Climate Change Conference Meets in Kyoto, Japan, 1-10 December, 1997 (Credit: UN)

Peter Dykstra: The O.G.’s of E.J.

Covering Climate Now is an admirable, much-needed effort putting our planet front and center—but let's not overlook decades of strong journalism from the beat's pioneers.

With much fanfare, 170 news organizations signed on to the "Covering Climate Now" initiative.


The 170 range from international heavyweights like AFP, Bloomberg, CBS News, to dozens of big-city newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, to the usual-suspect nonprofit and advocacy outlets.

They've all committed to featuring climate change stories in the runup to the United Nation's Climate Week.

This is a great initiative – possibly a sign of breakthrough in major media's catastrophic failure to capture the urgency of climate change. But it runs the risk of overlooking decades of strong journalism from the beat's pioneers.

It's time to show some respect for the journalists who had climate change – and a host of other environmental threats — on their radar decades ago.

For those of you who don't normally trade in acronyms, the headline refers to the Original Gangstas of Environmental Journalism.

You know — the reporters who were hot on global warming 30 years before warming was cool.

Indeed, a few specialists were on the job at mainstream media outlets, focusing on pollution, extinction, and the other joyous plagues that inhabit our beat.

Let's meet three.

Phil Shabecoff had a 40-year career at the New York Times that included a stint as a foreign correspondent. He covered the White House during the fall of Richard Nixon. But he led the paper's environmental coverage for more than half his tenure there.

Phil Shabecoff

Here's an environment piece from Shabecoff from 40 years ago this month on the snail darter, the tiny fish that prompted an uproar over the Endangered Species Act.

Predating Shabecoff on the beat was Casey Bukro. He wrote extensively on the Great Lakes for the Chicago Tribune in the mid-1960's and became fulltime on the beat in 1970.

Bukro's relentless reporting on the Lakes, and the conservative Tribune's uncommonly green editorializing, helped bring about the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, in which the U.S. and Canada pledged to work together on Lakes cleanup.

Tom Horton

In 1974, Tom Horton began his life's work as the bard of the Chesapeake Bay. He spent the next 30 years as an environment reporter for the Baltimore Sun, reporting on the sometimes-halting effort to save America's largest estuary.

Horton held a special fascination for the Bay's Smith Island, whose habitation dates to the mid-17th Century. The Bay's struggling seafood industry is conspiring with sea level rise and land subsidence to possibly make Smith Island's 21st Century its last.

The Bay is far from saved, but Tom Horton is a big reason that there's consensus that it's worth saving.

A few more who deserve a nod for laying the groundwork: Jane Kay, who pioneered environmental reporting in Arizona and in the San Francisco Bay Area; Steve Curwood, who's hosted Public Radio International's Living On Earth for 28 years; Marla Cone, who edited EHN after a long and distinguished stint at the LA Times; and Ross Gelbspan, who penned two books on climate change amidst a three-decade-long career at the Boston Globe.

These are but a few of the small army of writers, reporters, photographers and documentarians that have been toiling toward such a potential breakthrough. Many of them will gather in Fort Collins, Colorado for the annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists next month, from October 9 to 13.

It's your best opportunity to meet some of the present, and future, O.G.'s of E.J.

abcnews.go.com

As seaweed becomes a top crop in East Africa, a new program will help farmers grow it sustainably

The Nature Conservancy is launching a new program in Zanzibar to help seaweed farmers develop sustainable practices and improve the resiliency of the important crop.

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

www.dw.com

Biodiversity blooms in cities when green spaces go wild

Cities are leaving once manicured green spaces to rewild with native flowers and grasses that attract more diverse insects, birds and wildlife.

news.mongabay.com

'In the plantations there is hunger and loneliness': The cultural dimensions of food insecurity in Papua

As palm oil companies take over their land, the Marind people of southern Papua, are struggling to feed themselves.

Top Amazon deforestation satellite researcher sacked by Bolsonaro

Just days after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro got the bad news that the Amazon 12-month deforestation rate has risen 96% since he took office, his administration fired the researcher overseeing monitoring.
news.mongabay.com

U.N.’s grand plan to save forests hasn’t worked, but some still believe it can

The world's tropical forests are in serious trouble, with deforestation worsening and the sixth mass extinction accelerating faster than scientists previously thought.

www.politico.com

Will your next salmon come from a massive land tank in Florida?

Move aside, fake meat. The future of protein might be salmon raised in a huge, air-conditioned suburban building.
www.wired.com

Your car is spewing microplastics that blow around the world

When you drive, tiny bits of plastic fly off your tires and brakes. And all that road muck is blowing into “pristine" environments like the Arctic.

From our Newsroom

Big Oil flows a little bit backward

Pipelines have had a very bad July (so far).

Beyond the “silver lining” of emissions reductions: Clean energy takes a COVID-19 hit

With job loss and stifled development in the renewable energy sector, economists, politicians, and advocates say policy action is necessary to stay on track.

A fracking giant's fall

Chesapeake Energy was a fracking pioneer on a meteoric rise. Last week, it fell to Earth.

Our annual summer reading list, 2020 edition

EHN staff shares their top book recommendations for the summer.

Coronavirus is creating a crisis of energy insecurity

Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to unpaid bills and energy shutoffs in many vulnerable US households. Indiana University researchers warn we need to act now to avoid yet another health emergency.

Ode to Jersey

From shark attacks to the "syringe tide"—a brief look at the highs and lows of New Jersey's environmental past.

The Daily Climate

Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers.

Don't get left in the rain! Join our Daily Climate newsletter!