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What We Read to Understand the Wildfires

Here are our favorite articles on the wildfires from around the web.

A man reading a smoky magazine.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

The past week of wildfire smoke blanketing the East Coast was confusing, unprecedented, and unnerving.

While Heatmap has covered the story’s many angles, our writers are also looking to other sources to understand — and help them explain — the last two days of extreme weather. Here’s a selection of stories that we found helpful:

Canadian Wildfires and Climate Change” (The Climate Brink)

I really enjoyed Zeke Hausfather’s review of what the research says about the connection between these wildfires and climate change. The science of these fires is more complicated than Western blazes, and I think Zeke threads the needle well. –Robinson Meyer

We Suffer Too Many Fools Who Start Wildfires” (TheNew York Times)

I liked this piece because, as a climate journalist, I have a tendency to see wildfires as the result of system changes in the environment that lead to more fires. This piece, an essay by a former fire protection official, makes what seems like an obvious point that's too often unheeded: wildfires are often the immediate result of very stupid behavior. –Matthew Zeitlin

Liberty Game Postponed as NYC Battles Air Quality Issues from Wildfire Smoke” (New York Post)

We hear so much about how we ought to stay inside during air quality events like this, but the indoors isn’t totally safe — apparently, smoke actually penetrated Barclays Center, where the game was supposed to be played. But if we can’t get away from the smoke indoors, where does that leave us left to go? –Jeva Lange

Trying to Breathe in a City of Smoke” (The New Yorker)

“We know the story of the climate crisis, of how wealthy nations have burned fossil fuels at an astonishing rate, pushing our planet to the brink. Yet we live as though we do not, and we breathe the consequences,” Carolyn Kormann writes for The New Yorker. –Neel Dhanesha

As Smoke Darkens the Sky, the Future Becomes Clear” (The New York Times)

“The haunting gray glow of the sky this week was both a throwback to a more contaminated past and a portent of a future clouded more regularly by airborne toxic events such as these," David Wallace-Wells writes. –Emily Pontecorvo

WGA East Cancels All NYC Picketing for Rest of the Week Due to Record Unhealthy Air Quality” (Deadline)

Wildfire smoke has all kinds of implications - including on labor, when the smoke in New York forced the Writers Guild of America East to cancel its planned pickets for Wednesday. But unions can't be stopped so easily, and ironically the air quality in LA was better, so WGA West pickets went on as scheduled. –Neel Dhanesha


Will Kubzansky

Will is an intern at Heatmap from Washington, D.C. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Brown Daily Herald. Previously, he interned at the Wisconsin State Journal and National Journal. Read More

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Boston’s Big Dig Was Secretly Great

A podcast by GBH News reporter Ian Coss gives this notorious project a long-overdue reappraisal. Bonus: The show comes with lessons for climate infrastructure projects of the future.

Boston being dug by a backhoe.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

If you’ve lived in Massachusetts at any point in the last 50 years, you’ve heard of the Big Dig. It’s infamous — a tunnel project that was supposed to bury an elevated highway in Boston to the tune of $2 billion that eventually ballooned in cost to $15 billion and took a quarter of a century to finish.

The Big Dig was more than just a highway project, though. It was a monumental effort that Ian Coss, a reporter at GBH News, calls a “renovation of downtown Boston.” The project built tunnels and bridges, yes, but it also created parks, public spaces, and mass transit options that transformed the city. In a nine-episode podcast series appropriately called The Big Dig, Coss dives into the long, complicated history of the project, making a case for why the Big Dig was so much more than the boondoggle people think it was.

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