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Steamboat Magazine

It’s 2021. Listen up!

02/23/2021 01:12PM ● By Jennie Lay

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – As we ride out the rest of winter into spring, we’re encouraging you to do a little reading and spend a lot of quality time with your earbuds. Plus, we’re sharing one irresistible natural wonder for your eyeballs and one piece of essential enlightenment for your social media scrolling. 


Nature’s astounding light show goes on, whether we are traveling to the Arctic to watch it or not. The folks at Polar Bear International bring the aurora borealis from the skies over Churchill, Manitoba, to our living rooms. This remote village on the shore of Hudson Bay sits directly under the auroral oval, making it one of the best places on Earth to witness the colorful atmospheric phenomenon, especially during late winter. The live aurora cam is perched at the Churchill Northern Studies Center, a spot on the tundra that’s absent of light pollution.


Most anticipated nonfiction! 

“Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction” by Michelle Nijhuis 

While the cover suggests “Beloved Beasts” might stick to charismatic species, what science journalist Michelle Nijhuis unveils is something more foundational – a history of the people who fought for those species, and what drove them to do it. Conservation has an origin story that deserves considerable hand-wringing as we grapple with climate change and the sixth extinction. This is a definitive 300-year survey of the scientists and activists who harbored all manner of biases that shaped the ways we approach (or ignore) biodiversity. 

Nijhuis provides a wily and wildly intertwined history of modern conservation. There are heroes, but there are also deeper truths revealed in her modern survey of the science and activism that saves species. It is essential to this history that she does does not shy away from a harmful legacy of racism and colonialism that have pervaded conservation. While it is clearly the wildlife and ecosystems that hang in the balance, Nijhuis traces the essential roles that some of the most intriguing and influential humans have played in determining nature’s fate. 

There is light and shadow in this book. It is a reckoning, and a comprehensive history that every champion of conservation should dive into with vigor. Without a doubt, Nijhuis has added an essential and admirable volume to the canon of conservation literature. 

Michelle Nijhuis in conversation at Bud Werner Library, 7 p.m., Monday, March 22, 

Highly anticipated fiction! 

“Foregone” by Russell Banks 

Russell Banks is a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a living legend of the literary world. His novels often challenge our assumptions and understanding of ethical dilemmas, and “Foregone,” the story of a famous Canadian American leftist documentary filmmaker who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam and is now baring secrets on his death bed, holds true to form. In this new novel, “Banks, a conduit for the confounded and the unlucky, is at his most magnetic and provocative,” says Booklist. “In this masterful depiction of a psyche under siege by disease, age and guilt, Banks considers with profound intent the verity of memory, the mercurial nature of the self, and how little we actually know about ourselves and others.” 

Russell Banks in conversation at Bud Werner Library, 7 p.m., Thursday, April 1, 


Give yourself a break and stop doom-scrolling the headlines. These documentary podcasts provide meaty stories, deep context and all kinds of history, nature and interconnectedness that will help make you a better, more informed global citizen. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


Head deep into North America’s sagebrush sea with award-winning radio journalist Ashley Ahearn as she unravels the complicated predicament of the greater sage-grouse. Follow the bird’s plight on foot and horseback, from the voices of a Northern Paiute elder, Idaho cattle rancher, Wyoming energy executive, diehard environmentalist and wildlife biologists who monitor the leks. This eight-part podcast peels back the natural history and modern controversies that plague a once-prolific bird now hanging at the brink of extinction. Intimate ground-level storytelling follows grouse travails on a landscape altered by grazing, wildfire, oil and gas exploration and all manner of development. Even as an exercise in hope, these birds exemplify just how complicated rural life in the West can be.

“Timber Wars” 

Whether you vividly recall the 1990s Pacific Northwest battles surrounding lumberjacks, ancient forests, environmentalists and the Northern spotted owl, or the whole clear-cut controversy is new to you, this eight-episode podcast sheds light on a long saga of extraction, conservation, compromise and collaboration. In this moment when we’re wrangling with public lands and resource management in a changing climate, the timber wars of 30 years ago offer more than a few vital lessons. And here’s a little spoiler: smack-dab in the middle of the podcast we learn that our host, reporter Aaron Scott, is a Steamboat Springs native who moved to Oregon in 1989.

“Dare to Lead” 

Social scientist, big-hearted storyteller and bestselling author Brené Brown didn’t let any dust settle during her pandemic pause. Instead, she kicked it up like a Texas tornado with two exceptional new podcasts. We turned you on to “Unlocking Us” in the last issue (which we continue to obsess over), but then she popped out with a second powerhouse podcast, “Dare to Lead,” which she describes as “conversations with change-catalysts, culture-shifters and more than a few troublemakers who are innovating, creating, and daring to lead.” Translation: Brown interviews and analyzes some of America’s savviest leaders as they dissect how to make a better and more inclusive country, stronger companies, engaged citizenry and happier humanity. Both of Brown’s podcasts are available for free on Spotify. 

“Hope, Through History” 

Two gems from John Meacham! Offering perspective in a pandemic, Meacham partnered with the History Channel to shine a light on pivotal crises in American history, illuminating how major struggles broke us, unified us and changed us. In a five-part series, he surveys our national handling of the 1918 Flu Pandemic, the Great Depression, World War II, the polio epidemic and the Cuban Missile Crisis. While 2020 was a year filled with angst, this wider perspective is a balm for comprehending the confounding reactions of fellow citizens and leaders alike.

“It Was Said” 

Look back at 10 of the most powerful speeches in American history with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Jon Meacham. From Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech to Barbara Jordan’s 1976 keynote at the Democratic National Convention, to 23-year-old John Lewis speaking at the March on Washington, Meacham and his colleagues bring some of the most poignant and impactful words into the broader context of historical events.

“Gangster Capitalism” 

Following up on their Peabody Award nomination for documenting the college admissions scandal, “Gangster Capitalism” comes back strong with Season 2: The NRA. No matter your opinions on guns, this is an eye-popping case study of power, special interests and big money in America. It’s a documentary about straying from a mission, back-stabbing executives, quid pro quos and the breakdown of an organization. The ensuing drama plays out with all the twists and excesses of an ‘80s-era soap opera.

“Code Switch” 

Award-winning NPR journalists Shereen Marisol Meraji and Gene Demby are smart and snarky hosts ripping into truths and unraveling the intersection of race, ethnicity and culture in America. They present complicated, deep-thinking material that begs you to embrace the weekly podcast immediately – and then dive into the archives. The multi-racial, multi-generational “Code Switch” team shares often surprising and nuanced stories fleshed out with thoughtful interviews and personal insights into race and identity, shedding light on a more complete American history lesson that most of us missed the first time around.


“A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and Vision for the Future,” written and read by David Attenborough 

Read it if you must. But seriously, who would surrender a chance to have 6.5 hours of Attenborough’s soothing BBC voice resonating in your ear? 

This book is Attenborough’s manifesto for how to stop imperiling the planet, told through remarkable personal stories, dire warnings observed from a warming Earth, and an irrepressible sense of hope. It is a sweeping, intimate and heartbreaking memoir as we trace the conflicting trajectories of world population, atmospheric carbon and diminishing wilderness through the decades of his life. Yet one might be surprised at the acute optimism from this worldly 94-year-old natural historian. His definitive takeaway: Earth’s fragile biodiversity is wondrous and we must act immediately to cut our carbon and protect it. 

Bonus: Watch the documentary of the same name on Netflix. The book and film make poignant and beautiful companions. 


“The Mail Order Husband” 

Sink back and listen to a new radio play written by Jessica Austgen and performed by professional actors with Piknik Theater. In 1899 Steamboat Springs, an independent local rancher finds herself in need of a husband. Repulsed by the machismo cowboys and miners in her midst, she turns to a mail order catalog to find herself a man. Ranch life, romance and rough-and-tumble shenanigans ensue. Headphones are highly recommended to enjoy the 45-minute drama. 


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