Reed Environmental Writing Award

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SELC calls for submissions for Phil Reed Environmental Writing Awards

SELC is now accepting submissions for the 2018 Phillip D. Reed Environmental Writing Awards. Nominations are welcome from anyone, including readers, authors, and publishers.

Presented each year during the Virginia Festival of the Book, the Reed Awards recognize outstanding writing on the southern environment in two categories: Book, for works of nonfiction (not self-published) and Journalism, for newspaper, magazine, and online writing published by a recognized institution (e.g. a news organization, university, or nonprofit group).

All submissions must have been published between October 1, 2016, and September 30, 2017.

Submissions must relate to the natural environment in at least one of the following states: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, or Virginia.

Submissions are due October 1, 2017, at SouthernEnvironment.org/submit.

Journalism entries must be at least 3,000 words.

There are three options for submitting entries: electronic copy, hard copy, or a website link where the submission is available for sale. Hard copy submissions will not be returned.

The Reed Award celebrates writers who achieve both literary excellence and extraordinary insight into the South’s natural heritage. Past winners exemplify the quality and diversity of contemporary environmental writing. They include:

  • Eminent biologist and Alabama native E.O. Wilson, the “father of biodiversity” and a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner;
  • Veteran environmental journalists Charles Seabrook, a longtime contributor to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and Ben Raines, an accomplished filmmaker as well as an award-winning reporter on the Gulf Coast;
  • Writer, poet, and NPR commentator Janisse Ray, author of the celebrated Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a New York Times Notable Book and the winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award;
  • University of the South forest biologist David Haskell, a Guggenheim Fellow, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and winner of the National Outdoor Book Award for Natural History Literature;
  • Author Deborah Cramer, visiting scholar at MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative, whose books on the sea have won awards from the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Academy of Sciences.

As in past years, the winners will be selected by a distinguished panel of judges that includes leading environmental writers, journalists, and advocates. The awards honor the late Phillip D. Reed, a distinguished attorney, a committed environmental activist, and a founding trustee of SELC.

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SELC announces winners of 2017 Reed Environmental Writing Awards

With this year’s Reed Environmental Writing Awards, SELC salutes three writers who offer bold visions for revitalizing our cities and saving the world’s species, and who reveal the global and local impacts of our dependence on fossil fuels. Their work will be recognized at SELC’s Headquarters on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 25, during the Virginia Festival of the Book.

This year’s winners of the Reed Award in the book category are Ryan Gravel for Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities (St. Martin’s Press) and Edward O. Wilson for Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (Liveright Publishing Corp.). The winner of the Reed Award in the journalism category is Janisse Ray for “From Ashes Such as These, What Can Rise?”, published in The Bitter Southerner.

Gravel is an urban designer and originator of the Atlanta Beltline, a project now underway that is repurposing 22 miles of old rail lines that ring the city. When fully realized, the Beltline will connect more than 40 diverse neighborhoods with trails, parks, transit lines, and redeveloped vacant land. In his book, Gravel uses this project and others to illustrate how remodeled infrastructure can be the catalyst for creating urban districts that support a healthier and more satisfying way of life, and that provide an antidote to traffic-clogged highways and sprawl.

The founding principal of Sixpitch, an urban design consultancy in Atlanta, Gravel will be in Charlottesville on March 25 to receive the Reed Award and to give a reading from his book.

A native of Alabama, Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University, an eminent biologist, and one of the world’s most revered conservationists. In Half-Earth, he makes the case for committing half of the planet to nature to curb the accelerating extinction of Earth’s species—and to ensure the survival of our own. His book begins by showing how human activity and its impacts, including climate change, are rapidly reducing the world’s biodiversity. It continues with a sweeping overview of surviving species and the threats they face. And it concludes with his remedy for maintaining the world’s rich variety of life for future generations: “a global network of inviolable reserves that cover half the surface of Earth.”

Ray is one of the South’s most admired ecology writers. In her Bitter Southerner article, she chronicles how the residents of rural Wayne County, Georgia, have risen up against a company’s plan to turn a local landfill into a dump for trainloads of toxic-laden coal ash. The controversy brought to light that the landfill has been quietly receiving coal ash for years and that leaks have been linked to groundwater contamination. Her article paints a vivid portrait of the community and the local citizens who are leading the fight against this proposal. Ray is the author of five books, including the widely acclaimed Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, winner of the Reed Environmental Writing Award in 2000. She also has produced a collection of eco-poetry and was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2015.

The featured speaker for SELC’s Reed Award event on March 25 will be coastal geologist Robert S. Young, a leading authority on the impacts of coastal storms, sea level rise and U.S. coastal management. Young is director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, a joint venture of Western Carolina University and Duke University. In addition to producing numerous scientific publications, he has written on coastal issues for the New York Times, USA Today, and other media outlets, and appears regularly as a guest on shows ranging from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 to NPR’s All Things Considered. He also has testified before Congress and numerous state legislatures.

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 SELC. Reed believed deeply in the power of writing to raise awareness of environmental issues and the forces that threaten natural treasures and special places.

Winner of SELC’s Phil Reed Writing Award receives more national recognition

This year’s winner in the Book category of SELC’s Phillip D. Reed Environmental Writing Awards continues to receive major honors. Deborah Cramer’s The Narrow Edge: A Tiny Bird, An Ancient Crab, and An Epic Journey, which follows the red knot on its 19,000-mile migration from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic and back, recently won the Best Book Award from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. It also won first place in the Rachel Carson Environment Book Awards given by the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Congratulations, Deborah!

The October 1 deadline is fast approaching for nominations for the 2017 Phil Reed Awards. Presented each year during the Virginia Festival of the Book, the awards recognize outstanding writing in two categories: Book for works of nonfiction (not self-published) and Journalism for newspaper, magazine, and online writing published by a recognized institution, such as a news organization, university, or nonprofit group.

Nominations are welcome from anyone, including readers, authors, and publishers. Entries must have been published between October 1, 2015, and September 30, 2016, and must relate to the natural environment in at least one of the following states: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, or Virginia.

SELC calls for submissions for Phil Reed Environmental Writing Awards

The Southern Environmental Law Center is now accepting submissions for the 2017 Phillip D. Reed Environmental Writing Awards. Nominations are welcome from anyone, including readers, authors, and publishers.

Presented each year during the Virginia Festival of the Book, the Reed Awards recognize outstanding writing in two categories: Book for works of nonfiction (not self-published) and Journalism for newspaper, magazine, and online writing published by a recognized institution, such as a news organization, university, or nonprofit group. Here are the requirements:

  • All submissions must have been published between October 1, 2015, and September 30, 2016.
  • Submissions must relate to the natural environment in at least one of the following states: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, or Virginia.
  • Submissions are due October 1, 2016, at SouthernEnvironment.org/submit.
  • Journalism entries must be at least 3,000 words.

As in past years, the winners will be selected by a distinguished panel of judges that includes leading environmental writers, journalists, and advocates. The awards honor the late Phillip D. Reed, a distinguished attorney, a committed environmental activist, and a founding trustee of SELC.

Seeing our environment through the eyes of a scientist

Among his colleagues, William H. Schlesinger is renowned as a leading ecologist and environmental chemist. Among subscribers to his blog, Citizen Scientist, he is a regular source of insights into what science tells us about our impacts on the environment and what we can do to rein them in. He will share some of those insights and more as featured speaker at the presentation of SELC’s 2016 Reed Environmental Writing Awards on March 18, part of the Virginia Festival of the Book.

The former dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University and a member of SELC’s Board of Trustees, Schlesinger has a passion and a talent for translating science into knowledge we can use to inform our decisions—as individuals and as a society. What will you learn from reading Citizen Scientist? Some examples:

  • Air pollution really can kill you; globally it causes an estimated 3.3 million premature deaths each year.
  • Trees cool us down not just with shade, but also by releasing water vapor.
  • Melting ice around the South Pole could push up sea levels 15 feet globally.
  • Heavy use of nitrogen fertilizer produces a powerful greenhouse gas that may be chipping away at the ozone layer, increasing our exposure to damaging ultraviolet light from the sun.
  • Bacterial cleansing in wetlands takes nitrogen out of runoff before it reaches waterways.
  • Pavement and other built surfaces cover more area than remaining wetlands in the United States.
  • If ocean acidity levels caused by carbon emissions get too high, sea creatures can’t form their calcium carbonate shells. 
  • As much as 12.7 million tons of plastic waste reaches the sea each year.

The blog also sounds a steady drumbeat on the dangers of denying human-induced climate change: “We have a few short years—perhaps only a couple of decades—to do something about the rise of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere,” he observes. “Doing nothing about climate change will make us look like a ship of fools.”

Schlesinger’s fervor for sharing the lessons of science grows out of his love of teaching. After leaving Duke to serve as president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, he began reaching out to a new audience of learners with Earth Wise, a daily feature on WAMC Northeast Public Radio out of Albany. He retired from the Cary Institute in 2014, but continues his outreach with Citizen Scientist.

His blog posts always come with reference citations—just what a reader would expect from a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences who has produced more than 200 research publications and is co-author of the leading textbook in his field. So when Schlesinger makes a statement about what CO2 emissions are doing to the planet or the effects of unchecked population growth, you can bet it’s based on solid science.


The 2016 Reed Environmental Writing Awards will be presented at 10 a.m. Friday, March 18, at SELC headquarters on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall (201 West Main Street).

Reed Award winners reveal our bond with the natural world and what we lose when we destroy it

On March 18, SELC will present its 2016 Reed Environmental Writing Awards to an author and a reporter who take their readers deep 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 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.

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 while 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 but also 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. He also wrote and co-produced the documentary America’s Amazon, which is airing on PBS stations around the country. 

As part of this year’s Virginia Festival of the Book, SELC will present the Reed Awards at 10 a.m. Friday, March 18, at its headquarters on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall. The featured speaker will be Bill Schlesinger, one of the nation’s leading ecologists and environmental chemists, and 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: Call for entries

The Southern Environmental Law Center is now accepting nominations for the 2016 Phillip D. Reed Memorial Award, which recognizes the most powerful voices speaking on behalf of our region’s environment.

Each year during the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, SELC presents the Reed Award for outstanding writing in two categories: journalism and nonfiction book. Readers, writers, and publishers are all welcome to submit nominations, which are due October 1, 2015. Entries must have been published during the previous 12 months (October 1, 2014, through September 30, 2015) and must pertain to the environment in at least one of the six states in SELC’s region: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Once again, the winners will be selected by a distinguished panel of judges that includes some of the leading environmental writers, journalists, and advocates of our time. Please visit Reed Environmental Writing Award for more details and instructions.

Standing room only for SELC Reed Environmental Writing Award presentation

The Southern Environmental Law Center drew a packed house Saturday to its Charlottesville headquarters for the presentation of its 2015 Reed Environmental Writing Awards, held in conjunction with the Virginia Festival of the Book. This year's winner in the journalism category was the staff of E&E Publishing for its eBook Turning Carolina Red: Reports from the Front of an Energy Culture War. Ellen Griffith Spears, a faculty member at the University of Alabama, won the Reed Award in the book category for Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town

Also on hand was author and guest speaker Bland Simpson, the Kenan Distinguished Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

For more than 20 years, SELC’s Reed Environmental Writing Award has recognized the most powerful voices speaking on behalf of the southern environment. The 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.

Read more about the 2015 Reed Environmental Writing Awards here.   

SELC Reed Environmental Writing Award winners look at inequality, politics

A community’s struggle for environmental justice in Alabama and the money and politics driving current energy policy in North Carolina are the subjects covered by this year’s winners of SELC’s Reed Environmental Writing Award.

Ellen Griffith Spears, a member of the American studies faculty at the University of Alabama, won the Reed Award in the book category for Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town. Focusing on the legal fight against Monsanto over the dumping of PCBs in a historically African American and white working-class section of Anniston, Alabama, her book sheds light on the broader issue of environmental inequality.

The reporting staff of Environment and Energy Publishing won this year’s Reed Award in the journalism category for Turning Carolina Red: Reports from the Front of an Energy Culture War. The series looks at how North Carolina’s current political majority and its financial backers have changed environmental and energy policy in the state—from the pullback in enforcement revealed by Duke Energy’s coal ash spill to the push by lawmakers to open the state to fracking. 

SELC will present the awards during the Virginia Festival of the Book on Saturday, March 21, at our headquarters in Charlottesville, Virginia. The event will feature Bland Simpson, a noted writer and musician who received the 2005 North Carolina Award for Fine Arts, the state’s highest civilian honor. Author of several books of fiction and non-fiction, Simpson is also a member of the Tony Award-winning string band the Red Clay Ramblers.

For more than 20 years, SELC’s Philip D. Reed Environmental Writing Award has recognized the authors and journalists who use the power of the pen to capture the South’s natural wonders and to raise our awareness of the forces that would destroy them. Educating and engaging the public is central to the award’s mission and to SELC’s goal of safeguarding the South’s environment.

Read the press release.

2014 Reed Environmental Writing Award Winners Announced

SELC is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Reed Environmental Writing Award, given each year to two works that exemplify the best environmental writing in the South. One award went to R. Scot Duncan for his book Southern Wonder: Alabama’s Surprising Biodiversity. The other award went to The Tennessean’s Duane W. Gang, for his articles on coal ash and fracking in Tennessee. Learn more here.

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