Culture

Oil, Culture, and What Small Places Have to Teach Us

Oil development nearly crowds out Stanley’s Welcome. (Rick Edwards)

By Rick Edwards

Oil production in North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation and Alberta’s tar sands is helping to reshape oil markets, creating a worldwide glut and sending prices plunging. Opposition to developing these resources has focused mainly on their contribution to global climate change and on the Keystone XL pipeline, designed to carry crude to refineries. NASA scientist James Hanson famously declared that if the tar sands are developed, “it will be game over for the climate.”

Less attention has focused on the social and cultural effects of frenzied, reckless oil exploitation. While most small towns in the Great Plains wrestle with depopulation, western North Dakota is presumably enjoying the pleasures of growth. The boom has indeed brought an influx of newcomers, new businesses, and tax revenues, yet in some ways its effects are as devastating as population decline.

Equipping Faith Communities to Keep Children and Youth Safe

By Jeanette Harder

When you read headlines about child abuse or neglect, you may feel powerless to help. None of us can protect every child all the time, but we can take steps to protect the children in our homes, churches, and communities. Child abuse and neglect crosses all boundaries of class, ethnicity, education level, and religion. It is the job of adults to do the strong and courageous work of protecting children and youth. We need to pay attention, care, and act.

Faith communities often provide valuable support for people of all ages and all walks of life and are typically great places for children and families. Research shows that faith communities that actively work to address child abuse and neglect exert a highly protective influence upon children in their congregations and in their communities. Whether it’s a church, synagogue, or mosque or a school, child-care facility, or camp, attention to child and youth safety must be paramount.

A Gem in the Great Plains

By Keevin Arent

Stretching across the girth of North America, the Great Plains spreads like a wrestler’s championship belt. In its center, resembling a jewel-laden buckle, lies the Nebraska Sandhills. They certainly are considered a gem by the people who live in, love, and respect them. In terms of geologic time and history they are mere toddlers, barely twenty thousand years old, crawling among the elders of a very distinct family. To the west, the older Rocky Mountain ridge pushes them toward the older features of the Mississippi River, the Appalachians, and the Alleghenies in the east. They are remnants of a clash between the upheaval of greater Rocky Mountains and the grinding of massive glaciers, from the north, over many ages.

A Responsibility to All Students

By Dave Van Horn

During the forty years that I was an educator, I had the privilege of working with thousands of individuals who as teachers, administrators, and members of support staffs were committed to the most important goal of helping each child and young adult grow, learn, and thrive. That was true in the early 1970s when I began my career and is equally true today. Having spent the last several years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln working with student teachers, I continued to be impressed and heartened by the degree of dedication to the mission that those new to the profession demonstrate.

The Sustainable Dog, Part Two

By Jill Morstad

In the social contract known as domestication, stewardship is perhaps the single defining aspect of our relationship to and our responsibility for dogs. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan argues that domestication of animals is beneficial to the domesticated species, including us.

He explains, “At least for the domestic animal (the wild animal is a different case) the good life, if we can call it that, simply doesn’t exist, cannot be achieved, apart from humans…”

How Dangerous Are Immunizations?

By Charles Erickson

How many parents would allow their two-year-old to play in the street alone because they wanted the child to learn from experience to avoid dangerous situations? I suspect the answer is zero to none. And yet some young parents who have not experienced the illnesses for which we immunize elect to decline this life-saving technology for their children. In most instances a child left to play in the street would not be harmed because cars would avoid hitting her or she would run back to the safe yard. But why take a chance? Wouldn’t it be better to teach the child to stay out of the street even if they cried because they wanted to stay in this dangerous environment?

Although the recurrence of childhood diseases is more of a problem in other areas of the US, such as California where the recent Disneyland experience has led to an outbreak of measles around the country, we do have whooping cough and other childhood diseases here in Lincoln and Nebraska.

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.

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 Mexican Side of Nebraska

By Lissette Aliaga Linares

As of 2012, a record number of 141,913 Hispanics of Mexican origin resided in Nebraska—up from 29,665 in 1990—according to the analysis of Census Bureau data by the Office of Latino/Latin American Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. This estimate includes 49,429 Mexican immigrants, who account for almost half of the state’s foreign-born population. The remaining two-thirds of the Mexican-origin population represent US citizens of Mexican descent, mostly children, which make up a growing share of the total Mexican-origin population in the state.

Hispanics, and especially those of Mexican origin, are one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the nation, and not surprisingly in Nebraska as well. But despite the volume and novelty of this demographic shift, Nebraska has always had a Mexican side. The story of this side merits closer attention in order to understand how subsequent waves of immigration in the nation shaped the composition of this state’s population and could mold its future.

Lincoln Proud

By Jeff Cole

This is Lincoln’s moment. Construction sites dot downtown, concerts pack the new arena, and edge growth continues unabated, seemingly oblivious to national economic doldrums. The energy running through the city is reflected in Lincoln’s consistently high rankings in magazine articles and online surveys proclaiming another top “best cities for” ranking.

Today’s energy and rankings have not always been the case. When we moved here in 1999, my family immediately took to our new city. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but even back then Lincoln felt “nice” and “right”—whatever those vague marketing taglines mean. Yet, at that time, Lincoln was not making much noise in the national rankings games currently playing out in every conceivable publication.

The ‘Democratization’ of College Football

The 1902  Nebraska Cornhuskers football team from the 1903 University of Nebraska yearbook. (Public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

By Scott Stempson

As another season of college football gets underway, it seems like a good time to look back and see how we got here.

College football began in the late nineteenth century as an upper-class, Ivy League endeavor. Princeton, Yale, and Harvard led the way as the sons of the rich and famous first experimented with the new game of American football. The game was really an amalgam of rugby and soccer but eventually took on its own characteristics separate from all other games.

The man who should be credited with many of the changes that put the American stamp on the game was Walter Camp. In fact, he is often referred to as the “Father of American Football.”

The Tuskegee Airmen: The Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron’s Rise Above Traveling Exhibit Features the First Black Pilots in US Military History

Stateside, the Tuskegee Airmen fought for the dignity and respect any serviceman deserves.  Their battle on the home front would become the fight for Civil Rights. (Office of Air Force History, Maxwell Air Force Base)

By Susan Cook

Many people associate the civil rights movement with the 1960s; however, the civil rights movement has a tradition stretching back into the early nineteenth century. The Tuskegee Airmen furthered this movement in the 1940s. These airmen showed courage and fought with honor while serving the United States Air Force during World War II, even though they had to fight for their opportunity. Their character and success challenged the long-held belief that blacks had little to offer the military. Their valor and bravery, along with the achievements of other black soldiers from World War II, led to the desegregation of the armed forces by President Truman in 1948.

Who were these Tuskegee Airmen? They were the first black pilots in United States military history. While running for his third presidential term, Franklin D. Roosevelt promised to allow blacks to become military pilots. The War Department agreed on the condition that they were trained and served in segregated units. The first black flying unit was the 99th Pursuit Squadron, which was activated in March 1941 at Chanute Field, Illinois. It opened without pilots because they did not have any black pilots trained yet.

Farm-fresh Fun

By Angela White

With Nebraska’s knack for growing things, it’s no surprise that you can find some of the tastiest farm-fresh produce here. Nebraska’s lush soil cultivates a variety of delicious produce including apples, berries, grapes, asparagus, squash, melons, sweet corn, peaches, potatoes, cherries, and more.

New Book Examines 2006 Murders in Murdock, Nebraska

By John Ferak

The middle-aged felon in the nice dark suit was just sentenced to prison and court was now adjourned in Plattsmouth, Nebraska.

Ordinarily, high-profile felons being carted off to prison know the drill. You stand still. Put your hands at your side. The courthouse sheriff’s deputy rushes in and firmly slaps the steel handcuffs on your wrists and escorts you, arm in arm, back to the jail.

That afternoon, Nebraska’s photojournalists and television trucks were ready. The news media camped out inside the Cass County Courthouse in Plattsmouth. Their quest was to capture a gripping image of Dave Kofoed, the evidence-planting Douglas County Sheriff’s Office CSI chief, as he was supposed to be hauled away in handcuffs. But that was never going to happen. Although Kofoed was just sentenced to prison, a uniformed Cass County Sheriff’s guard casually approached Kofoed and just let the new prisoner strut out of the courtroom without any handcuffs, before hopping on a courthouse elevator together. The folks at the Cass County Sheriff’s Office afforded the villain Kofoed special treatment. They went to bat for their old law enforcement friend even though he had disgraced the entire Nebraska law enforcement profession.

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Immigration in Nebraska

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