By Christine Heinrichs
The opening dinner blew me away. Kathy Mattea sang from her new album, Coal. I'm not a very demonstrative person, but her version of The Coming of the Roads had me sobbing. Great food -- three kinds of pasta, pate, salmon, both as hors d'oeuvres and as steamed whole fish, displayed complete with heads, with a lemon in their jaws! So many desserts. I was strong, and sampled as many as I could.
Carol Nolen, SEJ senior programs associate, was awarded a bouquet of roses and the assembled membership's undying gratitude for her devoted and efficient service. Personally, I'll never forget how she recovered the jacket I lost in Burlington, a significant problem at that chilly conference!
The awards, hosted by Jeff Burnside, that followed were amazing. SEJ members produce such terrific quality work on such a breadth of subjects! From a print report on plastic ocean trash from Monterey's small weekly to a broadcast report on Arctic climate change from NBC. Chandra Simon's video report for Dan Rather on FEMA trailers for Katrina victims. New Jersey's The Record, the newspaper I grew up with, was recognized for a report on proposed development on toxic sites. Seth Borenstein won for his climate change coverage for the AP, and Dennis Dimmick for his climate change coverage in National Geographic.
The Rachel Carson Environment Book Award was given for the first time, with $10,000 going to the winner. Callum Roberts received the award for The Unnatural History of the Sea, which I resolved to acquire and read as soon as the conference is over. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to thank Alan Weiman, author of The World Without Us, personally. After I read that book, I got religion about never using plastic bags again. His account of the North Pacific Gyre absolutely chilled me.
Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau, grandchildren of Jacques and children of Philippe, showed a clip of their upcoming Discovery channel series, Oceans. They spoke passionately about their subject. Alexandra described communities in Panama devastated by overfishing, where formerly successful native fishermen now must fish days longer in hazardous conditions for a catch that used to be plentiful.
Philippe noted that while people are often honored for 'making a difference,' "Everything we do makes a difference," he said. "Everything has consequences."
A great evening all around. Thanks, Jeff.