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National Geographic Magazine December 2020

The latest news in science, exploration, and culture will open your eyes to the world’s many wonders. Get a National Geographic digital magazine subscription today and experience the same high-quality articles and breathtaking photography contained in the print edit.

United States
National Geographic Society
12 Issues

in this issue

2 min
responding to a rapidly changing world

OUR WORLD HAS CHANGED dramatically since I accepted the position as CEO of the National Geographic Society in January, having spent the past nine years as president of Colorado College. When we look back on 2020, organizations will be measured by how they reacted to two life-altering global events: the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial justice movement spurred by systemic racism and violence toward Black Americans. National Geographic has covered both extensively. In response to the pandemic, the Society pivoted to focus its education programs on supporting teachers, parents, and students with learn-at-home resources, including a series connecting students with National Geographic explorers on all seven continents. To help educators design distance-learning resources, we gave grants to teachers in under-resourced communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic. And to ensure that news…

2 min
valuing the lakes (from a distance)

I GREW UP in the Great Lakes State, and for many years now, during my annual summer (yes, it has to be summer) visit back to Michigan, I’m always happy about what I don’t see. I don’t see throngs of Californians (sorry) swarming adorable lakeside towns like Petoskey or Glen Arbor. I don’t see hordes of New Yorkers (sorry) splashing about Lake Michigan or thundering down the steep white sands of Sleeping Bear Dunes. No offense to the multitudes on both coasts, but I’ve always been glad the still-unspoiled charms of northwest Michigan felt like my secret—or at least a secret held by a smaller group of people, largely from the Midwest. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about the downside of being out of sight and out of mind. Most people seldom think…

1 min
as seen from the ground

Quarantined in the Veluwe region of the Netherlands, a photographer studies the fungi in his garden and nearby woods.…

2 min
the backstory

I’VE TRAVELED all over the world taking pictures of nature and ecosystems. When COVID-19 hit in March 2020 in the Netherlands, where I live, I stayed home like everyone else. That’s when I began to notice the fungi growing in my yard and around my neighborhood. That mushrooms and other fungi thrive in humidity became abundantly clear to me starting in autumn 2019, when the Netherlands received an exceptional amount of precipitation. But perhaps more essential than humidity for fungi is dead wood. Rotting timber contains nutrients that enter the soil, which in turn can help microorganisms, fungi, and insects. The entire food chain benefits from it. Around here, deposits of wood left behind from a former era of forest-cutting have long enriched the soil and supported biodiversity. The situation may be changing.…

8 min
celebrating in the pandemic

SOMETIMES WE LET GO of things, sometimes things are taken away, and sometimes things break, such as lives, hearts, entire ways of life. Doesn’t our world feel broken in the time of COVID-19, maybe especially when holy days arrive? If we are wise, we avoid large gatherings, dinner indoors with family and old friends, services at our mosques, temples, churches—so we lose the joyful and profound rituals and gatherings at this time of devastation when we need them most. But does this mean we lose the nurture, bonding, and sacred silliness that ceremonies provide? Maybe we can be fully immersed in the holy even as we keep ourselves and our beloveds safe. Maybe broken isn’t the end of the world. Maybe broken is a new beginning, a portal. Let’s start with what we…

1 min
katy croff bell

This oceanographer deploys technology, diversity in exploration. Most of the deep sea, Earth’s largest habitat, has yet to be explored. Even after decades of probing and scanning the depths with submarines and remotely operated vehicles, scientists have seen just a fraction of what’s down there. In those uncharted waters Katy Croff Bell sees a great opportunity to engage women and people of color in science. A National Geographic Society fellow and an expert on the deep sea (below 200 meters), Bell has been on more than 40 oceanographic and archaeological expeditions since 1999. When she began, there were few women in the field. “If we’re actually going to explore the entire ocean, we not only need new technology but also new communities of people to be involved,” Bell says. She has built a diverse…