“Small-Town Natives Are Moving Back Home.” Gracy Olmstead writes about several college-educated young people choosing to move back to their hometowns, and she points to the work of organizations like Lead for America that are encouraging individuals to do so.
“Using Commercial Bumble Bees as Pollinators Is Putting Wild Bees at Risk.” Matt Kelly reports on the complicated ecological dynamics that result when commercial bumble bees are brought in to pollinate crops.
“Leaving Portland.” Michael J. Totten offers his perspective on what exactly has gone on in Portland over the past year:
If you read nothing but conservative media, you might think most of the city had degenerated into a war zone. If you read nothing but left-wing analysis and reports, you likely came away with the impression that even most of downtown was doing just fine. Local journalists did a consistently excellent job describing the society-wide effects as well as the what, when, where, how, and why, but right-wing national media magnified the scale of the problem while left-wing national media downplayed it.
“Main Street Is Not an Idea.” Addison Del Mastro warns that place shouldn’t be made into an idol. Placemaking in particular regions depends on both committed, imaginative citizens and a broader economic order that enables such placemaking to be successful. If either is lacking, places will decay: “A genuine localism can also be melancholy, in that it must recognize the broader economic context that has rendered some places obsolete, and forced the hand of those who leave.”
“How Small Colleges Can Thrive.” Benjamin Myers offers some wise, albeit unfashionable, advice for small liberal arts colleges: “Almost every little college or university in the country is telling potential students that their indistinguishable institution is the path to a great career, an exciting social life, and self-fulfillment. Any college with the courage to offer students an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves will stand out.”
“How Hank the Cowdog Made John R. Erickson the King of the Canine Canon.” In a really fine essay for Texas Monthly, Christian Wallace writes about the life, ambition, failures, and endurance of the author behind the iconic Hank the Cowdog:
The books were exciting, chock-full of adventures and capers to crack: Who murdered Sally May’s chickens? Is this corncob truly priceless? Is the moon really made of chopped chicken liver? But more importantly to me, Hank was the only series I had read that was set in my neck of the woods—or rather, my lack of the woods. Growing up surrounded by treeless alfalfa farms and oil fields, I found Hank’s home on a cattle ranch in Ochiltree County a lot more familiar than Narnia or Hogwarts. Reading Hank, I felt for the first time that life in rural Texas could be funny and thrilling and worth writing about. Hank was ours.
“The Violence of Love.” The new issue of Plough is out. My print copy just arrived, so I’ve only read the first few essays, but it promises to be a rich issue.
“Digital Media and the Experience of Community.” Michael Sacasas’s contribution to this Theopolis conversation about digital media and healthy forms of belonging homes in on the importance of a common world: “digitization tends to abstract our relationships from the context of particular places and shared spaces. Under these conditions, we lose our standing in a common world of common things that grounds our common sense, understood not simply as things every body takes for granted but rather as an understanding of reality that is held in common.”
“The Right’s Answer to Decadence?” Ross Douthat has been reflecting on the argument he made last year in The Decadent Society. This essay considers whether post-liberalism of the kind that Patrick Deneen and others have explored is likely to prompt genuinely new political alignments.
“A Christian Vision of Social Justice.” David Brooks interviews Esau McCaulley about racial justice and finds his theological insights helpful in trying to “tell the true history of our people, a tale that doesn’t whitewash the shameful themes in our narrative nor downplay the painful but uneven progress—realist but not despairing.”
“Planting for the Future: The Resurrection of the American Chestnut.” Jeremiah Knupp frames this hopeful story about the people trying to bring back American chestnuts with lines from a Wendell Berry poem.
“As Coffee Rust Reaches Hawaii, Farmers Prepare for a Devastating Blow.” Twilight Greenaway describes how farmers and scientists are responding to a new fungus spreading through Hawaii’s coffee trees.
“My Great-Grandfather Knew How to Fix America’s Food System.” Gracy Olmstead writes for the New York Times about the goods of robust, local food systems: “We must challenge agribusiness monopolies and acknowledge the harm unchecked consolidation has had on our food system. We should aspire, when and where we can, to restore the sort of healthy local food sources and interconnectedness that my Grandpa Dad knew and that once undergirded rural communities.”
“Women Rebels without a Cause.” Mary Harrington warns that our social media politics is increasingly disconnected from reality or action: “in the absence of any consensus on what we should do, we’ve seen the rise of phatic protest; that is, political engagement oriented more toward expressing a feeling than demanding policy change.”
“The Uses and Abuses of ‘Woke Capital.’” Matthew Walther points out that unfettered capital always tends to be “woke”: “The teleology of globalized capital was always going to be wokeness, by which I mean the emancipation of men and women from every bond, custom, obligation, tradition, attachment, or harmlessly venerable practice they might once have held in common, sometimes more or less consciously—e.g., the moral dictates of the Christian religion—but more often than not simply as a matter of habit.”
“‘We Will Not Be Missed.’” Jonathan Lear analyzes a misanthropic joke and commends the practice of mourning, of what a Christian might call lament: “the refusal to mourn sustains despair. Despair nourishes itself via its refusal to mourn. In this strand of the joke, ‘We will not be missed’ is part of a self-maintaining activity of despair—a resoluteness in hopelessness.”