate Change Affecting Ancient Ruins?

For the past few years, staff at Mesa Verde National Park have noticed something curious: It seems like more rocks are falling down from the alcoves where ancestral Puebloans built their magnificent cliff palaces more than 1,000 years ago. Naturally, the same processes that created these amphitheaters will continue until they disintegrate away. But to veteran staff members, it seems like the process is speeding up. One hypothesis: The freeze-thaw cycles that split the rock apart could be accelerating as a result of the more extreme temperature fluctuations that come with…
An Agonizing but Useful Obsession

An Agonizing but Useful Obsession

This past spring, I heard a story that outraged me. I was interviewing Caroline Gleich, an accomplish pro skier, for a piece on the pay gap in professional sports when she told me a harrowing tale of online abuse. Someone—or several people—had been harassing her on Instagram for years, posting degrading comments about her accomplishments, skills, and looks. Some were downright scary, suggesting they'd be happy when she died. The harassment clearly took a toll on Caroline and her wellbeing. I dashed off an email to one of my editors…
Floating in a Pool of Light

Floating in a Pool of Light

A couple years ago, I caught a flight to Cancun with little more than a duffel and a motorcycle helmet. My husband, who had been traveling around Mexico with some buddies, picked me up and I hopped on the back of his bike. The first thing we did in the dwindling light was head to a cenote just before it closed. We found ourselves blissfully alone, lolling in the preternatural stillness, the pool a collection of thousands of blues and greens. This is the gorgeous image the Nat Geo…