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Know the West

Don’t despair. Dissent.

Look to others doing good work and act.


It is safe to say that the pandemic will not end any time soon. The longer the crisis persists, the more we’ll need to seek out bright sides and hidden lessons, to find hope in isolation as we rediscover the value of connection with families, friends and neighbors — of hugs, nudges, high-fives and handshakes. For many, this period will rank as one of the most challenging times of our lives. At the same time, we are learning more about the ability of people to adapt and face difficulties head-on.

Activists converge on the Eloy and La Palma immigrant detention centers in Arizona in April for a “Covid-safe” car protest to call attention to the threat that detainees face from the coronavirus.
Roberto (Bear) Guerra/High Country News

That’s important beyond this bewildering moment, I think, because even as the pandemic continues, other challenges remain. Inequality abounds; the Earth continues to warm; and environmental protections are being dismantled at speed. In the name of liberty, displays of guns and extremist views now accompany demands to open the country, while vulnerable populations contract COVID-19 at high rates. Meanwhile, as an election approaches, voters face systematic disenfranchisement. Despite all this, people across the Western United States are finding new ways to do good work. This issue of the magazine is a good reminder.

I find these creative approaches encouraging — the adoption of telemedicine to address the pandemic, for example, and the formation of programs to bring younger activists into the environmental movement. In Arizona, face-masked, safely distanced activists are protesting inhumane detention policies. On the Navajo Nation, community health workers confront a COVID-19 hot spot, bringing aid and comfort to people in need. José González, the founder of Latino Outdoors, reminds us that open spaces must be made available to all as restrictions lift, while Dina Gilio-Whitaker, a scholar, author and member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, sketches out the need for a new environmental ethic. Beyond the pandemic, this issue highlights other everyday ethicists, including game wardens who work tirelessly to curb wanton poaching.

Brian Calvert, editor-in-chief
Roberto (Bear) Guerra/High Country News

Things are not easy. But even in the toughest moments, we can look to the people doing good, hard work, and be inspired by them. Whether the pandemic lasts another month, another year, or more, take heart in the people around you. Support them, or join them, but do not despair. There is much to do, even now. Especially now.

Brian Calvert is the editor-in-chief of High Country News. Email High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor