Magazine
Our Fiery Future
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August 1, 2022

August is hot, and so are the stories in this issue, which examine the West’s fiery future from a variety of angles, discussing how communities can work together to reduce fire risk; climate change and our “forever” fire season; recovery after devastating wildfires; and the weird underground fires that ignite in coal seams and sometimes cause raging aboveground wildfires. Elsewhere, we see the impacts of climate injustice in industrialized Wilmington, California, where residents fight cancer and other serious illnesses. What’s the one weird trick oil companies use to dodge those annoying cleanup costs? Just don’t pay them. We interview longtime HCN contributor Leah Sottile, whose new book shows how extremist beliefs can destroy the lives of ordinary people. In the mood for fresh air? Take a hike with the “School of New Art Geographies,” which brings together artists and scientists to do creative fieldwork in the Sonoran Desert. And enjoy our preview of the Utah Museum of Fine Art’s groundbreaking multimedia exhibition, “Air,” which opens our eyes to something we often take for granted.

Feature

The fires below
The fires below
The world’s least understood ignition source is causing devastating wildfires across Montana’s Powder River Basin.
How to rebuild in a time of endless fire
How to rebuild in a time of endless fire
Okanogan County, Washington, had hardly recovered from the last devastating wildfire when the next one struck.

Reportage

How oil companies endlessly avoid cleanup costs
How oil companies endlessly avoid cleanup costs
In Colorado, a sale of 110 low-producing oil wells illustrates a hot potato effect, and how funding remediation eventually comes from the public.
A community poisoned by oil
A community poisoned by oil
People living in Wilmington, California, experience higher levels of illness and ailing mental health.
Protecting neighborhoods from future flames
Protecting neighborhoods from future flames
Equitable wildfire preparedness requires community-level fixes.

Editor's Note

We object
We object
Our future is worth fighting for.

Facts & Figures

The West’s forever fire season
The West’s forever fire season
How climate change makes wildfire more likely to happen all year round.

Arts and Culture

Take a deep breath with this new Utah art exhibit
Take a deep breath with this new Utah art exhibit
‘Air’ at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts wants to pull your head out of the clouds.
Collaborations with nature
Collaborations with nature
A new ‘school’ of art and geography gathers artists for creative fieldwork in the Sonoran Desert.

Conversation

When extremism hides in plain sight
When extremism hides in plain sight
Leah Sottile investigates how an Idaho couple’s embrace of fringe Mormon beliefs led to multiple murder charges in her debut book, ‘When the Moon Turns to Blood.’

Heard Around the West

Fish at heart; man as island; port-a-potty convo
Fish at heart; man as island; port-a-potty convo
Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.

Dear Friends

What are you reading?
What are you reading?
Tell us about your book selections.

Poetry

At My Daughter’s Riding Lesson
At My Daughter’s Riding Lesson
A poem by Keetje Kuipers.

Letters

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