What It Means to Be American
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Explore : environment

Places

How Crop Circles Saved the Great Plains

In the 1940s, Farmer Frank Zybach Invented Center Pivot Irrigation and Brought the Dust Bowl Back to Life

By Joe Anderson
September 10, 2018

If you live in the Great Plains, sooner or later you’ll get a question about those “crop circles” that can be observed from airplane windows during flights over the region. The answer is contained in the question: Put simply, they are circles of cropland.

The circular pattern, however, is different from the regular patchwork many people imagine traditional farm fields to be. The shape is the result of the center pivot irrigation, a development of the post-World War II era …

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Ideas

Do Beautiful Parks Strengthen Democracy?

To Frederick Law Olmsted, Designer of Many of America’s Most Iconic Landscapes, Common Spaces Are Key to Getting Beyond Our Own Narrow Individualism

By Garrett Dash Nelson
December 17, 2015

In 1846, shortly after his 24th birthday, Frederick Law Olmsted wrote to a friend, full of dismay about the prospect of finding a purpose in life. “I want to make myself useful to the world—to make happy—to help to advance the condition of Society and hasten the preparation for the Millennium—as well as other things too numerous to mention,” he fretted. “Now, how shall I prepare myself to exercise the greatest and best influence in the situation of life I …

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Ideas

The Christian Roots of Modern Environmentalism

Presbyterianism Inspired Teddy Roosevelt’s Conservationist Zeal

By Mark Stoll
June 26, 2015

Like only a handful of presidents, Theodore Roosevelt lives in our memory and popular culture. He is the bespectacled face gazing from Mount Rushmore, the namesake for the teddy bear, and the advice-giving Rough Rider, played by Robin Williams in the movie Night at the Museum. We remember him, too, as the trust buster who broke up monopolies, the avid outdoorsman and conservationist who preserved parks, forests, and wildlife, and the politician who crusaded for a “fair deal,” a just …

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