Monthly Archives: September 2015

Environment  Mongabay.com: Pope’s encyclical draws support from Peru’s #1 environmental official

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal is Peru's minister of the environment, and among the most most influential climate change policy makers. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal is Peru’s minister of the environment, and among the most most influential climate change policy makers. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

I remember Manuel Pulgar-Vidal well from the UN Climate Summit in Lima in December 2014. He was seemingly everywhere, certainly at every press conference. He was friendly and accessible. I was offered to interview him the day COP20 opened, but declined; I could not get to Lima so soon.

In mid-July, 2015, through the high-level connections of Enrique Ortiz, my fixer and interpreter for two weeks in Puru, I got an hour with the minister. He had studied he encyclical and had a lot to say about it. He was less keen on discussing the Tia Maria copper mine in southern Peru. It was a great interview, linked here, and I’m glad mangabay.com chose to run this and two others.

Mongabay Edior Glenn Scherer’s summary: 

1, Peruvian Environmental Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal hosted COP20 in Lima, and will play a leading role at Paris COP 21 in December.
2. He praises the Pope’s controversial encyclical written in “the language of a poet, with the precision of an engineer, and by a leader with the moral authority to have influence.”
3. “We [will] have an agreement in Paris,” says the minister. Obama, China, France, Peru, many nations want it. “The political moment is key, and this papal document is very helpful.”
More photos by Emilia Catanoso from the interview and just before:
Hanging out with an Indian tribe outside his office. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Hanging out with an Indian tribe outside his office. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

During the interview. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

During the interview. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Not too happy in the direction change of the interview. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Not too happy in the direction change of the interview. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Environment  Mongabay.com: Pope and Peru’s top mining CEO agree and at odds on environment

Roque Benavides, CEO of BuenaVentura, Peru's largest precious metals mining company. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Roque Benavides, CEO of BuenaVentura, Peru’s largest precious metals mining company. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Through the good fortune of meeting TV producer Luis Moray in Lima, I was able to spend the last morning of my reporting during my first of two trips to Peru last summer interviewing one of the country’s most influential businessmen — Roque Benavides, CEO of BueanaVentura Mining. He read the encyclical before our interview so he would be prepared.  Mongabay.com, with expert editing by Glenn Scherer, published a series of three of my Q&A stories during the week of Pope Francis’ history visit to the United States in late September 2015.  My first Q&A is here.

Glenn Scherer wrote as an intro to my interview: 

  • Roque Benavides makes no apologies for Peru’s extraction industry, noting that it employs tens of thousands, and gives much back to the communities in which it works.
  • The CEO fears that the Pope’s encyclical is overly simplistic, putting too much of the blame for the environmental crisis on industry and business.
  • He argues forcefully that government has failed in its role as environmental protector, and that the poor are more destructive to the environment than industry.

Emilia Catanoso took a series of amazing photographs. Her best of the entire two-week experience.

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Breaking News  WGHP Fox 8: Catanoso commentary on Pope Francis’ historic address to Congress

WGHP

For the second time in four days, I was invited on to the top-rated news program in the Triad to discuss history — the fist-ever address to a Joint Session of Congress by a pope. This one was extraordinary. My commentary with Neil McNeill is here.

In his 40-minute address, Pope Francis demonstrated first and foremost his admiration not only for the United States (“land of the free, home of the brave,”) but also of America’s great promise as a land of hope and dreams. He delivered his speech in English with grace and humility by making every aggressive point he intended on immigration, climate change, the death penalty, financial reform, marriage, terrorism and respect for the poor. It was brilliant.

Environment  Sunday News & Observer: Pope gets pushback on environment

"The life of the plant is more important than anything the pope says." Photo by Jason Houstin

Emel Salazar in La Oroya, Peru: “The life of the plant is more important than anything the pope says.” Photo by Jason Houston

Every Pulitzer Center journalist must ensure that his or her work will be published or broadcast before a grant is considered. That’s the model. They pay expenses so that your work can fill the gaps of news organizations that want foreign reporting, but no longer have staff abroad. When my Pulitzer turn came around around again last spring, I called an editor I’ve long admired but never had the opportunity to work for: John Drescher of the New & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. After explaining my project, he readily agreed to take one of my stories. I was thrilled.

So on Sept. 20, 2015, I had my first page 1 story in a Sunday daily newspaper since I left the News & Record in Greensboro in May 1998. That’s a long time before Sunday fronts, but given that the N&O practically cleared page 1 for me and published all 1,900 words I wrote, plus several photos, it was worth the wait. It’s funny, but in buying papers in Chapel Hill, I felt the same thrill I did when I was a kid, seeing my first byline in print.

Front page, The Sunday News & Observer, Sept. 20, 2015. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Front page, The Sunday News & Observer, Sept. 20, 2015. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Radio  WFDD: Pope’s U.S. Visit Comes As He Calls For Climate Change Action

This farm valley in southern Peru is threated by a proposed copper mine. Photo by Justin Catanoso

This farm valley in southern Peru is threated by a proposed copper mine. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Emily McCord, the news director at WFDD, has had a huge interest in my climate change reporting since she joined the station a year ago last summer. I am grateful for that. Today, Sept. 21, 2015, she broadcasts my first radio report based on my Pope-and-Peru reporting.

Breaking News  WGHP Fox 8 TV — The importance of Pope Francis in America

WGHP

My friend and news anchor Neill McNeill at WGHP Fox 8, the highest-rated TV news program in the Triad, called early Monday to see if I would come on the program in the early evening. Why? Pope Francis‘ first-ever visit to the U.S., which is getting wall-to-wall coverage. Three minutes flew by, but we covered some ground in this segment, including a bit about my Peru reporting. I’ll be back on Thursday to discuss the pope’s speech to Congress.

 

Environment  Mongabay.com: Peru’s Conundrum: a Pope’s environmental message divides his people

The smelting that virtually killed a city in the Andes, and poisoned its people. And the people want it open again, even as the pope speaks out against such environmental oppression. Photo by Jason Houstin

The smelting that virtually killed a city in the Andes, and poisoned its people. And the people want it open again, even as the pope speaks out against such environmental oppression. Photo by Jason Houstin

I had the great pleasure to work with mongabay.com editor Glenn Scherer on this important story, that is as comprehensive as it is sad and vexing. As Glenn wrote in the subhead: “Big business and labor in one of the world’s most Catholic nations wrestle with the economic implications of Pope Francis’ revolutionary encyclical on the environment.”

The link to the story is here.

Seven decades of acid rain has changed the chemical composition of the surrounding mountains. La Oroya is considered on of the most polluted cities on earth.

Seven decades of acid rain has changed the chemical composition of the surrounding mountains. La Oroya is considered on of the most polluted cities on earth. Photo by Jason Houston

Environment  Global Pulse Magazine: Pope Francis’ Encylical and Three Priests of Peru

This Peruvian priest in Cocachacra, home to the most contentious environment battle in Peru, is determined to remain neutral -- unless instructed otherwise. Photo by Justin Catanoso

This Peruvian priest in Cocachacra, home to the most contentious environment battle in Peru, is determined to remain neutral — unless instructed otherwise. Photo by Justin Catanoso

I met Robert Mickens in Rome in May through my good friend, Rome-based freelance journalist Eric J. Lyman. Mickens happens to be a leading expert on the Vatican and the guy who explained how I could get credentials to cover the release of the papal encyclical.

He was also interested in my reporting from Peru, and published my second story that focuses on three Peruvian priests in three parts of the country with three different perspectives on the environmental document. Mickens is the editor of GlobalPulseMagazine.com, which covers the Vatican and all things Catholic. The link to the story is here.

Environment  Pulitzer Center: Meet the Journalist, a video

The mayor of Cocachacra take me to the controversial mine copper mine site that he and 3,000 farmers have been battling to a stalemate since 2009. Photo by Enrique Ortiz

The mayor of Cocachacra take me to the controversial mine copper mine site that he and 3,000 farmers have been battling to a stalemate since 2009. Photo by Enrique Ortiz

The name of my project for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting is:

Saving Eden: Francis Exerts His Moral Authority.  “Latin America’s first pope derides our “throw-away” culture while offering a stern prescription for environmental protection. Will those who revere him in his native region follow his lead?”

I explain the background and premise of my project in this video, which was shot on location in Peru and edited by Michael Frierson, professor of film at UNC-Greensboro, It turned out really well, with assistance from Enrique Ortiz and Emilia Catanoso.

Environment  Mongabay.com: Pope’s environmental encyclical arrives in Peru to mixed reviews

Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change and environmental protection. Released at the Vatican in June 2015

Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change and environmental protection. Released at the Vatican in June 2015. Photo by Justin Catanoso

In early May, Jon Sawyer, founder and executive director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, asked me to take on a special assignment. He believed it was tailor-made for me. The topic: Pope Francis’ upcoming already-controversial encyclical, or Catholic, teaching document on climate change and environment protection. The premise: how is the document being received in Latin American, the popular pope’s home region. I was honored to accept the assignment.

After being able to cover the Vatican press conference on June 18 while in Rome with my Wake Forest travel writing students, I traveled to Peru twice during the summer — a total of three weeks — to report the story. I was joined by incredible professionals such as guide and consultant Enrique Ortiz, fixer Aldo Villanueava, photographer Jason Houston, and for two weeks, my daughter Emilia Catanoso, who was my first photographer.

I was proud that my first stories were published on one of the nation’s most respected environmental web sites, mongabay.com. Here’s a link to the first story.

Jesus Cornejo, one of the most courageous men I've ever met. He is featured in the story. Photo by Enrique Ortiz

Jesus Cornejo, one of the most courageous men I’ve ever met. He is featured in the story. Photo by Enrique Ortiz