A bit of transparency: Wired operates in San Francisco. We enjoy the innovation culture of Silicon Valley, the lush nature of Northern California, the crazy politics and social movements of the Western edge of the continent.
But we’re not alone in this. Fascination with this region, and the myths and ideas surrounding it, isn’t limited to locals. The legend of the American West has been told again and again since the 1800s. It survives today through a variety of voices, from AMC’s Hell On Wheels to George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns.
Jon Christensen, executive director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford, is a historian who studies the place of the West in the modern world. He runs an independent research outfit, working with everyone from policy makers to journalists to research the area and its cultural significance.
On this week’s Storyboard, Christensen gently disagrees with most of host Adam Rogers’ ideas about the West while agreeing to be amazed by the place—and to to discuss how the Western narrative recapitulates all over the world. Christensen also lays out some ideas about how the Western approach to ecology and the environment might save an overpopulated planet.
For those of you east of the Mississippi: sorry. But this podcast is available wherever you are.