Economist Reporter Wins Major Award for Shifting Spotlight to World’s Forests

Written by Lisa Hayden on . Posted in Learn

In an age when many media outlets are cutting back on international reporting, solid, in-depth research on an unwieldy topic stands out – especially when it can lead to solutions.

A reporter for The Economist magazine has been awarded the Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment for his cover article, “The World’s Lungs,” an in-depth report on tropical forests in the September 23, 2010 issue.

James Astill, an Oxford University-educated journalist, will receive the 2011 prize of $75,000 for his thorough research and reporting for the eight-part, 14,000-word series on the state of the world’s forests and their importance to the climate through their carbon-storing function.

Astill found that the world’s tropical forests face grave risks, but there is still hope to save them. Traveling to many forest locations across the globe, Astill interviewed people in Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Uganda, and compiled a bibliography of forest literature.

As part of his research, Astill toured areas where The Nature Conservancy works on the island of Borneo, Indonesia and interviewed several Conservancy experts on the strategy of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation.

The “Better REDD than dead,” section of the series mentions the fledgling REDD program in the district of Berau, where the Conservancy is working with the national and local governments to implement policies that keep trees standing. The Conservancy works to develop pilot programs with states and large municipalities, in which the carbon stored in forests can be measured and valued to create incentives for forest conservation.

According to the Grantham Foundation announcement, jurors agreed Astill’s reporting “… deserves acclaim for spotlighting forests as an often-misunderstood component of the international debate on climate change.”

And the articles met the Grantham prize’s criteria for relevance: “Astill’s timely reporting generated an enormous public response and its impact was apparent from the broad circulation of the story in advance of last year’s UN climate conference in Cancun, which ended with an agreement on REDD.”

To hear more from Astill about his research for the articles, check out this online Economist interview: And if you missed it last fall, the series is still a great primer on the challenges facing the world’s forests and climate.

Lisa Hayden is a blogger and feature writer for The Nature Conservancy

Photo: ©Bridget Besaw, 2009 (Team performs carbon monitoring in a teak plantation, one of the land use types that the World Agroforestry Centre is using to determine the carbon load of the entire Berau District on Borneo, Indonesia. This “ground-truthing” data will be used by the Conservancy and partners in developing the REDD approach of avoiding emissions from deforestation in the Berau District.)

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