Guardian environment writers: ‘With your help, we are tackling humankind’s greatest challenge’
George Monbiot, columnist and author of several books on the climate crisis
Before I worked for the Guardian, I tried writing for other newspapers, in the belief I should reach the unconverted. But I gradually discovered that all of them were intensely hostile to thoughtful explorations of ecological and climate breakdown. In total, I was commissioned to write 26 articles. All but two were spiked. Eventually I realised it was impossible to cover these crucial issues properly without supportive editors. Reluctantly at first, I started writing for the Guardian in the early 1990s. Across most of this period, it has been the only paper that has consistently supported powerful writing about the gathering collapse of our life support systems. Now, with your help, it is devoting unprecedented resources to the greatest predicament humankind has ever faced. Thanks to your support, I will keep writing about every aspect of our environmental crisis, always striving to dig deeper and to understand more.
Emily Holden, environment reporter for Guardian US
As the Guardian’s environment and climate crisis reporter in Washington DC, I write about how the Trump administration’s rollbacks of key public health and pollution protections will hurt Americans. I investigate how corporate power over public policy stalls climate progress at the national and state level.
I have reported on environment policy across the country, tracking the build-out of the plastics industry in Appalachia and local resistance to chemicals manufacturing in Louisiana.
For our Toxic America series, I tested my own body to demonstrate how many dangerous chemicals Americans are exposed to in daily life.
As a million species face extinction, I have traveled from the west coast to the Gulf of Mexico to chronicle the devastating toll human living takes on nature and to explain what Trump officials’ work to ease wildlife protections will mean for biodiversity.
George Monbiot being arrested by police during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London, 16 October 2019.
Oliver Milman, environment reporter for Guardian US
The media traditionally overlooks slow-moving emergencies so it’s inspiring that the Guardian has long covered the climate crisis in a thoughtful, comprehensive and, increasingly, an urgent way. That urgency is now playing out in real time, in a tumult of hurricanes, wildfires, heatwaves and protester rage. The US is a crucible for the decisions that led to the climate crisis as well as the disasters wrought by it, demanding that we not only report on the victims – disproportionately people of colour and the disadvantaged – of this unfolding catastrophe but also interrogate the policies that have led us to this point.
I have sought to illuminate the actions of the Trump administration, easily the most destructive when it comes to climate than any previous US administration, and show how the climate crisis is playing out as an existential threat for many Americans on the margins. I’m currently looking at how global heating will shape the 2020 election, as well as some of the emerging solutions to the crisis. This is the defining issue of our time and we need to treat it as such.
Matthew Taylor, environment correspondent
We have just finished the Polluters project, which aimed to shine a light on the role of fossil fuel companies in the escalating climate crisis – and the financial, lobbying and political systems that underpin them. It was a huge collective effort with reporters, data journalists and editors working in countries around the world for the past six months. I teamed up with academics in the US to pull together data that revealed that just 20 fossil fuel companies are behind a third of global carbon emissions.
I have also been investigating the plastics industry, uncovering how global fossil fuel corporations are investing $180bn in new plastic production companies, even as scientists discover plastic pollution in every aspect of our lives from the oceans to drinking water, food to the air we breathe – with unknown health implications.
Another area of inquiry is air pollution and its impact on people’s day-to-day lives, particularly in big cities where cars dominate the public space.
It was, in part, a realisation that the same fossil fuel companies were at the heart of each of these three major ecological crises – plastics, air pollution and global heating – that led to focus on the systemic nature of the crisis and the Polluters project.
I have also been following the emergence of various environmental protest movements over the past 18 months – particularly Extinction Rebellion and the school strikes. I first heard about plans for XR in a central London cafe six months before it launched. One of the founders told me they would bring large parts of central London to a standstill for days on end with hundreds of people arrested for peaceful mass civil disobedience. Eighteen months later that has proved remarkably prescient, although what happens next is unclear.
But when I saw some of those involved in the latest XR protests holding up copies of our Polluters project front page, it reminded me that the Guardian’s journalism can help shape and inform the debate around these huge crises we face.
Adam Morton, environment editor, Guardian Australia
Eastern Australia continues to suffer through the worse drought in living memory. Summer is weeks away, but parts of the country are sweltering and burning. Its most celebrated natural wonder is under grave threat. Scientists warn a local extinction crisis is worsening. Australians are increasingly concerned, yet politics continues to wreck itself over global heating, fights between and within parties over climate policy having played a part in the downfall of the previous five prime ministers. The government repeatedly claims to be acting, but has few policies, national emissions are rising year-on-year, vast new fossil fuel projects win support and leaders from the Pacific islands and elsewhere are dismissed when they call for more to be done.
Exploring the changes being felt across the country and holding Australia’s political and business leaders to account are the major focus for Guardian Australia’s environment reporting team, which – with readers’ support – recently expanded from one to three, with an increased emphasis on investigations. We are also committed to telling the stories of people living on the frontline of climate change and spotlighting tales of hope: showing that, in a wealthy country with unmatched renewable resources, there are options beyond despair.
Jillian Ambrose, energy correspondent
It has taken only a few decades for the energy industry to power the world into a climate catastrophe. The Guardian’s Polluters series laid this bare: oil companies have understood the consequences of their actions decades ahead of the public, and they have actively fought to conceal the truth about the world’s fossil fuel addiction. This truth is now propelled by social media, and gaining ground in US court hearings and in climate talks across the globe. #TheyKnew.
But the Polluters series also revealed that for Big Oil the destruction of the climate is still business as usual. By 2030 the world’s biggest oil producers plan to produce an extra 7m barrels of oil and gas everyday; knowingly putting the world on track for climbing global temperatures and deadly climate chaos. At the same time, UK government officials are using taxpayer money to finance fossil fuels abroad, locking developing countries into decades more of dependence on a dying industry. And the global investment industry stands poised to use people’s pensions pots to buy a stake in Saudi Aramco, easily the world’s biggest polluter.
The energy industry, and its backers, must be held to account on its greenwashed PR promises and spin; where journalists shine a light, progressive leaders can take action to dismantle the structures that reward pollution with profits – and build something new.
Patrick Barkham, natural history writer
I can’t pretend that revealing how the long-tailed blue butterfly has bred rather well along England’s south coast this year is the world’s most important story. Writing about other species, and our relationships with them, can seem an insignificant dot among all the vital news reported by the Guardian. But we – both readers and writers – are joining the dots. The struggles and successes of other species in an age of extinction prick our conscience, tell us about the climate crisis and will ultimately determine whether our civilisation can endure.
I’ve recently written about Sir David Attenborough’s career and ancient trees threatened by high-speed rail; I’m researching stories about regenerative farming and rewilding. We need to know what’s happening to plants and animals but we also need hope, and that’s provided by shining a light on solutions – the many human action that address our current predicament.
Jon Watts, global environment editor
Our natural life support systems are collapsing. That is a sentence nobody in their right mind would ever want to dwell on, but in different ways on different days, that’s what I spend most of my working life thinking and writing about. Fortunately for my mental health, I also get to talk to the brave and brilliant people who are fighting to change that. This year, I have reported on the environmental crisis from the Arctic to the Amazon, interviewed Greta Thunberg, covered climate protests across the world, collaborated on the Green Blood investigation into international mining crimes, and helped to pull together the Polluters series of stories that named and shamed the fossil fuel companies profiting from climate breakdown.
In the coming two months, I will join a search for nature-based political solutions in Brazil and UN negotiations in Chile that aim to raise action on carbon emissions. Next year, there will be even more important climate and biodiversity summits in Glasgow and Kunming, as well as environmentally crucial elections in the US and elsewhere. This feels like a defining moment for humanity: Excited the issues are finally getting the attention they deserve. Worried the urgency is still not at the level required. Proud the Guardian and its supporters are taking the lead in stepping up the pace.
Fiona Harvey, environment journalist
If the climate crisis were the only environmental emergency facing us, we might be in with a good chance of solving it. But at the same time as moving to a low-carbon world, we have to grapple with pressing issues from the plastic scourge of the oceans to the pollution we are pouring into our children’s lungs, our failing water supplies, rapidly falling populations of vital fauna, our plundering of the oceans sending fish populations plummeting, and the challenge of feeding more than 9 billion people. We do not have the luxury of choosing which of these to concentrate on: they are all vital to our continued life on the planet, and that is why the Guardian devotes more reporting effort to these issues than any of the world’s other major media.
These problems can all be solved and – contrary to alarmist claims from the extreme left and right – they can be solved without plunging us into a new dark age or reversing the benefits of modern life. Done right, we can improve life for all and create a happier and more equitable world as well as a healthier planet. Ignoring our pressing environmental problems solves nothing, and writing about them is the first step. The message is one of hope – but hope only works if we acknowledge and act on the need for change.
Nina Lakhani, environmental justice reporter, Guardian US
Environmental justice means equal access to clean air, land and water, and healthy food wherever we work, live, play, learn and pray – regardless of wealth, ethnicity, skin colour, gender, age and social class. In other words, we should all get to breath clean air, have enough water to drink, and be able to buy or grow healthy food. But the reality is that ecological hazards and climate disasters have the harshest impacts on people of colour, indigenous communities and those on low incomes. This isn’t new, but rising sea levels and extreme weather events linked to the climate crisis, coupled with the roll back of environmental protection and climate resilience programmes by the Trump administration, means vulnerable communities face mounting threats.
That’s why in my role as the Guardian’s first environmental justice reporter, I’ll be investigating the impact of classist and racist public policies, corporate interests and the climate crisis on communities across the US and beyond. Who breaths the most polluted air? Which communities struggle to access enough water? Where are the food deserts? Who are the environmental justice warriors fighting back against Big Business and state corruption? Which children have access to safe green spaces and which don’t? Environmental racism and discrimination cause and perpetuate health, social and economic inequalities. Help the Guardian expose the shocking, and champion the extraordinary through our year-long series Our Unequal Earth.
Damien Gayle, reporter
Without the logistical, editorial and financial support of the Guardian, I could not have spent two weeks carrying out thorough on-the-ground reporting of Extinction Rebellion’s “autumn uprising” protests in London this October. In-depth reporting is only possible with a newsroom able to give reporters the time they need to walk the streets and meet people face to face, a newsroom that isn’t commissioning us to hammer out six stories a day for the commercial team to throw adverts on to. And without billionaire backers, that kind of news organisation relies on the support of ordinary people like you. Continue to support us, and we can continue to cover the news and issues that you care about.
Damian Carrington, environment editor
The climate crisis and annihilation of wildlife around the world is finally breaking into the mainstream, as the impacts become obvious and the youth strikers call older generations to account. So I’m focusing on both the increasing dangers of climate breakdown and the solutions, including those that involve restoring nature and, with it, wildlife. The next year is critical, with key UN summits on climate and biodiversity. Human civilisation evolved in a period of settled climate conditions – its continuation requires stopping our own actions bringing that period to a chaotic end.