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
Wake Forest ecology student learn first hand the perils of plastic on Long Caye. Photo by Justin Catanoso
During the week of March 7, 2015 — Spring Break — my wife and I traveled with a group of Wake Forest University students and faculty in a coral ecology class. Arriving in Belize City late morning, we all boarded a boat called the Great White and piloted 47 miles into the Caribbean to Lighthouse Reef Atoll, a remote and mostly untouched set of six islands on the world’s second-largest coral reef. We set up home for the week on Long Caye (2.5 miles long; 0.9 milewide) and the Itza Lodge, a fabulous, rustic eco-lodge used mostly by university groups and some intrepid tourists.
The beauty of the coral reef on Lighthouse Reef Atoll is unsurpassed. Photo by Justin Catanoso
My goal journalistically was to return with a story tied to the underwater marvels we saw while snorkeling daily in the clear turquoise water in the Atoll — including the famous Great Blue Hole. Instead, I came back with a heartbreaking story about our voluminous, reckless use-and-disposal of all manners of plastics, and how it is marring a place as beautiful, pristine and remote as Long Caye.
My radio commentary for March 27, 2015 was based on my Spring Break trip to Lighthouse Reef Atoll and Long Caye, which is located 47 miles off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean. In such a tiny, remote and pristine place, I was stunned by the sight of so much plastic waste. I wrestled with how to localize this international problem for my Triad Business Journal column. Fortunately, Will Scott, the Yadkin Riverkeeper, offered exactly what I needed to hear. The radio report with Keri Brown is here.
Excerpt: “I think the first thing is understanding that when it comes to the environment, our actions here have an impact just about everywhere else. That’s when you realize that how you answer the question ‘paper or plastic’ can make a difference. So can buying a Brita filter instead of a case of bottled water.”
The view from 13,000 feet in Manu National Park, Andes Mountains, southeastern Peru.
This radio report (7:17 minutes) for WUNC-North Carolina Public Radio overviews my climate change reporting in summer 2013 from the Amazon basin of Peru. It discusses the implications of upslope tree migration in the Amazon jungles as a result of warming temperatures.
The second recording (12 minutes) is of Wake Forest biologist MIles Silman and me on the afternoon news program at WUNC, The State of Things, with Frank Stasio, discussing the same topic.
Wake Forest biologist Miles Silman in the Peruvian cloud forest.