Backgrounders

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Issue Backgrounders are a monthly SEJournal Online feature to help journalists better cover emerging environmental issues, especially challenging or under-reported topics. Each Issue Backgrounder focuses on a specific environmental topic, offering key questions, basic answers, source contacts and other resources. For questions and comments, or to suggest future Issue Backgrounders, email the SEJournal editor A. Adam Glenn at sejournaleditor@sej.org.

 

August 26, 2020

  • Ammonium nitrate, the explosive agricultural fertilizer that blew up in Lebanon this month,  killing dozens and severely damaging Beirut’s center, is stored by the thousands of tons all over the United States. But regulatory blindspots and secretive information policies mean few know exactly where. Backgrounder reviews the chemical’s oversight regime — and its gaps — and has ideas for reporting from your community.

August 12, 2020

  • As Democratic and Republican parties plan their nominating conventions beginning next week amid a pandemic and a recession, it’s instructive to examine the state of thinking about a “green recovery.”  Backgrounder looks at the politicking and policies behind the notion that a massive clean energy plan could be good not just for addressing climate change, but also the economy.

June 24, 2020

  • In the aftermath of the pandemic, the so-called built environment is likely to get a thorough reexamination, whether it’s to reconsider commuting, shopping, recreation, eating out or taking in sporting events. Our latest Issue Backgrounder looks at the top ways coronavirus will force us to rethink our cities and how we live in and travel through them.

May 27, 2020

  • Unheeded warnings are the hallmark of many disasters. And with coronavirus still hobbling the nation, communities and journalists must now watch for all the ways COVID-19 could make even the most familiar hazards far worse. Prepare with this extensive Backgrounder, which touches on issues around evacuations and emergency readiness when facing storms, fires, toxic releases and more.

April 22, 2020

March 25, 2020

February 19, 2020

January 22, 2020

  • Despite warnings that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would be dismantled under the Trump administration, it remains very much alive, thanks to the realities of politics and litigation. Yet its staffing, enforcement and science advisory roles remain under the gun. In the latest of our Backgrounders for the “2020 Journalists’ Guide to Energy & Environment,” we read the tea leaves on the future of the EPA.

January 15, 2020

  • Safety has traditionally been the key question when discussing the realities of nuclear power. But in assessing the future of the nuclear industry amid debates over its potential to help tackle the climate crisis, the latest entry in our “2020 Journalists’ Guide to Energy & the Environment” reports that there may be an equally pressing concern. 

November 13, 2019

  • A massive transportation measure is working its way through Congress, with environmental elements including climate change and public transit. But will this “must-pass” measure actually pass in the coming year? Or will it be bogged down by politics or looming questions of how to pay for it? A new Issue Backgrounder explains.

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