News | February 9, 2023

Celebrating our 2023 Reed Environmental Writing Award winners, Corban Addison and Isabelle Chapman

Reed Award virtual event available here:

Launch Event

This year’s Reed Environmental Writing Award winners, Corban Addison and Isabelle Chapman, demonstrate the power of writing to capture some of the most important environmental issues facing Southern communities.

Corban Addison receives the Reed Award for “Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial,” where he details how a close-knit, rural community in North Carolina battled the polluting practices of large-scale industrial hog farming taking place in their own backyards for more than a generation.

Isabelle Chapman receives the Reed Award for “Gambling ‘America’s Amazon,'” published by CNN, in which she exposes how Alabama Power plans to bury a massive heap of toxic coal waste in one of North America’s most biodiverse river systems, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

An award ceremony will be held in honor of the winners during the Virginia Festival of the Book. This event is free and open to the public. Please join us at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 24 in the CODE Building, located at 225 West Water Street on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Va. Those unable to attend in person can stream the award ceremony online.

The first 100 people to register for the Reed Award ceremony recieve a free copy of “Wastelands.”

The Reed Award celebrates writers who achieve both literary excellence and offer extraordinary insight into the South’s natural treasures and environmental challenges. Presented each year, the Reed Award recognizes outstanding writing on the Southern environment in two categories: the Book Category for works of nonfiction (not self-published) and the Journalism Category for newspaper, magazine, and online writing published by a recognized institution such as a news organization, university, or nonprofit group.

2023 Reed Award Winner: Book

In the summer of 2008, while Addison was practicing law and writing books that he describes as ‘nothing anyone would want to publish,’ he had an idea for a novel and that would be the beginning of his writing journey. Four books later, his friends encouraged him to try his hand at nonfiction. His response. “Find me a true story that I can write with the narrative tension and emotional intimacy of a novel and that will captivate readers from the first page to the last, and I’ll tell it.” ”Wastelands” is that story.

Addison writes in “Wastelands” of the once idyllic coastal plain of North Carolina as home to a close-knit, rural community that, for more than a generation, has pushed back against the polluting practices of industrial hog farms happening in its own backyard. After years of frustration and futility, an impassioned community of determined residents whose history is steeped in the land, led by a team of intrepid and dedicated lawyers, filed a lawsuit against one of the world’s most powerful companies — and, miraculously, they won.

2023 Reed Award Winner: Journalism

Isabelle Chapman is a producer with CNN Investigates where she covers important national stories, including ones that focus on environmental issues. In “Gambling ‘America’s Amazon,’” for CNN, Chapman exposes the dangers of coal ash and how utility companies have been careless with the substance by storing it in unlined pits for decades. Coal ash is often stored on fragile waterways or in areas where communities and their drinking water sources are at risk of contamination from the pollution. Her piece focuses on Alabama Power’s Plant Barry and the surrounding river system, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, a biodiversity hot spot with wildlife and plants found nowhere else on Earth, and the communities located in the danger zone if the coal ash were to spill and create a public health disaster.

2023 Award Ceremony Speaker

Heather McTeer Toney, award-winning speaker, respected author, and expert on environmental and climate justice issues, will be this year’s featured speaker. In her upcoming book, “Before the Streetlights Come On: Black America’s Urgent Call for Climate Solutions scheduled to be released on April 17, in time for Earth Day — Toney discusses the disproportionate impact of climate change on the Black community and why those most affected by climate change are best suited to lead the movement for climate justice.