SEJ's Fund for Environmental Journalism Awards $48,768 in Story Project Grants in New Rapid Response Grants 2020

August 28, 2020 — The Society of Environmental Journalists' Fund for Environmental Journalism has awarded an additional $48,768 for 11 new story projects selected via its Rapid Response story project grants on a wide range of environmental issues and regions. SEJ previously awarded $76,760 in grants, and expects to award additional grants in the next month.

Eligible topics this round: Climate change or conservation in North America; oceans and coasts globally; water security in the United States; and the Mississippi River basin.

To date, SEJ's Rapid Response Grants have funded:

  • Fund Journalists: 52 professional journalists, photographers and editors will receive stipends of up to $2,000 each.
  • Increase Representation: More than 60% of the funds have been awarded to story projects focused on under-represented communities or diverse perspectives on environmental issues.
  • Support Local Stories: More than two-thirds of the story projects focus on a local or regional issue, ranging from Mississippi's floodplains to Canada's Pacific coast.

See the grantees for Round 1.


The recipients of the Fund for Environmental Journalism Rapid Response grants (Round 2) are:


John AntonellieJohn Antonelli, for "The Earth is Tired." The film will take a deep dive into the lives of the typical Haitian farmer and fisherman. As they go about their daily struggle to survive, they inevitably intersect with the work of Jean Wiener, a marine biologist in Cap Haitien, and Chavannes Jean Baptiste, an agronomist in Hinche. Both men are completely immersed in the effort to rebuild Haiti's once flourishing ecosystem, economy and dignity.


Casey CarterColleen CassinghamCasey Carter (pictured, right) and Colleen Cassingham, for "To Use a Mountain," an independent feature documentary that presents generational, rural American stories of environmental ruin, citizen science and ecopolitical activism in areas that once faced the possibility of federally mandated nuclear waste storage. Part dystopian exposé and part vérité tableau, this film entwines the rural geographies of the atomic age with the dreams, disillusionments and fortitudes of the stories that live within them.


Headshot of William CrispWilliam Crisp, for "Marine Pollution Investigation," an investigation that will focus on highly polluting shipping companies that are causing instances of marine pollution, as well as those that use the services provided by these shipping companies.

FEJ-funded project:


Jeremy Deaton, for "Climate Change and the Coronavirus in Chicago." Black communities in Chicago face higher rates of Jeremy DeatonCOVID-19, higher rates of pollution (which exacerbates COVID-19), and also tend to be warmer than other parts of the city, yielding more severe summer heat (which worsens pollution and weakens immune systems, thereby worsening COVID-19). The data-driven story will explore how these factors intersect with other risk factors, such as limited access to fresh food and health care. (Nexus Media)

FEJ-funded project:


J. Carl GanterJ. Carl Ganter and Brett Walton, for "Drowning in Debt: As Past-Due Water Bills Mount, Health and Economies Struggle." Household water debt is an underappreciated factor in the tenuous balance between the affordability of water and sewer service in the United States and budget stability for municipal utilities. Circle of Blue's reporting team is hand-collecting data on outstanding water debt from major cities across the United States to uncover where are the pain points for people, their utilities and their cities.

FEJ-funded project:


Jessica ApplegatePaul KobersteinPaul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate, for "Investigating Forest Carbon Offsets." Our investigation found that forest carbon offsets granted by the state of California protect trees in Southeast Alaska in exchange for carbon emissions stemming from oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, a rare, rich and highly vulnerable ecosystem. We also found that the offsets fail to reduce carbon emissions as required under California's carbon cap-and-trade law. (Cascadia Times)

FEJ-funded project:


Cooper McKimCooper McKim, for "Carbon Valley," which follows one underdog competitor through an international carbon-capture competition underway in Wyoming. The series explores the long-term viability of carbon capture as both a solution to climate change and a means to keeping Wyoming's declining coal industry afloat.

FEJ-funded project:


David MoskowitzDavid Moskowitz, for "Wild Salmon, Fish Farms and First Nations." In the waters around Vancouver Island, Canada, the future of wild salmon hang in the balance in a tug-of-war between Scandinavian corporations that operate open-water fish farms and conservation interests that see these farms as the final nail in the coffin for wild salmon runs up and down the British Columbia coast. This moment presents opportunities and risks for sovereign First Nations with increasing power over what goes on within the boundaries of their traditional territory. Within a complicated matrix of influences, each First Nation must sort out how to balance traditional cultural values, food security and economic opportunity.

FEJ-funded project:


Julia RosenJulia Rosen, for "Cap-and-Trade and Environmental Justice: What Does an Equitable Cap-and-Trade Program Look Like?" This report will investigate the impacts of California's cap-and-trade program on communities of color and will examine the research behind proposed solutions in order to shed light on what an equitable cap-and-trade program might look like. (Yes Magazine)

FEJ-funded project:



Emily SekineEmily Sekine, for "Bayou Sutra." During World War II, around 16,000 Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast were relocated to Arkansas, incarcerated by the U.S. government, and forced to turn acres of swampland in the Mississippi Delta into productive agricultural land. The story of Japanese-American wartime incarceration is not often thought of as an environmental story, but it has a lot to do with current debates over industrial agriculture, climate change and the loss of the wetlands. It͛'s also part of a much longer history of unjust labor practices and destructive land management policies in the South, which reveals that efforts to control the unruliness of the Mississippi River watershed are fundamentally tied to efforts to control the unruliness of certain populations.

FEJ-funded project:


Gavin P. SmithGavin Smith, for "Toxic Military Contamination — Environmental and Health Impacts of PFAS in Aqueous Firefighting Foams at Bases Nationwide." PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), carcinogens now found on 651 U.S. military sites, have taken a terrible toll in terms of environmental cleanup and health issues for those exposed. Civilian Exposure, which has been reporting on toxic military exposure for years, is creating and disseminating a series of articles/podcasts about the toxic substances on U.S. military bases, potential exposures, any ongoing cleanup efforts and future health impacts.

FEJ-funded project (articles):

FEJ-funded project (podcasts):



For the last 10 years, SEJ's Fund for Environmental Journalism has helped foundation partners and individual donors support journalism projects that are editorially independent and independently juried. Support for the Rapid Response grants comes from The Hewlett Foundation, The Bullitt Foundation, Walton Family Foundation and other foundation and individual donors to the Fund for Environmental Journalism.

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