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.

 

February 17, 2021

  • As Democratic New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland prepares to possibly become the first Native American Interior secretary, it's becoming clearer than ever that environmental concerns are deeply intertwined with Native American life. But news media often ignore the connections, missing important stories as a result. Our new Backgrounder helps set that to rights by spotlighting 10 key environmental issues affecting Native American communities and offering a dozen-and-a-half reporting resources. 

January 20, 2021

January 6, 2021

December 16, 2020

December 2, 2020

  • Automakers are at the heart of the conflict over climate change policy, thanks to the prevalence of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. That may now be changing. And not just because of the incoming Biden administration, but also with shifting investment in the future of electric vehicles. A look at how car companies are piloting that path, from the latest Backgrounder. Electric Hummer, anyone?

November 11, 2020

October 7, 2020

  • When it comes to climate change, coal’s carbon emissions mean trouble. But as Backgrounder explains, if the once-powerful coal industry is on the decline in the United States, the fuel’s still finding favor worldwide. And that’s bad news for the Paris climate accord’s hopes of gaining control of runaway warming. The story behind the “exaggerated death” of coal.

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.

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