Issue No. 14 | Earth, Wind & Fire

Habitat for Humanity

Wildfires are raging, icebergs are shrinking, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is bigger than Texas. Our August issue, Earth, Wind & Fire, features stories about the ways in which humans have both transformed and been transformed by the environment. First up is Rosie Haber’s Braddock, PA, a documentary series about a Rust Belt town poisoned for decades by smoke and steel, and the residents determined to reclaim and heal their community. Other pieces include a photo essay about living without running water in Mexico City, a tour of the inferno that is Death Valley National Park, and a visit to the 1,700-foot deep Montana cesspool known as the Berkeley Pit. The world is falling apart, folks, but here’s a hint: it’s not the heat—it’s the humanity.

ON THE COVER: RAYO, 2018, BY ALEJANDRO DURÁN

Monologue

Mike Reynolds: Welcome to the Hottest Place on Earth

The superintendent of Death Valley National Park says higher-than-ever temperatures mean even desert creatures are desperate for relief.

Every Last Drop

A day in the life of a Mexico City water delivery, and the women whose lives are ruled by scarcity.

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Between UV and Me

Where New Yorkers go to get baked.

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Too Hot, Too Crowded, Needs More Vending Machines

According to online reviews, these National Parks have a lot to apologize for.

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Postcards from the Edge

In Butte, Montana, tourists flock to a gorgeous Superfund site for selfies, kitsch, and a frisson of danger.

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The Seaweed Hunters

Northern California’s coast is at the heart of a billion-dollar seaweed industry, leaving Indigenous harvesters to contend with a ravaged ecosystem.

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Mixtape

Earth, Wind & Fire Mixtape

Five short films that challenge humankind’s mastery over nature. Who really runs the world?

The Battle Over Bears Ears

Why the people who live in San Juan County, Utah, feel like they’ve been caught in the middle of a monumental land grab.

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American Beauties

How plastic bags came to rule our lives, and why we can’t quit them.

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Off Topic

The Business of Blending In

For soldiers in the field, becoming one with the environment is a matter of life or death.

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Off Topic

The Ice Patrol

Since the sinking of the Titanic, the patrol has been on the lookout for rogue skyscrapers of ice. It’s a job that’s as boring as it is dangerous, and these men and women wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Braddock, PA

In this declining steel town in Western Pennsylvania, meet the people making change in the shadow of the smokestacks.

In the Shadow of the Steel Mill

For 144 years, the residents of Braddock have lived—and died—by the rhythms of a steel mill.

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Summer Lee’s Got the Spirit

Braddock’s Democratic candidate for state rep will have to face up to poverty, pollution, and policing if she wants to keep her campaign promises.

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The Bard of Braddock

Tony Buba is a filmmaker who could’ve gone to Hollywood. But his Pennsylvania hometown needed him more.

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Dying on Fumes of Steel

Braddock’s toxic footprint is emblematic of environmental injustice in the US.

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Here Comes the Neighborhood

Is it possible to revitalize a city block with only one house left?

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Behind Braddock: An Interview with Rosie Haber

The director of Topic’s August centerpiece opens up about Mayor John Fetterman and what it was like to shoot in an industrial town.

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About the Cover: Earth, Wind & Fire

Topic’s August cover artist on turning beach trash into beauty.

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Poems from the Underground

One of the deepest holes ever drilled in the name of science, and the man who wanted it to be remembered.

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