2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
Brandon Loomis, Rick Egan & David Noyce Winner: Brandon Loomis, Rick Egan & David Noyce “Our Dying Forests” The Salt Lake Tribune James Astill Winner: James Astill “Seeing the Wood” The Economist Alanna Mitchell Winner: Alanna Mitchell “Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis” McClelland & Stewart (Canada) and The University of Chicago Press (U.S.A.) Blake Morrison and Brad Heath Winner: Blake Morrison & Brad Heath “The Smokestack Effect: Toxic Air and America’s Schools” USA Today David Barboza, Keith Bradsher, Howard French, Joseph Kahn, Mark Landler, Chang W. Lee, Jimmy Wang, and Jim Yardley Winner: David Barboza, Keith Bradsher, Howard French, Joseph Kahn, Mark Landler, Chang W. Lee, Jimmy Wang, and Jim Yardley “Choking on Growth” The New York Times Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling Winner: Kenneth R. Weiss and Usha Lee McFarling “Altered Oceans” The Los Angeles Times Jan Barry, Thomas E. Franklin, Mary Jo Layton, Tim Nostrand, Alex Nussbaum, Tom Troncone, Debra Lynn Vial, Lindy Washburn, Barbara Williams Winner: Jan Barry, Thomas E. Franklin, Mary Jo Layton, Tim Nostrand, Alex Nussbaum, Tom Troncone, Debra Lynn Vial, Lindy Washburn, Barbara Williams “Toxic Legacy” The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
Paul Greenberg Awards of Special Merit: Paul Greenberg “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food” Penguin Press Jeff Goodell Awards of Special Merit: Jeff Goodell “How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth’s Climate” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Dan Egan Awards of Special Merit: Dan Egan Environmental Beat Reporting Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Tad Fettig, Karena Albers, & Veronique Bernard Awards of Special Merit: Tad Fettig, Karena Albers, & Veronique Bernard “e2: transport” kontentreal Dinah Voyles Pulver Awards of Special Merit: Dinah Voyles Pulver “Our Natural Treasures – Are We Losing Our Way?” Daytona Beach News Journal Eugene Linden Awards of Special Merit: Eugene Linden “The Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations” Simon & Schuster Douglas Fischer Awards of Special Merit: Douglas Fischer “A Body’s Burden: Our Chemical Legacy” Oakland Tribune
UNC News 21 Team Awards of Special Merit: Caitlyn Greene, Catherine Orr, Catherine Spangler, Delphine Andrews, Hadley Gustafson, Hely Olivares, Jeffrey Mittelstadt, Kristen Long, Mimi Schiffman, Sarah Riazati, Whitney Baker, and Laura Ruel Coal: A Love Story News21 Fellows, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Journalism and Mass Communication Associated Press Awards of Special Merit: Richard T. Pienciak, Ron Harris, Justin Pritchard, Jeff Donn, Mitch Weiss, Michael Kunzelman, Seth Borenstein, Rich Matthews, Jason Bronis, Tamara Lush, Mike Baker, Holbrook Mohr, Dave Clark, Fielding Cage, Merrill Sherman, Peter Prengaman, and Cain Burdeau Oil Spill Reporting Associated Press Cleo Paskal Awards of Special Merit: Cleo Paskal “Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic, and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map” Key Porter Books (Canada) and Palgrave Macmillan (U.S.A.) Andrew Nikiforuk Awards of Special Merit: Andrew Nikiforuk “Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent” Greystone Books Alison Richards and David Malakoff Awards of Special Merit: Alison Richards and David Malakoff “Climate Connections: How people change climate, how climate changes people” National Public Radio East Oregonian Publishing Company Awards of Special Merit: Patrick Webb, The Daily Astorian; Phil Wright, Hal McCune and Samantha Bates, The East Oregonian; Kate Ramsayer, Cassandra Profita and Kara Hansen, The Daily Astorian; Elaine Shein, Tam Moore, Cookson Beecher, Bob Krauter, Mitch Lies, Patricia McCoy and Scott Yates, The Capital Press; Elizabeth Long and Cate Gable, The Chinook Observer, Scott Mallory, The Blue Mountain Eagle; Dave Hassler and Andrew Wilkins, The Wallowa Chieftain “Our Climate is Changing… Ready or Not” East Oregonian Publishing Company Elizabeth Kolbert Awards of Special Merit: Elizabeth Kolbert “The Climate of Man” The New Yorker
Gary Marcuse, Betsy Carson, & Shi Lihong Awards of Special Merit: Gary Marcuse, Betsy Carson, & Shi Lihong Waking the Green Tiger: A Green Movement Rises in China Face to Face Media Hedrick Smith, Rick Young, Marc Shaffer, Peter Pearce,
    Penny Trams, Catherine Rentz, Fritz Kramer Awards of Special Merit: Hedrick Smith, Rick Young, Marc Shaffer, Peter Pearce, Penny Trams, Catherine Rentz, Fritz Kramer “Poisoned Waters” Hedrick Smith Productions for PBS Frontline Susanne Rust & Meg Kissinger Awards of Special Merit: Susanne Rust & Meg Kissinger “Chemical Fallout” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Ed Struzik Awards of Special Merit: Ed Struzik “The Big Thaw – Arctic in Peril” The Edmonton Journal and the Toronto Star Dimming the Sun Awards of Special Merit: A DOX production for NOVA/WGBH and the BBC “Dimming the Sun: What Does This Climate Conundrum Mean for the Future of Earth?” NOVA/WGBH and the BBC WBAL Channel 11 Awards of Special Merit: John Sherman and Beau Kershaw “Dirty Secret” WBAL-TV, Baltimore, MD

2011 Grantham Prize Winner

James Astill

Seeing the Wood

The Economist

This eight-part special report on the world’s forests, running approximately 14,000 words, ran in the September 25, 2010 issue of The Economist. This report commanded the cover of every edition of The Economist, including its best-selling US edition. The series decribes the state of forests. It evaluates the rising threats they face from human exploitation and climate change. With an emphasis on tropical forests, Astill also explains their critical environmental importance and suggests ways to save them. Astill weighs the main forest conservation efforts, including payments for ecosystem services, community forest management, and certification schemes, and pays particular attention to REDD+, the nascent international effort to slash tropical deforestation. This special issue of The Economist came out two months before the UN’s climate change summit in Cancun, at which a global agreement was reached to launch REDD+.

flying parrotThese articles suggest the risks to tropical forests are extremely grave, but that the situation is not hopeless. Once forests are valued properly, Astill argues, they can be saved. The report argues that this should not be considered optional: a future without extensive tropical and other forests is too dire to contemplate. To reinforce that message, Astill sought to impart some of his own sense of wonder at these precious ecosystems.

To research the series, Astill travelled to the forests of Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Uganda, where he interviewed many people trying to protect trees or destroy them. The report was also informed by his previous assignments in the forests of Congo, Cameroon, India, and Kenya, and Astill compiled an impressive and extensive bibliography of forest literature as part of his reporting. To add further context to the series, Astill conducted over one hundred telephone and email interviews with experts in the USA, Australia, Canada, China, Gabon, and Switzerland.

Not surprisingly, this special issue of The Economist generated a huge response from readers. For the scope and quality of his reporting, and for the significant impact that this series had upon discussions at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2010, James Astill is awarded The Grantham Prize for 2011.

Listen to an interview with James Astill about this series.

Click here to read Astill’s report in The Economist.


Grantham Prize Jury Comments on Seeing the Wood

"The World's Lungs", The Economist

“The World’s Lungs”, The Economist

Forests are indispensible to life on earth as we know it but they’re being chopped down at an alarming rate. As the destruction spreads, so does the economic and environmental impact on the planet and its climate. In an eight-part special report for The Economist, notable for its breadth, sophistication and even-handedness, journalist James Astill clearly explained the stakes and examined the options for action to save the remaining tropical forests. The problem, Astill wrote, is that forests are undervalued, even by those who depend on them, and changing that fundamental disconnect will require not just creative policies but political will.

Astill traveled thousands of miles to Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Uganda to report first hand on “the world’s lungs” and the critical role forests play in sequestering carbon, regulating runoff, preserving biodiversity and providing livelihoods and food to millions of people. The stories introduced readers to scientists, indigenous communities, loggers and planters who all have a direct interest in the future of forests. The report makes clear that forests today face severe risks but the situation is not hopeless.

Illustrated with stunning photos and revealing maps, this meticulously researched and thoroughly reported series deserves acclaim for spotlighting forests as an often-misunderstood component of the international debate on climate change policy. It pays particular attention to REDD, an international effort to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by paying people in developing countries not to cut down trees. 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.


James Astill

James Astill

About James Astill

James Astill is the Energy and Environment editor of The Economist, based in London. He was previously South Asia correspondent, based in Delhi and writing about India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives. He has also been the weekly news magazine’s defense and terrorism correspondent, based in London, and Afghanistan correspondent, based in Islamabad. Before joining The Economist, he wrote for the Guardian for four years, based in Pakistan and in east and central Africa. He has a particular interest in Congo. He began writing journalism in Tokyo, while studying Japanese and Japanese theatre. He was educated at Oxford University and Tokyo University, where he studied Japanese and Japanese classical theatre, as a Monbusho research Scholar.