Winners of SELC Writing Award Reveal Our Bond with the Natural World
The Southern Environmental Law Center will present its annual Reed Environmental Writing Awards on March 18 during the Virginia Festival of the Book. This year’s awards salute two writers who take their readers on remarkable journeys into the natural world and, with vivid storytelling, show what we stand to lose when we damage or destroy it.
Deborah Cramer will receive the Reed Award in the book category for The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, an Ancient Crab, and an Epic Journey. In her book, she accompanies a sandpiper—the red knot—along its extraordinary 19,000-mile annual odyssey as it migrates between the Strait of Magellan and the icy Arctic, with stops on the southeast coast along the way. Cramer witnesses firsthand how the fate of these now-threatened birds—and ours—is intertwined with that of the horseshoe crab, whose blue blood is used to help safeguard human health.
Based in Gloucester, Mass., Cramer is a visiting scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has written two other books, Great Waters: An Atlantic Passage and Smithsonian Ocean: Our Water, Our World. She lectures widely in this country and abroad, and her writing has appeared recently in the Boston Globe and on the op-ed page of the New York Times.
Ben Raines will receive the Reed Award in journalism for two series of articles: “The BP Oil Spill: How the Secrets Were Spilled” and “America’s Amazon,” both published by AL.com. In the five-part series on the 2010 oil spill, Raines looks back at the BP disaster as he experienced it firsthand as a reporter covering the story. He also examines the lingering impacts of the spill on Gulf Coast waters where he has fished and scuba dived since boyhood. The six-part “America’s Amazon” explores the natural riches of the Mobile River Basin, considered the most biologically diverse river system in North America. As he describes the river network’s exceptional animal and plant community, he also reveals the destructive forces that have made it a global hot spot for extinctions.
An investigative reporter for AL.com, Raines primarily writes on environmental issues for the Mobile Press-Register, the Birmingham News, and the Huntsville Times and has produced articles and photos for national publications. He also wrote and co-produced the documentary America’s Amazon, which has been distributed to public schools across Alabama and is airing on PBS stations around the country.
SELC will present the Reed Awards at 10 a.m. Friday, March 18, at its headquarters on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall (201 West Main Street). The featured speaker will be Bill Schlesinger, one of the nation’s leading ecologists and environmental chemists, as well as author of the blog Citizen Scientist. Schlesinger is former dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, president emeritus of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and a member of SELC’s Board of Trustees.
SELC’s Reed Environmental Writing Award is named for the late Phillip D. Reed, a distinguished 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.