SEJ conference and new blog post

I just returned from Chattanooga, Tennessee, where 100s (10s?) of like-minded journalists gathered in the early fall humidity to talk about the state of our industry, share story ideas and tour coal plants, farms and bat caves. There were test drives of all kinds of hybrid and highly efficient cars, a freelance pitch slam and one of the most thought-provoking discussions on biodiversity I’ve heard in a long time (thanks to M. Sanjayan, lead scientist at The Nature Conservancy, for his excellent moderating). I received a fellowship from SEJ to attend–thank you, thank you, thank you

Right before I left I wrote this post for High Country News about chronic wasting disease, which despite being 100% fatal and infecting more and more elk, deer and moose every year, gets very little attention. Why? It moves too damn slowly. “I’ve heard it called an epidemic in slow motion,” says Christopher Johnson, a research biologist at the National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin.

Moose shot by hunters in Maine (where there is no chronic wasting disease).

Moose shot by hunters in Maine (where there is no chronic wasting disease).

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Coal on the brain

Multiple times every day, the coal train rattles the windows of my little house as it chugs up to the three coal mines in Colorado’s North Fork valley, fills up, and makes it way back West. I know it goes as far as Grand Junction, Colorado, before being split up, some of the coal heading East where it’s burned in power plants in Tennessee, some of it headed further West. My daily reminder of this industry’s existence is as good an explanation as any for why I’m about to spend the next few months buried in coal policy and economics. It’s hard to forget where your electricity comes from when it’s rumbling past you day after day after day.

Also, there’s this.

Sticker I got at the Western Colorado Coal Conference.

I got this sticker at the Western Colorado Coal Conference a couple weeks ago. My environmental journalist friends went crazy for it. But in all seriousness, efforts to market the coal industry right now are pretty interesting to me. That’s also something I’ll be digging into as I ride my own coal train here in the coming weeks and months.