Spring 2019

Table of Contents

The Dirt Issue

From the Editors

Why the “Dirt” Issue?

Late last fall, after some gusty wind blew most of the leaves from the bigleaf maples in my backyard, I went outside to inspect our garden. In the raised beds, bare tomato plants, brown from the cold weather, were still in the ground, now buried under orange and yellow leaves. After a few days of rain, those leaves would turn an unattractive brown. I had the urge to grab a rake and shovel and start cleaning up.

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By Reconnecting With Soil, We Heal the Planet and Ourselves

Enslavement and sharecropping cannot erase thousands of years of Black people’s sacred relationship with the land.
Leah Penniman

How to Turn Dirt Into Soil

Simple steps for cultivating a revolution in your backyard.
Anne Biklé & David R. Montgomery

How Removing Asphalt Is Softening Our Cities

Greening alleys reclaims public space, reconnects urban dwellers to one another, and invites nature deep into cities.
Lynn Freehill-Maye

Mushrooms: “Nature’s Greatest Decomposers”

An Indigenous-led organization in New Mexico is using fungus in an attempt to remove chemicals from soil.
Deonna Anderson

Infographic: How Mushrooms Clean Up Toxic Messes

Oil spills don’t stand a chance against the cleansing power of mycelium.
Tracy Matsue Loeffelholz

How to Restore a Million Acres of Strip-Mined Land? Bring in the Elk

Central Appalachia reintroduced the species to restore wildlife habitat—and help devastated economies. Here’s what happened next.
Mason Adams

What Is Mud’s Dirty Little Secret?

For thousands of years, it’s been wallowed in and slathered on for both medicine and beauty. Science says it works.
Linda Ingroia

The Gift of Soil: How Composting Builds Community

The perfect soil mixture can do more than grow food.
Liz Brazile

The Climate Solution Right Under Our Feet

The ideas behind regenerative farming are simple and ancient.
Michaela Haas

How Soil Acts as a Living Witness to Racial Violence

The Equal Justice Initiative is using soil to document the lynchings of more than 4,400 African-descended people between 1877 and 1950.
Leanna First-Arai

Solutions We Love

Explore Section

Your New Healthy Habits? They’re Ancient

These early Native traditions spur physical well-being.
Danielle Hansen

The New Art of Making Friends and Finding Community

Even as researchers find loneliness is epidemic, people young and old are relearning how to hang out.
Julia Hotz

The Secret to Swaying the Supreme Court

The court’s gone conservative. But there’s pretty clear evidence that public pressure can make a difference.
Doug Pibel

How Technology Is Making the World More Accessible

Be My Eyes, ArtLifting, and Crisis Text Line remove barriers for the visually impaired, the unhoused, and people in need of counseling.
Sydney Worth

Culture Shift

Explore Section

Birding Is Booming. So Where Are the Black Birders?

Raising the profile of Black birders could help foster a healthy connection between Black communities and the natural world.
Glenn Nelson

How Disaster Movies Reflect Political Extremism—But Now It’s Getting a Little Real

You get to practice looking at the abyss and ask yourself: Would you be one of the good people?
Mark Rahner

The Power of Angry Women

Three different books examine how women’s anger is deflected in patriarchal society —and its political might.
Brittney Cooper & Rebecca Traister & Soraya Chemaly

22 Race-Related Films That Will Make You Laugh, Cry, and Think Differently

Research has shown that certain movies have caused social justice change, or simply inspired good things to happen.
Zenobia Jeffries Warfield

This Is How Borrowing Things From Our Neighbors Strengthens Society

Research shows that small talk and casual connections create happy communities and less-lonely individuals.
Sarah Lazarovic