Edgy Stuff: March 2016 Recommendations
The Edge Effects editorial board brings you a handful of recommendations based on the most interesting stuff that’s come across our desks, screens, and speakers over the last month (or so). From books and articles, to podcasts, music, and film, we’ll keep you on the edge.
Karen Walker Thompson’s novel, The Age of Miracles, would be a fairly typical coming-of-age tale if it weren’t for one major twist—the earth’s rotation is slowing down. The novel’s protagonist, Julia, is just ten when the earth begins its slowdown. By time she has reached adulthood, the reader has followed her through adolescence, a first love, and her parents’ divorce. At the same time, Julia and her family struggle with the increasingly dire effects of the earth’s slowed rotations, including nights and days that last for weeks, increasingly erratic weather, and food scarcity. Thompson juxtaposes Julia’s road to maturity with increasingly uncertain environmental conditions, creating a story that is often eerie, occasionally tragic, but never devoid of hope.
Dogs are dirty. They track mud onto our clean floors, leave fur on the surfaces they touch, and lick you with the same mouth that just dug up a bone they buried six months ago. While annoying at times and, well, a little gross, scholars at the University of Arizona think that the very qualities that make dogs dirty in fact might make the people they live with healthier. Researchers suggest that dogs’ licking exposes humans to microbes, potentially serving as a sort of canine probiotic. It is a good reminder that we share much more than our homes with pets: we share our microbiomes, too.
Helen J. Bullard
… a species is always becoming… what is lost in extinction is not “just” the current manifestation of a flight way–a fixed population of organisms–but all that this species has been, as well as all that its past and present might have enabled it to one day become.
This month, I read Thom van Dooren’s Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction. This book is a moving, beautifully told collection of ethnographic, philosophical and scientific tales about modern day extinctions, from albatrosses in the Hawaiian archipelago, vultures in India, and penguins in Australia, to crows in Hawaii and cranes right here in Wisconsin. Flight Ways is also an impassioned call for stories. “This is not about making time neat, flat, and singular… [stories] hold open simultaneously a range of points of view, interpretations, temporalities, and possibilities.” It is a form of witnessing, van Dooren tells us, and an obligation to those being witnessed.
The recent thaw in US-Cuba relations is allowing for the exchange of goods between the two countries. Economically speaking, this will generally bolster Cuba’s economy. But this also means that Cuba’s food system, which since the collapse of the Soviet Union has relied upon farming methods based on agroecology, is at risk of being abandoned in favor of American industrial agricultural methods. This article details how this change might affect the country.
The sport of fly fishing is many things, but diverse is not one of them. While trends are slowly changing and fly fishing companies are beginning to feature women (sometimes) and people of color (very rarely) in their ad campaigns, fly fishing remains mostly white and mostly male, while requiring considerably more financial resources to participate in than so-called “conventional” fishing. This is why the work of Chad Brown—owner of Soul River Runs Deep and Soul River, Inc., a nonprofit in North Portland, OR—is so important. A black Navy veteran who endured a nearly life-ending battle with PTSD and stumbled across fly fishing as a form of healing “meditation,” Brown’s companies fuse his decades of design experience, his outdoor acumen, his Navy background, and his care for inner city communities. Check out this article in Outside Magazine to learn more about Chad’s story, and watch the video below to see Soul River in action as it brings a group of inner-city kids and veterans together in the wilds of Alaska.
The United States, and especially its cities, are as racially segregated as they ever were, if not more so. This fantastic visualization makes this point simply and powerfully. Designed at the Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia, the Racial Dot Map’s 308 million dots each represent a single person, that individual’s race, and where he or she lives (based on the 2010 Census). The result is a clear picture of widespread racial segregation in the United States. Zoom in to your hometown, your current residence, or really anywhere in the entire country to see the stark racial divides with your own eyes. This map is also a great teaching tool for instructors discussing racial disparities, urban development, and related topics.
Kaitlin Stack Whitney
Happy last day of Women’s History Month! I’ve had a great time this March introducing students in my Advanced Conservation Biology course to historical and modern women conservationists that are not in their textbooks. Can you name any, not including Rachel Carson? An excellent primer on this subject is Women in the Field: America’s Pioneering Women Naturalists by Marcia Myers Bonta, which introduces 25 American women living in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century. It pairs perfectly with its sister volume by the same author, American Women Afield: Writings of Pioneering Women Naturalists, which features the insights of the women in their own words. Both are books I find myself returning to for inspiration every month, not just in March.