InsideClimate News has won the 2019 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism for its eye-opening series “Harvesting Peril: Extreme Weather and Climate Change on the American Farm.” Reporters Georgina Gustin, Neela Banerjee, John H. Cushman Jr. and Paul Horn explored agriculture’s role in the growing climate crisis, and the forces preventing it from playing a greater part in combating climate change. The team investigated the influence of the nation’s largest farm lobby, the American Farm Bureau Federation, which helps shape climate opinion among American farmers. InsideClimate News revealed how the AFBF puts at risk the very farmers it represents by working to defeat treaties and regulations that could slow global warming, and by denying the science in tandem with fossil fuel interests.
Two Finalists for the 2019 Oakes Award are: ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine for “Fuel to the Fire,” and The Desert Sun for “Poisoned Cities, Deadly Border.”
- “Fuel to the Fire” is a rare investigation that exposed how Indonesian palm companies were operating illegally working with corrupt regulators to cover up the disastrous environmental effects from slashing and burning palm trees. By gaining access to remote regions, reporter Abrahm Lustgarten (CJS ‘03) detailed how Indonesian palm companies had caused the release of more carbon in one year than the annual emissions of the continent of Europe.
- “Poisoned Cities, Deadly Border” chronicled how unchecked pollution has led to an environmental crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. Reporters Ian James and Zoë Meyers discovered how the severely polluted New River and air pollution in Mexicali has affected people on both sides of the border. The Desert Sun’s revelations led to the hiring of a new official to oversee pollution-fighting efforts on the border, announced plans to deploy 50 air-quality monitors in Mexicali, and new efforts by California lawmakers to clean up the New River.
The 2019 Oakes Award winners and finalists will be honored at Columbia Journalism School on Mon., Sept. 9. InsideClimate News will receive a $5,000 honorarium.
Given annually for news reporting that makes an exceptional contribution to the public’s understanding of environmental issues, the Oakes Award was founded in 1993 by family, friends and colleagues of John B. Oakes (1913-2001). Oakes was an environmental journalism pioneer and an editorial writer for The New York Times.
WINNER - InsideClimate News
Harvesting Peril: Extreme weather and climate change on the American farm
Journalists: Georgina Gustin, Neela Banerjee, John H. Cushman Jr. and Paul Horn
Judges’ Citation: Agriculture accounts for about a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and farmers are on the front line of the global climate crisis as they face mounting damages from floods, droughts and pestilence. This comprehensive examination by InsideClimate News showed how the American farm lobby has refused to embrace the findings of science and instead mounted a decades-long campaign of opposition to climate action. The series revealed how, in league with the fossil fuels industry and their denialist allies, big agriculture has lobbied against international agreements or domestic regulations on emissions. The farm lobby has shrugged off climate-friendly solutions, shirking a major role for farmers, whose crops could profitably absorb heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store them safely in healthy soils. Instead, the industry has fostered a system of subsidized insurance and disaster bail-outs, of megafarms and monocultures — and has left independent family farmers in precarious straits. InsideClimate News’ smart reporting from the field, its engaging explanatory graphics, and its trenchant insights illuminated a problem that is getting increasing attention at a time of rising risks and persistent inaction.