Environment Journalism Today: Gallery

SEJ's archive of the very best investigative series and special projects on environmental topics, including many prize-winners. See Environmental Journalism Today for more stories.

February 26, 2008
wedgeEnvironmental Justice
Witnesses To An Era Wait

A Living On Earth investigation has found neighbors of a New Orleans plant that once produced some of the most dangerous herbicides and insecticides known to man may be being left unprotected. Officials say the levels of DDT, termite killer and Agent Orange are safe, but their own data calls that into question. One sample taken in front of a home was the state's top hit for four banned insect killers in a series of EPA tests. Air date week of Feb. 22, 2008.
Author contact information: Ingrid Lobet

February 12, 2008
Dark Side of a Hot Biofuel: Climate and Indonesia's Forests, Species Pay for Palm Oil Craze

Sacramento Bee's Tom Knudson, an SEJ member, reports how the booming market for palm oil is leading to the conversion of Indonesia's rain forests into palm plantations. "Where a rich rain forest once stood, storing carbon in its roots, branches, trunks and soil, vast fields of oil palms stretched across the landscape, displacing native people and leaving some of the world's most majestic creatures -- from Sumatran tigers to orangutans -- without a home." This is Knudson's third installment, running Jan. 20, 2008, in an occasional series on international consequences of US consumer demands, reported with support from the Alicia Patterson Foundation.
Author contact information: Tom Knudson (530) 582-5336
See also: Promises and poverty - Starbuck's "worker-friendly" coffee
Grubbing for oil -- US thirst drives exploitation of Canada's tar sands

February 7, 2008
"Shifting Sands"

This in-depth multimedia series in the Toronto Globe and Mail Jan. 26-Feb. 2, 2008, explores the political, economic, and environmental complexities and controversies surrounding Alberta's oil sands as an energy source. Reporting team includes Erin Anderssen, Shawn Mccarthy, Eric Reguly, David Ebner, Barrie McKenna, Sinclair Stewart, Doug Saunders, and Gordon Pitts; photos by Edward Burtynsky.

January 21, 2008
"Did Oil Canals Worsen Katrina's Effects?"

"IN THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA -- Service canals dug to tap oil and natural gas dart everywhere through the black mangrove shrubs, bird rushes and golden marsh. From the air, they look like a Pac-Man maze superimposed on an estuarine landscape 10 times the size of Grand Canyon National Park. There are 10,000 miles of these oil canals. They fed America's thirst for energy, but helped bring its biggest delta to the brink of collapse. They also connect an overlooked set of dots in the Hurricane Katrina aftermath: The role that some say the oil industry played in the $135 billion disaster, the nation's costliest. The delta, formed by the accumulation of the Mississippi River's upstream mud over thousands of years, is a shadow of what it was 100 years ago. Since the 1930s, a fifth of the 10,000-square-mile delta has turned into open water, decreasing the delta's economic and ecologic value by as much as $15 billion a year, according to Louisiana State University studies. The rate of land loss, among the highest in the world, has exposed New Orleans and hundreds of other communities to the danger of drowning. Katrina made that painfully clear." Cain Burdeau reports for the Associated Press Jan. 20, 2008.

January 15, 2008
Wild Green Yonder: Flying the Environmentally Friendly Skies on Alternative Fuels

From liquid coal to biofuels, military and commercial aviators are searching for domestically sourced, cost-effective and clean alternatives to petroleum-derived jet fuel, David Biello reports at Scientific American.com on Jan. 14, 2008.
Author contact information: David Biello
See also: "Virgin Atlantic To Test Run Biofuel Flights in Feb." (CBC)
Europe May Ban Certain Biofuel Imports (New York Times)

January 9, 2008
Great Lakes
Growing Fuel: Ethanol's Minnesota Roots

In a four-part, four-day series that began Monday, Jan. 7, 2008, reporters Ron Way and Mark Neuzil examine corn ethanol in Minnesota for the on-line news source Minnpost. The series looks at how Minnesota became a political hotbed for ethanol production and subsidies, the ecology of corn ethanol, the economics of ethanol and alternatives.
Author contact information: Mark Neuzil
See also: Part 1

January 7, 2008
wedgeClimate Change
Great Lakes
Simple Changes Can Make a Difference in Reducing Climate Emissions

Making simple changes around the house or on the road could help Wisconsin offset higher global warming emissions from coal-fired power plants now under construction, Thomas Content writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Dec. 17, 2007. The story and consumer guide to saving energy and emissions wrap up a yearlong series looking at climate change and Wisconsin.
Author contact information: Thomas Content
See also: Your Green Guide, Bright Ideas for How to Save Money & Help the Planet
A Change in Climate: Global Warming and Wisconsin

December 31, 2007
wedgePublic Lands
"Surge in Off-Roading Stirs Dust and Debate in West"

"DURANGO, Colo. -- In the San Juan National Forest here, an iron rod gate is the last barrier to the Weminuche Wilderness, a mountain redoubt above 10,000 feet where wheels are not allowed. But the gate has been knocked down repeatedly, shot at and generally disregarded. Miles beyond it, a two-track trail has been punched into the wilderness by errant all-terrain-vehicle riders who have insisted on going their own way, on-trail or off. From Colorado's forests to Utah's sandstone canyons and the evergreen mountains of Montana, federally owned lands are rapidly being transformed into the new playgrounds -- and battlegrounds -- of the American West. Outdoor enthusiasts are flocking in record numbers to lesser-known forests, deserts and mountains, where the rules of use have been lax and enforcement infrequent. The federal government has been struggling to come up with plans to accommodate the growing numbers of off-highway vehicles -- mostly with proposed maps directing them toward designated trails -- but all-terrain-vehicle users have started formidable lobbying campaigns when favorite trails have been left off the maps." Felicity Barringer and William Yardley report for the New York Times Dec. 30, 2007, in the the fourth installment in a series of articles looking at the changing demands on federally owned land in the American West.

See also: Series Portal

December 26, 2007
Great Lakes
"Area Parents Switching to Glass for Baby's Bottle"

"Local moms are playing it cautious when it comes to their babies' bottles. Retailers throughout southeastern Wisconsin say they have seen a swell of interest in glass and bisphenol A-free baby bottles in the past few weeks. So much so that a store manager at USA Baby in Brookfield said manufacturers have been unable to keep up with his customers' demands. 'We've really seen a surge in the last month,' said Tom Blackmore, manager of USA Baby. 'It's been hard to keep glass bottles in stock.' A growing body of research indicates that bisphenol A -- a chemical used to make the hard, clear plastic called polycarbonate, as well as the epoxy resins used to line aluminum cans -- is harmful to laboratory animals. In a first-of-its-kind newspaper analysis this month, the Journal Sentinel reviewed 258 scientific studies that looked at the effects of bisphenol A on live laboratory animals with spines, and found that an overwhelming majority of those studies indicated the chemical is toxic, even at doses below those considered safe by U.S. regulators. And two government panels, including one that has come under fire as being biased toward chemical-makers, warned this year that bisphenol A might be dangerous to developing fetuses and children younger than 3. A check of local stores indicates that moms are heeding the warning, and Blackmore's experience at USA Baby is not isolated." Susanne Rust and Cary Spivak report for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Dec. 25, 2007.

See also: Journal-Sentinel Report: Are your products safe? You can't tell.

December 24, 2007
Wetlands Left High & Dry

In the final installment on Dec. 23, 2007, of her yearlong series "Our Natural Treasures," Dinah Voyles Pulver of the Daytona Beach News-Journal takes the reader into the world of wetlands in her region, why they're important and the steps being taken to stem the tide of wetland losses. The series has focused on why people should care about the imperiled ecosystems around them and what each person can do to help. Interactive photo galleries are included for each story.
Author contact information: Dinah Voyles Pulver
See also: Natural Treasures Photo galleries

December 17, 2007
"Choking on Growth: In China, Farming Fish in Toxic Waters"

"FUQING, China -- Here in southern China, beneath the looming mountains of Fujian Province, lie dozens of enormous ponds filled with murky brown water and teeming with eels, shrimp and tilapia, much of it destined for markets in Japan and the West. Fuqing is one of the centers of a booming industry that over two decades has transformed this country into the biggest producer and exporter of seafood in the world, and the fastest-growing supplier to the United States. But that growth is threatened by the two most glaring environmental weaknesses in China: acute water shortages and water supplies contaminated by sewage, industrial waste and agricultural runoff that includes pesticides. The fish farms, in turn, are discharging wastewater that further pollutes the water supply." David Barboza reports for the New York Times Dec. 15, 2007, in the eighth in a series of articles and multimedia "examining the human toll, global impact and political challenge of China's epic pollution crisis."

December 16, 2007
wedgeAir Quality
Fighting for Air: Valley Faces Decades of Cleanup

Fresno is the asthma capital of the state, and it's not hard to see why -- behind Los Angeles, San Joaquin Valley's air quality is the worst in the country. In a 16-page special section published Dec. 16, and in an accompanying online multimedia package, Barbara Anderson, Russell Clemings and Mark Grossi of the Fresno Bee examine why it's taking so long to clear the air. Online, readers can see visual demonstrations of pollution and its impact on human lungs, test their knowledge of the problem and find out if their vehicle may be part of it.
Author contact information: Barbara Anderson, Russ Clemings, Mark Grossi (559) 441-6310, (559) 441-6371, (559) 441-6316

December 4, 2007
Great Plains
Oil Sands Could Fuel South Dakota Boom

Welcome to the new Saudi Arabia. Instead of desert sands, the next great oil bonanza sits just beneath the vast forest of spruce and aspen in northern Alberta, Canada. Known as oil sands, these gooey deposits of mostly dirt represent the world's second-largest petroleum reserve. The oil sands also could be the next source of economic bounty for South Dakota, with companies drafting plans for a pipeline from Alberta and, more importantly, a new refinery to process Canadian crude in the state. Ben Shouse of the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader reports a three-day series, which concludes Dec. 4, 2007.
Author contact information: Ben Shouse
See also: Canadian boomtown's struggles could give insight to South Dakota
South Dakotans wonder about refinery's effects
Oil Sands Help First Nations

November 27, 2007
"Many Question If Seattle's Duwamish Waterway Can Ever Be Restored"

"A crane drops an industrial-sized electrical transformer, which breaks, oozing its toxic payload into the river. A railroad tanker car full of highly toxic PCB-contaminated oil and poked full of holes lies half-buried just yards from the river's edge. At a metal-recycling yard near the Duwamish, a worker pours PCB-laden oil from inside electrical transformers directly onto the ground. This goes on for months -- if not years. These scenes from the past speak to an ugly truth: We have systematically abused and negligently defiled the river that for millennia nourished Seattle's first people -- and brought the city much of its modern-day wealth. The river has started to limp back. But a nascent effort to revive it under the federal government's Superfund program has been plagued by a series of missteps on early cleanups, recalcitrant polluters and a mind-numbingly complex cleanup process that critics say won't get the job done." Robert McClure reports for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer with Colin McDonald and photographer Paul Joseph Brown in a 3-part feature package that began Nov. 25, 2007.

wedgeClimate Change
Special Report: Examining Climate Change Problems and Solutions

Scientific American magazine delivers a multi-faceted, multi-media exploration of the scientific intricacies of climate change in a special report that hit the news stands Nov. 26, 2007. The cover package follows the final Synthesis Report of the world's authoritative climate science body, the IPCC -- and comes on the eve of a major diplomatic meeting in Bali to begin forging a next-generation climate treaty. SA's editors say: "This special report explores the latest findings on the impact of human activity on Earth's climate -- from the melting of Arctic ice to the potential spread of disease. It also explores the more pertinent question of where we can go from here."

November 26, 2007
wedgeClimate Change
Canada's Arctic Coastlines Feel Climate Change Onslaught

"TUKTOYAKTUK, N.W.T. -- Steve Solomon had two choices at the end of his stay in Tuktoyaktuk in August 2006. He could stay inside and sit down to the smorgasbord of roast muskox, caribou stew, arctic char and apple pie being served at the end of a scientific conference that brought together Inuit hunters and Arctic scientists. Or he could venture out and face the full fury of a storm sweeping in from the Beaufort Sea. Being a city boy from New York State who had come to Canada's North seeking fortune, not extreme weather, Solomon did what any self-respecting coastal geologist would do. He donned his toque, pulled up his raincoat collar and stepped into a deluge. It was the only way for the Geological Survey of Canada employee to see what the storm was doing to the artificial barriers protecting this Inuvialuit community of 1,000, which sits a scant five metres above sea level. ... Coastal communities around the world are just beginning to come to terms with the possibility that climate change, rising sea levels and melting permafrost might some day threaten their homes and cities. But people living in the western Arctic are already getting a taste of the nightmares coming their way. Storm-driven waves that are no longer being buffered by thick sheets of Arctic sea ice are slowly eroding coastlines, destroying buildings and washing dozens of archeological sites into the sea. Ed Struzik reports for the Toronto Star Nov. 24, 2007.

wedgeInvasive Species
Aquatic Weeds Invade Oregon's Waters

In the third part of a 10-month series on Oregon's invasive species, Henry Miller of the Salem Statesman Journal looks at two aquatic weeds that are choking out native fish and plants in Oregon waters, as well as hydrilla, a species that other states are fighting with millions of dollars. Oregon is lucky enough to have kept hydrilla at bay -- for now. Package ran Nov. 25, 2007.
Author contact information: Henry Miller

October 30, 2007
Newspaper Tests Show High Levels of Mercury in People Near Hot Spots

As part of a three-part series called "The Mercury Connection," The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier identified two areas in South Carolina with high levels of mercury in fish and collected hair samples from people who eat from these waters. Tests showed 17 people had levels higher than a federal safety benchmark and six had levels that rank among the highest tested in nation. The series comes amid a growing debate over a proposal for a new coal-fired power plant near one of the mercury hot spots identified by the newspaper. The series also showed how South Carolina government officials have had advanced equipment to test people with mercury contamination for three years but have only done one test for a member of the public. Tony Bartelme reports Oct. 28-30, 2007.
Author contact information: Tony Bartelme 843-937-5554
See also: Day One Story
Day Two Story

October 26, 2007
wedgeClimate Change
Forecast: Cloudy -- Weather Forecasters Are Climate Skeptics

The debate over whether humans are causing climate change is essentially over, but a very important group of people continue to be skeptical of the scientific consensus. Many state climatologists and TV meteorologists are openly skeptical. The hourlong show looks at why these 'weather messengers' aren't convinced yet of the long-range forecast -- and what it means when you can't trust the weathermen to tell you which way the winds of change are blowing. Christy George of Oregon Public Broadcasting produced the one-hour documentary. It aired on OPB-TV Thursday, 10/25/07 at 9pm Pacific, re-airs Sunday 10/28 at 1pm and again Tuesday, 10/30 at 11pm. Website streaming video goes live Friday 10/26.
Author contact information: Christy George
See also: Alternate Website

"Sow What?" Grist Series Explores Food and Farming

"You know where babies come from, sure -- but do you know where Tater Tots come from? In this two-week series, we'll take you on a behind-the-scenes tour of your very own diet. Everybody eats, every day, but we tend to gloss over the details. Things like the work that really goes into putting food on our plates, the environmental impacts of food production, and how we can make the best choices -- for our bodies and the planet -- when it comes time to chow down. So take a seat at the Grist table as we venture to the Farm Belt to talk with farmers, economists, and chefs; check in with leading writers like Michael Pollan and Elizabeth Royte; and give you a chance to ask for advice from the folks at Sustainable Table, a national group that connects shoppers with local suppliers. We'll also take a close look at confined-animal feeding operations and at a sustainable-food revolution in Iowa, share some tasty recipes, and even give you a chance to quiz yourself on your edible IQ." Tom Philpott reports this just-concluded special series with Katharine Wroth, Kurt Michael Friese, Elizabeth Royte, and Roz Cummins in Grist, the online magazine, Oct. 9, 2007.

October 11, 2007
wedgeNuclear Power/Radiation
Great Lakes
Davis-Besse Cover-Up Trial Begins

"Six years later, it remains an unsettling question: How much was covered up about the Davis-Besse nuclear plant in the fall of 2001? Hadn't the nuclear industry learned its lesson from the panic that ensued in March, 1979, when half of the Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor core melted near Harrisburg, Pa.? And where was the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the government agency that's supposed to protect the public? Those and other questions could be answered in the coming weeks, with the first of two criminal trials of former Davis-Besse workers starting in U.S. District Court this morning in downtown Toledo." Tom Henry reports ongoing coverage of the trial in the Toledo Blade beginning 10/1/07.

See also: "Engineer To Discuss Cover-Up Allegation"
"Problems Add Up for Davis-Besse"
"Davis-Besse Ex-Workers Called Liars"
"Court Told of Failed Bid To Shut Davis-Besse"

"Troubled Waters"

Good and bad decisions on management of the Klamath River in Oregon and California have affected everyone from farmers to fishermen. H. Bruce Miller reports a three-part series on the Klamath in The Source Weekly beginning 9/26/07.

See also: Part 2
Part 3

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Last revised January 22, 2013

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