Ecology

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

As allies flooded in, indigenous leadership was increasingly drowned out in a sea of noise.

As yurts were built left and right and kale arrived by the truckload, I began to see that Standing Rock was gentrifying. White people had arrived in a space that was not our own and tried to improve it according to our standards. We ate foods cooked by our poorer, browner neighbors and learned a few words in their language. We improved the housing stock and brought newer, greener technologies. But as we tried to help, we simply got in the way.

What I Had Lost Was a Country

What I Had Lost Was a Country

To re-encounter nature would be a way of getting another angle of vision on the same social facts, the same greedy and unequal humanity.

Nature and landscape are palimpsests of history and social violence more than they are alternatives to them. They show back to the observer the durability and definiteness of the world people have made so far, as well as its fragility.

Burn Scars

Burn Scars

Elegy for a wilderness

Those of us with long experience sitting watch over the Gila sometimes joked that we were not so much fire lookouts anymore as morbid priests or pyromaniacal monks — officiants at an ongoing funeral for the forests as we had found them when we first assumed our posts. All of us had come seeking solitude, adventure, the romance of wild mountains, and a taste of the sublime; we got everything we had hoped for and more, including pyrotechnics on a landscape scale. The job never lasted long enough — six months maximum, more like four or five in a typical season — but it beat working down in the neon plastic valleys.

Year in Review: 2015

Year in Review: 2015

When the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in December for the first time since the onset of the financial crisis, the feeling around the decision was one of somber, even funereal, inevitability. It was hard not to think of the mayor of Amity, assured of the water’s safety, reluctantly leading his citizens back down to the beach. Incidentally, Jaws was released in 1975, the last year that real wages rose. We all know the water isn’t safe, but an economy organized like Amity’s has no choice but to act like it is.

The VW Bug

The VW Bug

On diesel and scandals

I should come clean here and admit that I was involved in the sale of a VW TDI myself. In 2010 I received the following email: “Dear n+1 car guru, I need to buy a car! What’s your assessment of the Prius vs. the new clean-diesel VWs? I look to you…”

Lessons of the Arkansas

Lessons of the Arkansas

When Kansas Took Colorado to Court

The Arkansas River forms in the Rockies near the old silver boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, then meanders east through Pueblo, Colorado; Dodge City, Kansas; and Wichita before turning southeast and moving at a stately pace through Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Little Rock, Arkansas, finally dumping into the Mississippi at Napoleon, Arkansas, a ghost town. At fourteen hundred miles, it is the sixth-longest river in America, behind the Missouri, Mississippi, Yukon, Rio Grande, and Colorado. It is the garden hose of the High Plains, sclerotic artery of midwestern commerce, and unamenable amenity in most of the towns and cities it passes through.

Seismic Lines

Seismic Lines

Inuvik is always on the verge of booming, even if the big boom that promises to change everything hasn’t shown up.

The sun is shining at the Tsiigetchic ferry crossing, though it is midnight. It’s a week after the summer solstice, just north of the Arctic Circle, and Amar Al-Awad stands by his red pickup taxi puffing on a cigarette. The river glows pink, and the ferry puttering from shore to shore is the only other sign of life, so we follow it with our eyes. Otherwise, our two vehicles are the only ones in sight. I ask Amar if he’s adjusted well to the north. “It’s not easy. But it’s not bad,” he says. “I like the north, but it’s just too far.”

What Happened to Canada?

What Happened to Canada?

The left has long admired Canada as an enclave of social democracy in North America: for its openly socialist electoral parties, its robust welfare state, and its more moderate policy profile. Recent developments, however, have thrown that reputation into question. The country is helmed by a prime minister, Stephen Harper, known for his brazenly right-wing views and executive unilateralism. Both federal and provincial governments have embraced austerity and eroded public services. And Canada’s newly aggressive exploitation of its natural resources has it trampling on civil liberties and reneging on its international obligations like, as Foreign Policy put it, a “rogue, reckless petrostate.”

Crude Investments

Crude Investments

We might consider whether beyond coal and natural gas there lies a third choice.

And all of us know perfectly well that our fossil-fueled civilization isn’t built to last; we also know that we need to effect a deliberate and graceful transition to another energy regime or suffer a chaotic and violent interregnum. The ignorant as well as the informed know this. You could write a Walt Whitman-style poem about this obvious thing that everybody knows.

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

The Gentrification of Standing Rock

As allies flooded in, indigenous leadership was increasingly drowned out in a sea of noise.

As yurts were built left and right and kale arrived by the truckload, I began to see that Standing Rock was gentrifying. White people had arrived in a space that was not our own and tried to improve it according to our standards. We ate foods cooked by our poorer, browner neighbors and learned a few words in their language. We improved the housing stock and brought newer, greener technologies. But as we tried to help, we simply got in the way.

What I Had Lost Was a Country

What I Had Lost Was a Country

To re-encounter nature would be a way of getting another angle of vision on the same social facts, the same greedy and unequal humanity.

Nature and landscape are palimpsests of history and social violence more than they are alternatives to them. They show back to the observer the durability and definiteness of the world people have made so far, as well as its fragility.

Burn Scars

Burn Scars

Elegy for a wilderness

Those of us with long experience sitting watch over the Gila sometimes joked that we were not so much fire lookouts anymore as morbid priests or pyromaniacal monks — officiants at an ongoing funeral for the forests as we had found them when we first assumed our posts. All of us had come seeking solitude, adventure, the romance of wild mountains, and a taste of the sublime; we got everything we had hoped for and more, including pyrotechnics on a landscape scale. The job never lasted long enough — six months maximum, more like four or five in a typical season — but it beat working down in the neon plastic valleys.

Year in Review: 2015

Year in Review: 2015

When the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in December for the first time since the onset of the financial crisis, the feeling around the decision was one of somber, even funereal, inevitability. It was hard not to think of the mayor of Amity, assured of the water’s safety, reluctantly leading his citizens back down to the beach. Incidentally, Jaws was released in 1975, the last year that real wages rose. We all know the water isn’t safe, but an economy organized like Amity’s has no choice but to act like it is.

The VW Bug

The VW Bug

On diesel and scandals

I should come clean here and admit that I was involved in the sale of a VW TDI myself. In 2010 I received the following email: “Dear n+1 car guru, I need to buy a car! What’s your assessment of the Prius vs. the new clean-diesel VWs? I look to you…”

Lessons of the Arkansas

Lessons of the Arkansas

When Kansas Took Colorado to Court

The Arkansas River forms in the Rockies near the old silver boomtown of Leadville, Colorado, then meanders east through Pueblo, Colorado; Dodge City, Kansas; and Wichita before turning southeast and moving at a stately pace through Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Little Rock, Arkansas, finally dumping into the Mississippi at Napoleon, Arkansas, a ghost town. At fourteen hundred miles, it is the sixth-longest river in America, behind the Missouri, Mississippi, Yukon, Rio Grande, and Colorado. It is the garden hose of the High Plains, sclerotic artery of midwestern commerce, and unamenable amenity in most of the towns and cities it passes through.

Seismic Lines

Seismic Lines

Inuvik is always on the verge of booming, even if the big boom that promises to change everything hasn’t shown up.

The sun is shining at the Tsiigetchic ferry crossing, though it is midnight. It’s a week after the summer solstice, just north of the Arctic Circle, and Amar Al-Awad stands by his red pickup taxi puffing on a cigarette. The river glows pink, and the ferry puttering from shore to shore is the only other sign of life, so we follow it with our eyes. Otherwise, our two vehicles are the only ones in sight. I ask Amar if he’s adjusted well to the north. “It’s not easy. But it’s not bad,” he says. “I like the north, but it’s just too far.”