Series

It's an unsavory truth in American democracy that politicians, to some extent, do get to choose their voters. The party in power often tries to draw state legislative and U.S. House of Representatives district maps to its own advantage, and courts have been reluctant to stop it unless there's strong evidence of racial discrimination. The Republican wave of election victories in 2010, and the increasing sophistication of redistricting software set the stage for an aggressive new batch of legislative maps in Wisconsin and other states. Multiple federal lawsuits challenging this redistricting followed. One court challenge arising from Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford, set out to prove that partisan gerrymandering could violate voters' rights even if it wasn't racially discriminatory. The case reached the U. S. Supreme Court, and the resulting decision could trigger a seismic change in how political parties consolidate electoral power.More
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WisContext presents excerpts from books published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press to provide a deeper look at how the history of the state has influenced its contemporary landscape. These selections focus on events and experiences that illustrate historical changes in Wisconsin related to demographics, health, the economy and the environment — issues that have left an imprint on the state and continue to resonate in the 21st century.More
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The Yahara River is relatively short in length and small in volume, but it plays an outsized role in Wisconsin given its location and status as the subject of detailed scientific research. A tributary of the Rock River, which in turn flows into the Mississippi, the Yahara is defined by the chain of lakes that are home to Madison and its suburbs, which are growing rapidly. Dominated for many decades by agriculture, the watershed drained by the river is increasingly becoming urbanized as its population increases. The region's water faces challenges in terms of quality and quantity that development and climate change are intensifying over the long term. University of Wisconsin scientists have long studied the lakes and how the surrounding landscape affects their condition, establishing the watershed and Madison area as a model for better understanding interactions between cities and the natural world around them.More
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Phosphorus is an essential building block of life, but it's also one of the world's most common and troublesome pollutants. Intensive agriculture unleashes excess levels of phosphorus in the form of manure and other fertilizers. What plants don't consume of this essential nutrient lingers on the ground or makes its way down into soil. Rain pushes this phosphorus into streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater. When too much enters a body of water, it can fuel blooms of noxious and sometimes toxic microorganisms — a frequent problem in lakes around Wisconsin and in the Great Lakes. Farmers, scientists, environmentalists, and state and local officials are struggling to reach a consensus about how to manage this nutrient pollution while maintaining a robust agricultural industry.More
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Dairy is iconic in Wisconsin, with the production of milk and cheese a longstanding foundation of the state's identity and global reputation. This industry is a significant component of Wisconsin's economy, dependent on the fluctuations of international markets and tastes of consumers, with each affecting the livelihoods of farmers and their employees. Meanwhile, the structure of the business is changing, with the number of farms decreasing as their average size is increasing. Around Wisconsin, the direction of the dairy industry will define the future for producers and communities.More
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