September 2010

Husker Train

Example of a bi-level gallery car (D. F. Barnhardt & Associates)

By Matthew Roque

Sounds awesome, I’d definitely ride it” is the usual response I get when talking to somebody about my train idea. The idea of exploring the feasibility of a commuter train from Omaha to Lincoln for Cornhusker home games was presented to me by an employee of Union Pacific. He figured the demand was high enough to warrant offering the service. He couldn’t have been more right. Bi-level gallery cars gleaming down the track with thousands of rabid Husker fans pouring out of them when they reach their destination: this is the dream that has come from that simple project idea.

Alfredisms

The Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA to its friends) has several of Norris Alfred’s intriguing pieces of art in its collection. To the left is “Whatzit,” an undated steel engraving plate that is a gift of Dick Herman. The term “Whatzit” was used at least twice in Alfred’s naming scheme for his works; “Untitled” is by far more common. It is likely that Alfred felt that his works could generally speak for themselves.

Book Review: "The Call of the Land: An Agrarian Primer for the 21st Century" by Steven McFadden

Review by Charles Francis

“The Call of the Land: An Agrarian Primer for the 21st Century”
Author: Steven McFadden
Publisher: Norlights Press, Nasville, Ind.

Journalist Steven McFadden introduces this instructive and current call to action as a “primary book about food, land, and people—both a survey and a synthesis of visions, ethics, practices, systems, and networks that can make it possible for us to eat well and wisely, now and in the future.” Such an ambitious goal becomes an overview for a book that in fact does attempt to do all these things and to some degree succeeds. First we need a summary of the chapters and then a critique of how closely the author meets the stated goals.

The Dead Zone: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill versus the dead zone in the northern Gulf of Mexico - which is worse?

By Nathaniel E. Ostrom

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail message from Gabriella Belmarez, a high school student at Lamar Academy in McAllen, Texas, that inspired me to think about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in a new light. Gabriella wrote that I gave her “…the impression that you felt the public should have been as concerned with the dead zone in the Gulf as with BP’s recent oil spill…”. Her insightful inquiry caused me to consider which situation is worse, the oil spill or the presence of a large body of oxygen-poor or hypoxic water that develops along the coast of the northern Gulf of Mexico each year.

Product Stewardship

By Scott Cassel

Every year in Nebraska, close to 27 million pounds of electronics are disposed of; 450 thousand gallons of unused paint are dumped in the trash or down the train and 720 thousand fluorescent lamps are thrown in the trash. Many of these products—televisions, computer screens, unused house hold products and batteries—contain toxic chemicals that can seep through landfills and contaminate waterways and soil. What should be done with all of this waste?

Preserve Prairies: They're Not Making It Anymore

By Twyla Hansen

Mark Twain once advised, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” For the same reason, we need to preserve the remaining tallgrass prairie across our cultivated countryside. And not only large tracts—like the Flint Hills in Kansas, where a plow would be ruined by rocks, or Nine-Mile Prairie near Lincoln, where its 230 acres once buffered a military bomb storage facility—but also native hay meadows and undisturbed hidden parcels of land on the eastern Plains. With the exception of a few notable prairie restoration efforts, most of our historic prairie has been lost to agriculture. Wachiska Audubon Society is determined to preserve remaining remnants in southeast Nebraska.

The Whooping Cranes: Survivors Against All Odds

By Karine Gil-Weir and Paul A. Johnsgard

Although many Nebraskans have had the indescribable pleasure and joy of watching tens of thousands of sandhill cranes overhead, or even seeing them roosting on Platte River bars and islands during spring migration, only a tiny handful can say that they have ever seen whooping cranes in Nebraska. The sheer odds against it are daunting. Compared with 450,000–500,000 sandhill cranes migrating through the state each March, there are now less than 300 whooping cranes in the flock that annually migrates from Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, on Texas’s Gulf Coast, to Wood Buffalo National Park, straddling the border of Alberta and Canada’s Northwest Territories. Added to this numerical population disparity, whooping cranes migrate somewhat later in spring than the sandhills (during April in Nebraska), after most crane watchers have gone home. During daytime foraging, they also usually frequent rather remote wetlands far from any roads and generally move in small groups consisting of pairs, a family or extended families that often consist of a pair and one or more generations of their offspring.

Modern-day Slavery

By E. Benjamin Skinner

Imagine that Robert E. Lee’s staff officer had not lost his three cigars in 1862. Imagine that the general’s Antietam battle plans, which were wrapped around those cigars, hadn’t wound up in Union hands. Alternatively, imagine that George McClellan hadn’t finally used the providential intelligence to stop the rebels in the bloodiest battle in American history. Imagine that a thus disempowered Lincoln was unable to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Imagine that the South had won and spread slavery to the Western Territories.

Sonny's Corner: Rwanda Rising

By Mark Gudgel

On August 9, 2010, Paul Kagame was reelected to his second of two possible terms as the president of the scenic, densely populated African nation of Rwanda. Just over 16 years removed from a genocide that took the lives of nearly one million Rwandan citizens, most of them Tutsi, Rwanda has emerged from the wreckage of a blood-soaked war as a leader in post-colonial Africa, boasting a functional young democratic government, a working if understandably unstable economy, tremendous technological capabilities and a forward-thinking mindset of progressive environmentalism. What is more, this unparalleled feat has been accomplished in large part under the guidance and leadership of a man who only two decades prior was an enemy of the state, unwanted in his own homeland.

Immigration in Nebraska

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