California’s Beauty Doesn’t Love You Back

The Stunning Hillside Homes, Epic Mountains, and Gnarly Waves That Draw Us Here Also Threaten Our Existence

Early in the film Chinatown, a Southern California coroner named Morty chuckles after examining the dead body of the city’s water department chief.

“Isn’t that something?” Morty says. “Middle of a drought and the water commissioner drowns. Only in L.A.”

Not just in L.A., of course. All of California has a talent for catastrophic paradox—as this winter is reminding us.

Even as we suffer under a dangerous drought and tough water restrictions, atmospheric rivers flood our communities, force neighborhoods to evacuate, and contribute to dozens of deaths.

We are a state with surpassing wealth, …

Hurricane Maria ‘Lifted the Veil’ on Puerto Rico’s Broken System

The Island Must Confront Past Mismanagement, or Face Outsize Future Disasters

On September 20, 2017, when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the media, government officials, and the American public were in awe when the island lost electricity and went dark. More …

The Puerto Rican Trees That Can Stand Up to Hurricanes

In El Yunque, the Tropical Rainforest Has Evolved to Shed Its Limbs to the Wind—But Stay Upright

El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico is one of the jewels of the United States system of national forests—and its only tropical rainforest. When talking about El Yunque, forest …

Longing for the Softer Side of Hurricanes

A Continent Away from Horrible Destruction, I Miss the Familial Routines of My South Florida Childhood

After school, whenever I walked into my family’s home in Davie, Florida, I was always reminded of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew, which decimated nearly 64,000 homes some 60 miles away in …

Mexico’s ’85 Earthquake Didn’t Start a Revolution

And Neither Will the 2017 Tremor—Unless Public Disillusionment Erupts

Can the shaking of earthquakes upend political power?

This question often has been answered by referencing Mexico. Political scientists often link Mexico City’s devastating 8.0 magnitude earthquake on September 19, 1985, …

The 1938 Hurricane That Revived New England’s Fall Colors

An Epic Natural Disaster Restored the Forest of an Earlier America

This morning, while driving in central Vermont, listening to the latest news about hurricanes in Florida and Texas, I caught up with my first leaf peeper of the season. …