Press Release | February 11, 2021

2021 Reed Awards Honor Great Writing About the Southeast’s Fragile Coast

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Two writers who have delved into the past and present challenges facing treasured places on the Southeast coast will receive the 2021 Phillip D. Reed Environmental Writing Awards from the Southern Environmental Law Center. SELC will present the awards March 25 during this year’s Virginia Festival of the Book.

In the book category, former Georgia state legislator Paul Bolster will receive the Reed Award for Saving the Georgia Coast: A Political History of the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act. In the journalism category, Tony Bartelme of The Post and Courier in Charleston will receive the Reed Award for his in-depth reporting on South Carolina’s coastal environment, including communities where the damaging impacts of climate change are happening now.

The featured speaker for the Reed Award presentation will be Lulu Miller, co-host of WNYC Studios’ Radiolab and author of the widely acclaimed Why Fish Don’t Exist, a nonfiction scientific thriller and memoir. The free, online event will be at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. To register to receive a link to the Zoom session, visit

This Year’s Book Award Winner: Paul Bolster

In Saving the Georgia Coast, published by the University of Georgia Press, Paul Bolster brings to life the unlikely coalition of local residents, wealthy landowners, hunters and anglers, garden club members, courageous politicians and others who came together more than 50 years ago to defend Georgia’s unspoiled coastal marshlands. At the same time, he traces the intricate legislative maneuvers that resulted in passage of the 1970 Coastal Marshlands Protection Act, a law that remains the most comprehensive protection of marshlands along the Atlantic seaboard.

Bolster, who served a diverse Atlanta district in the Georgia House of Representatives for 12 years, does more than look back at this landmark legislative achievement. He also examines the policy challenges facing the Georgia coast today, among them how to address unrelenting development pressures and how to deal with rising sea levels and other impacts of a warming planet. He continues to follow environmental legislation in the state capitol and feels that lawmakers could look to the lessons from 50 years ago as a guide to protecting Georgia’s fragile coast today.

A free-lance writer and historian, Bolster holds a Ph.D. degree in history from the University of Georgia and a law degree from Georgia State University School of Law. He taught American history at Clark Atlanta University for 14 years and has worked as a lobbyist for the Georgia Hospital Association and the American Hospital Association. A tireless advocate for affordable housing, he ran a Health Care for the Homeless program in Atlanta and served for three years on Governor Nathan Deal’s Council on Criminal Justice Reform.

This Year’s Journalism Award Winner: Tony Bartelme

Tony Bartelme, a special projects reporter for The Post and Courier, is being recognized in part for his stories from the Rising Waters Project, a series documenting how the accelerating forces of climate change are affecting Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry. Bartelme explains not only the science behind wetter hurricanes, intense “rain bomb” events and flooding high tides, but also the policy issues they raise and how they are making life harder for many South Carolinians. In other pieces recognized by this year’s award, Bartelme displays a gift for linking science with sense of place. These include a story tracing the human and natural history of South Carolina’s Santee Delta, and another on the quest by researchers to learn more about an elusive and rapidly disappearing marshland bird, the eastern black rail.

A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Bartelme is a three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and has won some of the highest honors in journalism. He was awarded a prestigious Harvard University Nieman Fellowship in 2010.  His investigative reporting has exposed government corruption and has explored subjects ranging from changes in ocean plankton to the global shortage of doctors. His latest book, A Surgeon in the Village: An American Doctor Teaches Brain Surgery in Africa, was published by Beacon Press.

This Year’s Featured Speaker: Lulu Miller

Lulu Miller is a Peabody Award-winning science journalist who fell hard for radio when she joined the staff of WNYC Studios’ Radiolab, initially as a volunteer. She returned to the show as co-host this past year. She is also co-founder of NPR’s Invisibilia, a show about the invisible forces that shape human behavior. Her book Why Fish Don’t Exist has been hailed as a wondrous debut and was listed among the best books of 2020 by The Washington Post, NPR, Chicago Tribune and Smithsonian. It follows the life of taxonomist David Starr Jordan—the first president of Stanford University and a proponent of the eugenics movement—and reveals both the triumphs and the dark side of his relentless search for order in a chaotic world. Her book is also a deeply personal story about how to go on when everything seems lost. Miller is a graduate of Swarthmore College and earned an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Virginia.

About the Reed Environmental Writing Award

SELC’s Reed Environmental Writing Award is named for the late Phillip D. Reed, a successful attorney, a committed environmental advocate, and a founding trustee of the Southern Environmental Law Center. Reed believed deeply in the power of writing to raise awareness of environmental issues and the forces that threaten natural treasures and special places.

Selected by a distinguished panel of judges, Reed Award winners have recently included New York Times opinion writer Margaret Renkl for her book Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss; Megan Mayhew Bergman, director of the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference at Middlebury College; Earl Swift for his book Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island; J. Drew Lanham, author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature; Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood; and science writer Deborah Cramer, whose work has also won honors from the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Academy of Sciences.

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