SELC announces 2024 Reed Environmental Writing Award winners

PR Newswire
Monday, February 12, 2024 at 3:03pm UTC

SELC announces 2024 Reed Environmental Writing Award winners

PR Newswire

30th anniversary award ceremony on March 22 honors the best environmental writing of the South

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Feb. 12, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Today the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) announces the recipients of its 2024 Phillip D. Reed Environmental Writing Award. Through their work, winners Emily Strasser, David Folkenflik, Mario Ariza, and Miranda Green demonstrate the power of writing to capture some of the most important environmental issues facing Southern communities.

Winners Emily Strasser, David Folkenflik, Mario Ariza, and Miranda Green demonstrate the power of writing.

This year the Reed Award celebrates 30 years of honoring writers who achieve both literary excellence and offer extraordinary insight into the South's natural treasures and environmental challenges. Presented annually during the Virginia Festival of the Book, the 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.

Book Category

Emily Strasser receives the Reed Award for "Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History." In the book, Strasser examines the toxic legacy of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of three secret cities constructed by the Manhattan Project for developing the first atomic bomb. She exposes a suppressed history that forever impacted her family, a community, the nation, and the world.

Journalism Category

David Folkenflik with NPR, and Mario Ariza and Miranda Green with Floodlight receive the Reed Award for their story, "In the Southeast, power company money flows to news sites that attack their critics". Their investigation digs into a consulting firm working on behalf of electric utility giants in Alabama and Florida. The team uncovers how money flows from the firm to influence local news sites to push the utilities' agendas and attack their critics.

The Reed Award ceremony honoring the winners during the Virginia Festival of the Book is free and open to the public. It will be held at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 22 in the CODE Building, located at 225 West Water Street on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Va. The event will also be streamed online.

To register for the digital or in-person event, visit: 

This year's book award winner: Emily Strasser

Emily Strasser's first book, "Half-Life of a Secret: Reckoning with a Hidden History", is a deeply researched memoir tracing her journey to confront a toxic legacy of secrecy-- her grandfather's work building nuclear weapons in the atomic city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Sifting through archives and family memories, and traveling to the deserts of Nevada, and the living rooms of Hiroshima, she grapples with the far-reaching ramifications of her grandfather's work. Along the way, she learns that during the three decades he spent building nuclear weapons, her grandfather suffered from increasingly debilitating mental illness.

Returning to Oak Ridge, Strasser confronts the widespread contamination resulting from nuclear weapons production and the government's disregard for its impact on the environment and public health. With brilliant insight, she reveals the intersections between the culture of secrecy in her family and the institutionalized secrecy within the nuclear industry, which persists, with grave consequences, to this day.

This year's journalism award winner: David Folkenflik, Mario Ariza, and Miranda Green

NPR's David Folkenflik digs in with Mario Ariza and Miranda Green of Floodlight, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates the powerful interests stalling climate action, to uncover utility giants' influence over small newsrooms. Matrix LLC, a consulting firm working on behalf of electric utility giants Alabama Power and Florida Power & Light, funnels money to local newsrooms that push the utilities' agendas and attack their critics. Their work highlights how cash poured into these media outlets as the utilities fought clean energy efforts — a fight they are still waging today.

The team spoke to more than a dozen former and current reporters, civil rights activists, utility employees, and environmentalists exposing a system of influence over newsrooms. They uncover how special interests are taking advantage of news outlets that face shrinking budgets and dwindling staff numbers.

Southern Environmental Law Center

The Southern Environmental Law Center is one of the nation's most powerful defenders of the environment, rooted in the South. With a long track record, SELC takes on the toughest environmental challenges in court, in government, and in our communities to protect our region's air, water, climate, wildlife, lands, and people. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the organization has a staff of 200, including more than 100 attorneys, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., with offices in Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Nashville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C.

About the Reed Award 

SELC created the Reed Environmental Writing Award in 1994 to enhance public awareness of the value and vulnerability of the South's natural treasures and to recognize and encourage the writers who most effectively tell the stories about the region's environment. The award is named for SELC founding trustee Phil Reed, a talented attorney and committed environmental leader who believed deeply in the power of writing to change hearts and minds.

Selected by a distinguished panel of judges, Reed Award winners have recently included Corban Addison for his book Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial, Isabelle Chapman author of Gambling 'America's Amazon for CNN; and J. Drew Lanham, author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature.

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SOURCE Southern Environmental Law Center