April 2015

We're Back

After a three-month hiatus, Prairie Fire is back in print. We have a new sales team and a renewed energy to work on the goal of bringing you civil discussion about ideas and events that can change and improve our world. We’re not the only ones who are excited. We’ve heard from many of you—readers, advertisers, and friends of the paper—who said Prairie Fire fills a need not met by other regional publications and who have missed their monthly discussion of public policy, the environment, culture, and social issues.

Cuba: "Foreign Travel on a Conference Budget"

Cars parked near Gran Theatre and El Capitolio in the center of Havana, Cuba. (ArtMarie/iStock)

On the eve of normalization of relations with Cuba, we wanted to give our readers a peek into US-Cuba relations fifty-nine years ago. This article, from the March 1956 issue of the American Library Association Bulletin, was prepared in conjunction with the association’s annual convention in Miami—also note the intriguing travel service ad that accompanied the article.

By JoAnn Neuman

When you arrive at Miami Beach for the 1956 Conference, you will be nearly as far south as is possible to travel within the limits of the continental United States. This location will provide you with one of the most alluring opportunities for delightful and inexpensive foreign travel you will ever experience—the Isles of Caribee. The whole area lies at your doorstep—Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti, the Virgin Islands, Cuba, the Bahamas, and many other storied islands.

Land Grabs in the Global South

By Amy Swoboda and Charles Francis

Changes in land ownership and agricultural practices in third-world countries may have major impact on the economy of the Great Plains, including competition for export crops, increased immigration pressure, and accelerated global climate change. Land Grabs in the Global South (AGRO 496/896) is a new resident and distance course from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that will reveal how much land in the Global South has changed hands within the last decade, and the consequences of a move from small, diverse farming operations to industrial monocultures.

Results from the 2014 Nebraska Rural Poll

By Randy Cantrell

The Nebraska Rural Poll conducted its nineteenth annual survey of nonmetropolitan Nebraskans in April of 2014. Initiated in 1996 by the University of Nebraska and what was then the Center for Applied Rural Innovation, the Nebraska Rural Poll is a mailed survey that is sent annually to a random sample of about seven thousand households in eighty-four nonmetropolitan counties. More precisely, the poll goes to households in the eighty-four counties that were classified as nonmetropolitan prior to the Census of 2010.

The Midwest

By Shaun Ilahi

The Midwest is vast with lush fields and breathtaking skies. I have now lived in the Midwest for a third of my life and have seen the social landscape broaden. Prior to coming here, I lived in the Middle East and South Asia. When I first arrived in Nebraska in the late 1990s, Midwestern society had not seen significant exposure to foreign cultures. But with the advent of the information age and current events, that changed.

Book Review: The Soil Will Save Us by Kristin Ohlson

Review by Steve Chick

Title: The Soil Will Save us: How Scientists, Farmers, and Foodies Are Healing the Soil to Save the Planet
Author: Kristin Ohlson
Publisher: Rodale Books

Shame on me. For thirty-three-plus years I utilized my leadership positions for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) to advocate for the protection of the top few inches of our precious topsoil. Arguably, I was pretty effective at prescribing a variety of conservation practices to achieve that goal, but for most of the entirety of my career I knew there was so much more potential. As an employee of the premier soils agency in the federal government I should have been better equipped to prescribe recipes for enhancing the entire soil profile. These recipes could have offered alternatives for ensuring a fully healthy soil profile, including controlling erosion of the surface layer.

Securing Nebraska: Being Right on Crime

By Adam Weinberg

Many people are surprised that the Platte Institute publishes research on criminal justice issues. In fact, the Omaha World-Herald credited us as one of the first groups in Nebraska to call for prison reforms to address overcrowding and sentencing guidelines.

Coverage of our new corrections study, “Securing Nebraska,” reported on our “unusual” cooperation with the Nebraska ACLU. Even Mother Jones magazine took notice, listing Nebraska as a leading state on prison reform, with Platte Institute policy research guiding the way.

The Prodigal Naturalist, Part Two: At Home

By Jack Phillips

Something that is designed is done so with a purpose. The object of design conforms to that end. For English writer Richard Jefferies (1848–1887), nature lacked design because it did not conform to the human needs. To view nature through the lens of usefulness prevents one from actually seeing or even crudely apprehending her. The belief that nature is somehow arranged, drawn up, or designed for the benefit of humanity creates a “petty, despicable, micro-cosmus” that is a sorry substitute for reality. I understand that many Americans believe that the earth and its riches are rightfully subject to capitalistic exploitation by divine edict, but I will not wander into that theological thicket here.

Climate Change and Its Biological Effects in the Great Plains

By Paul A. Johngard

For much of the latter twentieth century, and especially during the past few decades, the Great Plains has experienced a warming trend that is part of a global phenomenon. The year 2014 had the highest annual average global temperature (58.24° Fahrenheit) of any year since such records began over 130 years ago. Previous heat records were broken in 2010 and 2005. The last time the Earth’s record for annual cold temperatures occurred, it was more than a century ago, in 1911.

With regard to birds, the side effects of global warming include changes in their breeding phenology or fecundity, in the composition and structure of their breeding and wintering habitats, or their migration timing, routes, and staging areas. Accelerating global climatic changes have already had many evident effects on birds. These include a poleward shift in avian wintering ranges, northward movements in the breeding ranges of some North American birds. Various other biological influences on birds and other wildlife have been reported. Less obvious indirect effects of climate change on a species might result from climate-based influences on regional parasites, diseases, competitors, and predators.

Sonny's Corner: Human Rights Campaign Focuses on LGBT Equality

By Drew Heckman

As a native Cornhusker and field organizer for the Human Rights Campaign in Nebraska, I was pleased to announce our Equality is Our Business Program in March. It is designed to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender diversity in the workplace; advance protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations; and create more inclusive business practices.

The Sustainable Dog, Part One

By Jill Morstad

Sustainability, the wikis tell us, reflects the capacity to endure. In our human communities and cultures, sustainability refers to the long-term maintenance of well-being, including environmental, economic, and social well-being. Stewardship is a foundational element of sustainability, asking us to define and then to decide how we will responsibly manage resources, but sustainability is not just an environmental issue, it is also an issue of economic practices: each interdependent on the other.

The Urban Institute on Wealth Inequality, Part One

We were so impressed with the Urban Institute’s recently released “Nine Charts on Wealth Inequality” that we contacted them and secured permission to run the charts in Prairie Fire. Accordingly, we shall run their first chart this month and the remaining eight charts consecutively over our next eight issues. Chart One: Wealth Inequality Is Growing

Immigration in Nebraska

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