Category Archives: geography

A Breakup Tip From Abraham Lincoln: Just Tell Her Your Town Is Terrible

In letters to his accidental fiancée, the future president painted Springfield, Illinois, as a bummer.


It’s not that you should never hop from one state to another for a relationship. But if you happen to fall hard for someone in Illinois while visiting from Kentucky, you probably want to be very sure that the object of your affection reciprocates your feelings before you uproot your life. That’s how things got messy for Abraham Lincoln’s ex-girlfriend, Mary Owens.

Born in 1808, the daughter of a successful planter from Kentucky, Owens was 24 when she first met Lincoln in 1833. (Abe, still nearly 30 years away from the presidency, was 24, too.) Owens had traveled from Green County, Kentucky, to visit her married sister Elizabeth Abell in New … Read the rest

The Legendary, Lavish Dinner Parties of South Dakota’s Divorce Colony

For a time, wealthy divorce seekers headed to the frontier.


In October 1901, Manhattan playboy Freddie Gebhardt celebrated his divorce decree with a lavish dinner at the Cataract House Hotel in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He treated guests to a four-course wine supper (each course paired with a complementing wine), and his menu included “delicate viands from the Atlantic Coast,” French wines, oysters, and a large array of imported coffee and fruit, all served by waiters in black tie. “No guest was allowed to retire until he committed the unpardonable offense of rolling from his chair jag shot,” the gossip column, Rum-inations reported.

There was a reason Gebhardt picked The Cataract to hold his celebration. From 1891 to 1908, the frontier town of Sioux Falls, South … Read the rest

How Can the Green New Deal Deliver Environmental Justice?

A study published recently in Science, on the mounting evidence in favor of the EPA’s 2009 finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health, reveals which counties in the U.S. are projected to incur the most climate-change damage at the end of the century.

The reddened areas in the map below, showing the most damage, are found mostly across the Gulf South, in states where some of the poorest black, Latino, Asian, and Native American communities are located. Many of these places have already sustained huge tolls from climate-related disasters.

It would be wise, then, to ensure that the people who live in the most climate-imperiled parts of the country would have a substantial say in what the “Green New Deal” means for them.… Read the rest

How Natural Disasters Can Spur Gentrification

Natural disasters are devastating events, and hurricanes, with their powerful winds and large-scale flooding, can literally flatten communities. Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in August 2005, left some people stranded on their roofs and drove others into the Superdome for shelter. All told, Katrina damaged 200,000 homes and displaced more than 800,000 residents of the region.

Now, a new paper in the journal Urban Studies examines the extent to which Katrina paved the way for gentrification in hurricane-damaged areas of New Orleans. To assess this, the authors, Eric Joseph van Holm of Arizona State University and Christopher Wyczalkowski of Georgia State University, look at the association between neighborhood damage inflicted by Katrina and gentrification. Their study uses data from the City of New Orleans to … Read the rest

Cities: Don’t Fall in the Branding Trap

It’s curious that while every company tries its hardest to convince you of how much different and better it is than every other company in its industry, every city tries its hardest to convince you it’s exactly the same as every other city that’s conventionally considered cool.

Look at any piece of city marketing material, from promo videos to airline magazine ad inserts. It’s amazing how so many of them rely on the same basic ingredients: hipster coffee shops, microbreweries, bike lanes, creative-class members, startups, intimations of a fashion scene, farm-to-table restaurants, new downtown streetcars, etc.

These are all good things, mind you: things cities should be happy to have. Some of them may even be modern necessities. But you can’t help but notice how few … Read the rest

How the Green New Deal Could Retrofit Suburbs

Last week, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced a resolution that gives the heady vision of the “Green New Deal” some broad policy outlines—although the specifics are still up for grabs. Their resolution calls for a national, 10-year mobilization that would repair and upgrade infrastructure and switch the country over to 100-percent clean energy, among other goals.

As its name makes clear, in scope and ambition, the Green New Deal has strong parallels to the original New Deal, with its massive public-works projects like the Hoover Dam and jobs programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps. But, amid calls for the Green New Deal to address wasteful land use, a smaller, more obscure initiative of the old New Deal is also worth revisiting: … Read the rest

Found: Shipwrecks, Helmets, and Clues From an Ancient Roman Naval Battle

Researchers are using conflicting pieces to puzzle out what happened in 241 BC.


Just because a battle took place over 2,000 years ago doesn’t mean we can’t uncover what happened. A team of archaeologists exploring a Mediterranean site near Sicily is using their findings to piece together a narrative of the Battle of the Aegates Islands, a naval conflict between ancient Rome and Carthage.

According to Live Science, the team has been surveying the site for years, recovering six bronze ship rams, along with some helmets and pottery, in 2018 alone. As the findings have accumulated, they have both raised new questions and suggested new answers as to how the events of March 10, 241 BC played out.

It was already known, for example, that … Read the rest

Why Edinburgh Wants a Tourist Tax

A trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, could soon get a little more expensive.

This month, Scotland’s capital became the first city in the U.K. to agree to a so-called tourist tax. Likely to be introduced next year, the tax will add a £2 ($2.60) surcharge per room, per night, for the first week of every stay in Edinburgh’s short-term accommodations (excluding campsites). The levy, which will still require already agreed-upon legislation in the Scottish parliament, could raise roughly £14.6 million ($18.8 million) a year, all of which could be allocated specifically for spending on issues directly related to tourism.

The charge arrives at an opportune moment. Edinburgh is unquestionably one of the most beautiful and dramatically-sited cities in Northern Europe, but right now it can feel … Read the rest

Should Libraries Be the Keepers of Their Cities’ Public Data?

In recent years, dozens of U.S. cities have released pools of public data. It’s an effort to improve transparency and drive innovation, and done well, it can succeed at both: Governments, nonprofits, and app developers alike have eagerly gobbled up that data, hoping to improve everything from road conditions to air quality to food delivery.

But what often gets lost in the conversation is the idea of how public data should be collected, managed, and disseminated so that it serves everyone—rather than just a few residents—and so that people’s privacy and data rights are protected. That’s where librarians come in.

“As far as how private and public data should be handled, there isn’t really a strong model out there,” says Curtis Rogers, communications director for the … Read the rest

Finding Home in a Parking Lot

Jamie used to wake up most nights with a flashlight in his face. From the backseat bed he’d winnowed into his SUV, he’d look up to see a police officer rapping on his window. Keep driving, they’d tell him. But Jamie didn’t have anywhere to drive. “I asked them repeatedly, ‘Isn’t there somewhere I can go where it’s not going to be a problem with you?’”

For Jamie, who turned 55 last month, the car was his only destination: It’s where he’s slept for most of the past two years, he says, save a 6-month stint he spent “in the bushes.” After the retail music store he’d worked at for eight years went out of business, he got evicted from his apartment in San Diego, and … Read the rest