It’s not about you. But…

A nonfiction writer always faces a fundamental question when beginning a piece of work, namely: Do I insert myself in the narrative? If the piece is about oneself, then the answer is obvious. But most of us are writing about other topics, and inserting oneself often simply gets in the way. Still, there are times when a writer’s role in the story is impossible to … Continue reading It’s not about you. But…

Success story or fluke? The forest lion of Gabon

It was hard not to feel excited when the video footage landed in my inbox a few weeks ago. Researchers studying chimpanzees in the forests of Gabon’s Batéké Plateau National Park had captured footage of a solitary male lion on a remote camera – the first lion spotted in Gabon in 20 years. The national park was fairly young, established in 2002 as one of … Continue reading Success story or fluke? The forest lion of Gabon

Expanding the conservation tent

As I wrote my recent article for High Country News, I felt torn. Like many conservationists, I value biodiversity and natural ecosystems for their own sake, regardless of any tangible benefit they provide to humanity. That’s the argument for saving nature that conservation icons going back more than 100 years have made to help protect America’s wilderness, parks, and wildlife –and the argument that has … Continue reading Expanding the conservation tent

The MCHM mystery

It’s hard to believe that in America today 300,000 residents in and around a state capital could find themselves without safe drinking water for days. But that’s what happened one year ago this month in Charleston, West Virginia when MCHM, a chemical used to wash coal, leaked from a storage tank adjacent to the Elk River. State officials issued “do not use” orders for tap … Continue reading The MCHM mystery

The weather outside is frightful

Back in the day they used to call it global warming – or even the greenhouse effect, a handy metaphor to explain how the earth’s atmosphere could be warming up. “They” back then meant Sen. Al Gore. In the 1980s I had the opportunity to hear Gore speak at environmental conferences and congressional hearings while I worked for the Ecological Society of America in Washington … Continue reading The weather outside is frightful

Bird sex and bar stools

Long ago and far away I was a field assistant studying bobolinks for one of my Cornell professors, Tom Gavin, as an undergraduate intern. I went out each morning into dew-drenched meadows at Cornell’s Biological Field Station at Shackelton Point on Oneida Lake, and watched tiny birds that had migrated thousands of miles from their winter home in South America to nest in upstate New … Continue reading Bird sex and bar stools