Essays

Long form essays and reflections from members of the CHE community.

The Wisconsin Idea in action. Byron Crouse (right), associate dean in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, meets with Jim Fahey (left), the owner of Praireland Dairy near Belleville, Wisconsin. Crouse has helped to create Co-op Care, a program designed to increase the number of farmers and other rural business owners that have access to affordable health insurance programs with benefits that include preventative services. Photo by Bryce Richter, December 2008. Courtesy of UW–Madison University Communications. 

Rural People and Academic Elites Saved Higher Education Once. They Can Do It Again.

Rural resentment is nothing new. When one university reckoned with it a century ago, it convinced farmers that the university worked for them—and improved itself in the process.

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Ecological Homes: Making Women, Men, and Nature

At the New Alchemy Institute’s bioshelters, green technologies promised social revolution. But women still found themselves stuck with the dishes.

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Cottonwoods in Concrete: A Call for Collaborative Survival among Ruins

A forest sprouting from a levee in eastern Washington offers a model for flood management, if only we notice it.

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A portrait of a young Napoleon Bonaparte in military dress starting at the viewer with a white mountain and blue clouds behind him.

Painting an Empire: Landscapes of Napoleon’s Dreams in Haiti

French landscape painting during the Haitian Revolution lays bare colonial concern for controlling both people and the environment.

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The American Recycling Myth

Why do we recycle? American consumers have learned to think of recycling as a local activity, but a recent Chinese ban on imported solid waste may force us to see the ways that recycling is a global industry.

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Zozobra & Me: Performance and Place at the Santa Fe Fiesta

A meditation on how the annual burning of a 51-foot marionette forges connections to a city and its complex, violent past.

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The view of prairie grasses out the door of a darkened bunker at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Photo by Sean Thoel, 2017.

From TNT to Tallgrass: Prairie Restoration at a Munitions Plant Turned National Grassland

It was the world’s largest munitions plant. Now it’s a rich grassland teeming with wildflowers, hikers, and even a bison herd. Illinois’s Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie offers an environmental success story for our time.

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A haenyeo, floating in the water, holds up her catch. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Bittersweet Catch: Korea’s Diving Women and the Pitfalls of Cultural Preservation

While attending a school set up to train the next generation of haenyeo divers, one woman grapples with the historical and ongoing complexities of maintaining the traditional practice.

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Knowing Prairies: An Essay in Comic Form

What can the world’s first restored prairie tell us about living with the land? The University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum inspires one artist to reflect on ecological restoration and what we call nature.

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Aldo Leopold (right) with Art Hawkins and Alice Harper Stokes in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1946.

The Land Ethic Revisited: Individualism vs. Morality

How can a community implement Aldo Leopold’s notion of the land ethic? Kenya’s Njuri Ncheke councils offer an example, balancing individual and group agency.

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