Thursday, May 05, 2011 2:05 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt-weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year, we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Wednesday, May 18, at the
MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference
in San Francisco. From now until then, we’ll post the nominees in all of the categories on our blogs. Below you’ll find the nominees for the best environmental coverage, with a short introduction to each. These magazines are literally what Utne Reader is made of. Though we celebrate the alternative press every day and with each issue, once a year we praise those who have done an exceptional job.
rightly believes that if you care about birds, you care about the environment. The Audubon Society’s magazine is a must-read for nature watchers of all kinds, digging into its subjects with a keen eye for both natural beauty and the forces that threaten it.
Published by the Society for Conservation Biology, Conservation transcends its modest roots with intellectual depth. From exploring “the dark side of green consumerism” to asking, “Can we feed ourselves without destroying the planet?” it gets to the environmental stories that demand our attention.
A publication of the Earth Island Institute, the group founded by legendary activist David Brower, Earth Island Journalreports from the front lines of the environmental crisis. Its global focus and eagerness for stimulating debate make it essential reading for greens.
The footnotes in Environmentmagazine say “academics at work”—but the stories will have you asking, “Why isn’t anyone else writing about this?” This publication covering “science and policy for sustainable development” goes in-depth but never gets out of reach.
covers myriad stories from the forefront of environmentalism, whether it’s the U.S. military’s use of forestry as a counterinsurgency tool or “urban ecology” putting teens to work greening their cities. Published by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the biannual provokes readers to change the way they think about the natural world.
The Western United States is a key battleground for many environmental issues, and High Country News is your experienced and knowledgeable correspondent. Its watchdog coverage of mining, ranching, logging—and simply Western life—is unmatched.
The quarterly journal of the Natural Resources Defense Council, OnEarth monitors what’s happening to our land, air, water, and wildlife. It’s a pretty nature magazine, but it also brings a keenly analytic eye to the societal and political dimensions of environmentalism.
The most literary of environmental magazines, Orion takes a big view, touching on spirituality, philosophy, and the arts in its gorgeous pages. Thoughtfully provocative columnists keep it from drifting off into the rapidly warming atmosphere.
our complete list of 2011 nominees
Image by Enokson, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011 11:28 AM
As the bird carcasses pile up worldwide, falling from the sky like so many feathered omens of doom, it seems fair to ask if the many reported mass die-offs in recent weeks are a sign of the environmental apocalypse. The cool-headed bird geeks at the Audubon Society are here to reassure us: No, they’re not.
Audubon Society experts tell Alisa Opar at The Perch, Audubon magazine’s blog, that we shouldn’t read too much into the flurry of reported bird deaths.
“Mass bird die-offs can be caused by starvation, storms, disease, pesticides, collisions with man-made structures or human disturbance,” says Greg Butcher, Audubon’s director of bird conservation.
Opar fixes part of the blame for the bird hysteria “on technology allowing us to learn about isolated events and our impulse to look for patterns.” After the initial reports of coincidental die-offs, Google maps of bird deaths around the world quickly made the rounds, and flocks of amateur ornithologists collectively decided that it looked bad. Real bad. Before long, the birds seemed destined to join chemtrails and black helicopters as airborne signs of conspiracy and doom.
Now that the bird experts have calmed us down, we are left to focus our worries on other future apocalyptic scenarios. Reports Opar:
Isolated die-offs don’t pose a significant threat to our native bird populations, says Melanie Driscoll, Audubon’s director of bird conservation for the Mississippi River Flyway. “Far more concerning in the long term are the myriad other threats birds face, from widespread habitat destruction and global climate change to inappropriate energy development and invasive species.”
Tweet that, bird lovers.
Source: The Perch
Image by xpda, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010 12:04 PM
If hunting is largely about the thrill of the chase, “canned hunts” don’t offer much opportunity for thrill: In these increasingly popular pay-to-shoot events, hunters kill tame or semi-tame animals that have been put in enclosures. Audubon columnist Ted Williams describes the phenomenon in “Real Hunters Don’t Shoot Pets” in the magazine’s November-December issue:
Canned hunts are great for folks on tight schedules or who lack energy or outdoor skills. Microchip transponder implants for game not immediately visible are available for the [game farm] proprietor whose clients are on really tight schedules. And because trophies are plied with drugs, minerals, vitamins, specially processed feeds, and sometimes growth hormones, they are way bigger than anything available in the wild. Often the animals have names, and you pay in advance for the one you’d like to kill, selecting your trophy from a photo or directly from its cage.
Canned hunts are hardly new. Williams first wrote about them for Audubon in 1992, but he notes that they have grown more popular, and their critics increasingly include not just animal-rights advocates but also ethical hunters who consider fair chase essential to the sport and its reputation.
Because the general public has scant understanding of canned hunting, it frequently doesn’t differentiate it from real hunting. “If we don’t protect our image, we may not have a heritage,” says the Colorado Wildlife Federation’s treasurer and board member, Kent Ingram, a leader in the recent well-fought but failed battle to ban canned hunts in the state.
Other states have banned them, namely Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. In 2009, Vermont and Tennessee banned new canned mammal hunts but allowed existing ones to keep operating. In November, North Dakotans voted down a proposed law to ban canned mammal hunts.
Of course, bans without firm enforcement and prosecution don’t mean much, as one Minnesota incident demonstrates. Troy Gentry of the country duo Montgomery Gentry shot a docile captive bear named Cubby at the Minnesota Wildlife Connection game farm in 2004, and as the online activist platform Change.org reports:
Gentry was charged with a felony but pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of falsely registering the tag from the hunt. He was fined $15,000 and not allowed to hunt in Minnesota for five years. The taxidermied body of Cubby and the bow used to kill Cubby were taken from Gentry.
This isn’t the first time Minnesota Wildlife Connection’s owner Lee Greenly has been in trouble with the law. He has several previous felony charges for wildlife-related crimes under his belt, but avoided convictions. For his role in Cubby’s death, Greenly pleaded guilty to two felony charges—yet somehow walked away with only probation.
To see what canned hunting looks like, check out the following two-part video of Gentry’s bear kill. It was posted on YouTube last month after being obtained by the animal-rights group Showing Animals Respect and Kindness in a three-year lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The narrator’s snide tone is understandable but unnecessary, since the images pretty clearly speak for themselves:
Friday, April 30, 2010 5:08 PM
It’s easy to avert your eyes from disasters like the Gulf of Mexico oil rig spill, but for people willing to hold their gaze and witness our oil addiction’s worst side effects, there’s plenty of excellent media coverage of this slowly unfolding tragedy. Among our favorites:
The New York Times published an interactive map detailing the wildlife that could be at risk. Audubon’s blog The Perch also covers the wildlife angle, including not just birds but whales, turtles, and sharks.
Agence France Presse (via Grist) reports that Louisiana shrimpers have filed a lawsuit against rig operator BP, accusing it of negligence, seeking millions of dollars in damages for the catch they’re going to lose.
The Houston Chronicle reports that investigators had been noticing more oil rigs having “blowouts” during a procedure in which they cement the walls of undersea wells.
Grist has ongoing coverage—much from Agence France Presse—and commentary, including a piece by Keith Harrington speculating that the accident may lead to a better climate bill. Harrington points out that before Obama approved new drilling, “10 coastal state senators wrote a letter to their colleagues John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) pressing the trio to keep expanded offshore drilling out of their now floundering climate and energy package.”
At The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan writes, “If the Democrats do not use this disaster to advance the energy bill ASAP, they may miss a critical moment to escape the oil addiction even George W. Bush acknowledged in his final years.”
Grist’s Jonathan Hiskes thinks Sullivan has it only “half right,” though: “It is a critical moment that Democrats are insane not to use, but the KGL [Kerry-Graham-Lieberman] energy bill isn’t the plan we need—it’s the least-terrible bill that was believed to have a chance of passing in the Senate. Now, with this ongoing crisis changing the political climate, there should be an opening for a better bill.”
Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones noted that political winds were already shifting: “On Friday, environmental groups, many of which had indicated a willingness to accept some offshore drilling in a climate and energy bill in exchange for components like a price on carbon pollution and a renewable energy standard, were rallying in opposition to Obama’s plan. “We were willing to accept some new drilling, but this changes everything,” said Athan Manuel, director of the lands protection program at Sierra Club. “I can’t imagine there’s going to be any offshore drilling in this bill.”
Sources: New York Times, Audubon, Grist, Houston Chronicle, The Atlantic, Mother Jones
Thursday, April 22, 2010 3:04 PM
Our library contains 1,300 publications—a feast of magazines, journals, alt weeklies, newsletters, and zines—and every year we honor the stars in our Utne Independent Press Awards. We’ll announce this year’s winners on Sunday, April 25, at the MPA’s Independent Magazine Group conference in Washington, D.C., and post them online the following Monday. We’re crazy about these publications, and we’d love it for all of our readers to get to know them better, too. So, every weekday until the conference, we’ll be posting mini-introductions to our complete list of 2010 nominees.
The following eight magazines are our 2010 nominees in the category of environmental coverage.
American environmentalists would be wise to look to Canada’s Alternatives Journal for cogent, well-informed reporting and commentary on green issues. The official publication of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada puts topics from climate change to local food into clear-eyed perspective. www.alternativesjournal.ca
Audubon rightly believes that if you care about birds, you care about the environment. The Audubon Society’s magazine is a must-read for nature watchers of all kinds, digging into its subjects with a keen eye for both natural beauty and the forces that threaten it. www.audubonmagazine.org
Published by the Society for Conservation Biology, Conservation transcends its modest roots with intellectual depth. From profiling “the mushroom messiah” to asking “Is a warmer world a sicker world?” it gets to the environmental stories that demand our attention. www.conservationmagazine.org
A publication of the Earth Island Institute, the group founded by activist legend David Brower, Earth Island Journal reports from the front lines of the environmental crisis. Its global focus and eagerness for stimulating debate make it a must-read for greens. www.earthisland.org/journal
The footnotes in Environment magazine say “academics at work”—but the stories will have you asking “Why isn’t anyone else writing about this?” This publication covering “science and policy for sustainable development” goes in-depth but never gets out of reach. www.environmentmagazine.org
The Western United States is a key battleground for many environmental issues, and High Country News is your experienced and knowledgeable correspondent from the front lines. Its watchdog coverage of mining, ranching, logging—and simply Western life—is unmatched. www.hcn.org
The quarterly journal of the Natural Resources Defense Council, OnEarth keeps tabs on what’s happening to our land, air, water, and wildlife. It’s a pretty nature magazine, but it also brings a keenly analytic eye to the societal and political dimensions of environmentalism. www.onearth.org
The most literary of environmental magazines, Orion takes a big view, touching on spirituality, philosophy, and the arts in its gorgeous pages. Thoughtfully provocative columnists keep it from drifting off into the rapidly warming atmosphere. www.orionmagazine.org
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 11:56 AM
If that photo of a snow leopard looks just too perfect to be natural, it probably isn’t, Ted Williams writes in Audubon magazine. Many wildlife photographs, he reports, are now taken at game farms where captive animals are basically hired out as models; that’s even what the industry calls them.
Williams visits one such operation, the Triple D in Montana, which has wolves, cougars, and snow leopards among its talent. While he praises Triple D’s owners for treating its animals well, the muckraking author of Audubon’s “Incite” column nonetheless questions the underlying premise of their enterprise:
Images of Triple D’s snow leopards are proliferating like Internet pop-ups. In 2008 one even received first place in the “nature” category of National Geographic’s International Photography Contest. Animals like snow leopards are in desperate trouble, but why should people believe this when they see sleek, healthy snow leopards every time they walk into a bookstore or open a “wildlife” calendar?
Not all game farms are as ethical as Triple D. Williams notes that life is “hard and brief” for many captive animals, and some of the operations illegally traffic in endangered wildlife. Moreover, plenty of farm operators are happy to conceal the conceit that photographs of their animals are being passed off as amazing shots from the wild.
For publications that feature wildlife photography, the phenomenon means wrestling with ethical issues—or not. Williams cites hunting and fishing magazines, a.k.a. “the vast hook-and-bullet press,” as eager and shameless traffickers in nature fakery:
Battery acid is splashed on captive fish to make them leap frantically. I talked to one genuine wildlife photographer who has quit submitting deer photos to hook-and-bullet publications because he can’t compete with all the photographers who rent or own penned deer bred for freakishly large antlers. One such mutation, appearing on the covers of countless hunting rags, had four owners, the last of which bought him for $150,000. For years the ancient beast was kept on life support with medications and surgeries.
Many other publications that cover wildlife and wish to keep their natural cred—among them Audubon, Sierra, Natural History, Smithsonian, Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife, and a more careful National Geographic—either don’t use captive shots or clearly identify them when they do. To Williams’ credit, he acknowledges that even Audubon has a checkered past, quoting former editor Les Line: “The earliest issues of Audubon [circa 1903] tried to pass of photographs of stuffed birds as live ones. That’s minor compared to what’s been happening since.”
The print edition of the March-April Audubon shows a photo of a captive Arctic fox that almost fooled Audubon’s now-wary photo editors, who considered publishing it last year. Among the giveaways in this “anatomy of a fake”: The creature is much heavier than a wild fox and has that “just-shampooed look.”
Image by MacJewell, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, September 25, 2009 2:28 PM
Volunteers across the country are transcribing 6 million birdwatching observations—handwritten notes catalogued on small index cards, and dating back to 1880—to help researchers figure out how climate change affects bird migration patterns. Audubon interviews Jessica Zelt, coordinator of the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Bird Phenology Program, which is tapping more than 1,200 volunteers to compile “the most comprehensive data set of its kind.”
“This program is looking at how climate change is affecting migrating bird arrival and departure dates,” Zelt tells Audubon. “Once this information goes into our database, we can analyze it, along with weather and climate data, to see if there are long-term patterns and shifts. It’s possible that climate change affects certain species more than others. Being able to highlight those species and change our own lives to lessen those effects, that’s always a goal.”
Image by Noël Zia Lee, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, July 27, 2009 4:04 PM
You’ve probably heard about Alaska ex-governor Sarah Palin’s support for aerial wolf and bear hunts—and along with it the conventional wisdom that she was simply doing what gun-totin’, predator-hatin’ Alaskans wanted. In the July-August issue of Audubon, contentious veteran columnist Ted Williams deflates this notion, noting that Palin’s brand of predator control was guided more by an anti-science stance and pressure from the trophy hunting industry than by the will of Alaskans.
In making his case, Williams notes the natural resistance of Alaskans to opinions from “away,” but talks to several well-informed Alaskans who hunt, fish, and consider Palin’s wildlife management ideas to be ill-founded at best. For instance, here’s Mark Richards, co-chair of the Alaska chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers:
“Never has political meddling been so blatant and detrimental to the future of our system of wildlife management as it is under the Palin administration. I have a letter from Palin shortly after she took office, claiming she wanted to manage wildlife based on sound science. It’s complete bullshit. What she is doing is not even close to science or sound management.”
Williams surely would have been cheered to know as he wrote his column that Palin would soon resign. Unfortunately, it will take Alaska longer to roll back her predator policies than it took her to derail the McCain campaign.
Image by peupleloup, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, July 17, 2009 4:05 PM
With its economy tanking, Newton, Iowa, decided to reinvent itself as a center for green jobs. The town once relied on the Maytag Corporation for some 4,000 jobs, before its competitor Whirlpool bought the company in 2006, and cut some 1,800 jobs. Residents and local government officials decided to aggressively court renewable energy companies to inject some economic life back into the town.
Today “Newton has become something of a green-collar hub,” Audubon reports. One company that makes wind turbine blades for General Electric now employs some 318 people in the town, and hopes to bump that up to 500 by the end of the year. A biodiesel plant and another GE contractor moved into the town, too. According to Audubon, Newton’s success gives the lie to the split between the environment versus the economy that many politicians promote. Barack Obama, in fact, used the town to promote his green jobs plan when he visited there on Earth Day. Obama is quoted by Audubon, saying, “The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice is between prosperity and decline.”
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 4:46 PM
Environmentalists, especially of the veggie persuasion, are quick to point out that meat accounts for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing consumption, giving meat up even one day a week, is the easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.’s panel on climate change, said last fall.
But not all meat is created equal, Lisa Hamilton writes for Audubon. Some methane production is unavoidable (file this fact under “cow burps”), but “animals reared on organic pasture have a different climate equation from those raised in confinement on imported feed,” asserts Hamilton, author of Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness.
In large-scale farming confinement systems, manure flows into (disgusting) lagoons, where its decomposition releases millions of tons of methane and nitrous oxide into the air every year. “On pasture, that same manure is simply assimilated back into the soil with a carbon cost close to zero,” Hamilton writes.
What’s more, grass-fed livestock can be an essential player in a sustainable set-up. Manure revitalizes soil (in lieu of chemical fertilizers or shipped-in compost), and grazing encourages plant growth. Hamilton also points to Holistic Management International, an organization that proposes managed, intensive grazing as part of a climate change solution.
“In order for pasture-based livestock to become a significant part of the meat industry, we need to eat more of its meat, not less,” Hamilton writes. “So if you want to use your food choices to impact climate change, by all means follow Dr. Pachauri’s suggestion for a meatless Monday. But on Tuesday, have a grass-fed burger—and feel good about it.”
Sources: Audubon, Holistic Management International
Image by pointnshoot, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009 11:08 AM
The majestic whooping crane and the adorable polar bear tend to get plenty of attention from conservationists. Less charismatic animals, like the Choctawhatchee beach mouse (pictured left), need attention, too. In a photo essay for Audubon magazine, photographer Joel Sartore calls attention to the neglected endangered species, including insects, ugly fish, and the American crocodile. “At the heart of the story is this,” Sartore told Audubon, “Do we as a society treat the least among us with dignity and respect?”
Photo courtesy of Joel Sartore.
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