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prairie

Segment 1: Local lawyer finds a niche in space law

Space is an exciting new frontier, challenging humanity to advance in math, science, and engineering. But what about law? We hear from a Kansas City lawyer who has made a name for himself in dealing with the ownership of objects originating from space.

  • Chris McHugh, lawyer

Segment 2, beginning at 15:35: Mark Twain's love letter to American cuisine

Bruce Schuette

Vast amounts of prairie speckled with wildflowers once covered Missouri. But today, little remains of what was once 15 million acres. The loss has been devastating blow to the state's ecosystem.

"We have reaped the benefits of prairie soils, becoming an agricultural powerhouse," says Carol Davit, executive director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation. But in doing so, she says, the state has also lost vital resources and part of its cultural history.

Segment 1: Race Project KC is educating high school students on structural racism in Kansas City.

Built off of Tanner Colby's book "Some of My Best Friends Are Black," Johnson County Library takes students on a bus tour to provide lessons on the ways that segregration is ingrained in the foundation of the city. Shawnee Mission East student Oliver Henry said the tour helped her better understand the lack of diversity at her school. 

Terry Evans / terryevansphotography.com

Kansas City native Terry Evans has seen things firsthand that most of us never will: a melting glacier crumbling into the waters of Greenland, the breakage of land at fracking sites in North Dakota

But Evans keeps returning to her pioneering work documenting the Kansas prairie, even though she never intended to become a landscape photographer at all.

Portrait Session With Terry Evans

Apr 19, 2019

Terry Evans has photographed the heart of industrial America, where she revealed the effects of pollutants on communities, as well as the glacial peaks of Greenland, observing the effects of climate change in an otherwise untouched part of the world.

Her adventures began when a camera gave her the chance to photograph Bobby Kennedy when he passed through Lawrence, Kansas on his presidential campaign in 1968.

Segment 1: Mark Twain's love letter to American cuisine.

Samuel Clemens, AKA Mark Twain, was an avid writer and traveler. He was also a champion of America's regional foods. While homesick in Europe, he wrote an extensive list of the foods he missed, like prairie hen and peach cobbler. On this episode, we speak with the author who's been following in Twain's culinary footsteps, first for a book in 2011, and now for a podcast.

The booming calls of the lesser prairie chicken once rung out across western Kansas.

Accounts from the 1800s mention bands of hunters bagging dozens of birds each. Railways advertised special trains that brought sportsmen to shoot the birds in the Texas panhandle, complete with ice cars to preserve the meat on the ride home.

FILE PHOTO / Reno County Fire District No. 6

One year and nearly a half million torched acres after the Starbuck wildfire, strong winds blow across a parched Kansas landscape.

In some ways, last year’s experience showed how man-made systems fell short of handling natural disaster.

As March roars in with another dangerous fire season, lessons from 2017 will be tested and Kansas could learn whether it’s better prepared now.

Courtesy Elizabeth Schultz

Few people in their 80s are inclined, or able, to feed time and energy into a second career. Elizabeth Schultz is such an anomaly.

As an English professor at the University of Kansas, Schultz was an acclaimed scholar on Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” However, just before her retirement in 2001, she felt a pull toward a more creative use of language.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

Drive along U.S. Route 400 in western Kansas, and you’ll see hundreds of metal sculptures on tall poles, some as high as 20 feet. It’s the work of self-taught artist M.T. Liggett, who crafted signs and whirligigs out of scrap metal, tractor parts, and pipe. Whimsical - and politically provocative - art. 

Liggett died on August 21 at the age of 86. These outdoor sculptures are now in the care of four trustees, including one based in the Kansas City area. 

From Oxford-educated surgeon to body-builder to Cerner executive, Daphne Bascom joins us to talk about the journey that now brings her to community health at the YMCA.

Plus, Dodge City, Kansas-native Robert Rebein just published a new memoir on his home state.

Guests:

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

With his silvery hair, his sun-and-wind-weathered skin, formidable stature and a booming, resonant voice, Wes Jackson steps out of his pickup truck in a blazer, radiating confidence. But 40 years ago, when he'd just given up a tenured professorship in California to set up shop in rural Kansas with the goal of transforming not just agriculture but the way humans live, he was appropriately daunted by the scale of his own ambition.

"I did it with a lot of doubt," he says with a laugh. "Especially in the middle of the night."

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Meet a prominent thinker who's a Kansas farm boy and "prairiebilly" turned geneticist, and hear the story of how and why he became a leader in the sustainable agriculture movement back in the 1970s. Jackson is retiring as president of the organization he started: The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. 

Guest:

Courtesy Photo / Rhianna Weilert

We love grass in the United States. In fact, we've planted nearly 40 million acres of turf — along highways, in parks and in our home lawns. 

Turf grass isn't inherently bad, but the problem, according to the Kansas City Native Plant Initiative, is that there is too much of it.

“It has virtually no value to native species of wildlife that live here,” volunteer project coordinator Kathy Gates told Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up to Date

Another downside? It’s expensive to maintain.

Restoring Prairie On The Great Plains

Feb 4, 2016
Courtesy Prairie Plains Resource Institute

From the air, the Midwest looks like a patchwork of cropland and pastures. But before the land was turned over to plows and center pivots, most of it was a sea of grass. 

Native grasslands were first plowed by pioneers homesteading on the plains. More land was converted to crops as tractors and machinery arrived on the farm and conversion of land intensified. 

Mid-America's vast prairies have inspired countless artists. But in a place so wide open, there's always the danger of a person's voice getting blown away by the wind. Perhaps that's one reason 'Lost Writers of the Plains,' a new multimedia literary project, captured the imagination of Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin.

Edwin Olson/Google Images -- CC

    

Whether it's the sound of the wind rustling through the tall grass, the crackling spectacle of a controlled burn or just the sheer enormity of this swath of land, the prairie has inspired authors for hundreds of years. We discuss the best books about the prairie with our Book Critics Jeffrey Ann Goudie, Mark Luce and Kaite Stover.

Creative Commons, Wikimedia

Her children's books shaped ideas about the Midwestern experience for multiple generations worldwide. She's been gone more than sixty years, but her influence remains strong; even now, fans and scholars attend a yearly Laurapalooza festival in her honor. Her autobiography has just recently been published, but good luck finding a copy. The first print run has sold out and the second will not even fill existing orders.

Courtesy / Ben Wheeler/Pheasants Forever and Nebraska Game & Parks Commission

In recent years, farmers in the Midwest have transformed millions of acres of prairie grass to rows of corn. High crop prices are a big motivation, but some also believe crop insurance is encouraging farmers to roll the dice on less productive land.

Rod Christen and his sister Kay farm corn, soybeans and wheat on their land near the small town of Steinauer, Neb. But their main crop is grass.

“Big bluestem is our big producer,” said Rod Christen. “It’s kind of our Cadillac grass.”

Terry Evans / Courtesy: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

It’s fitting that the first career retrospective for photographer Terry Evans takes place in her hometown of Kansas City, Mo., at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a place where she took art classes as a child.