2009 Awards of Special Merit
The news about climate change continues to be bleak. But with “e2: transport,” kontentreal shows us that some cities around the world are implementing changes to prevent or mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
The six-part series, part of “e2: The Economies of Being Environmentally Conscious” aired on PBS affiliates across the U.S. Fettig, Albers, and Bernard presented a novel and beautiful perspective on how some cities are tackling sustainable transportation in order to mitigate climate change. Each episode in the series explores global transportation innovations and the people behind these new approaches, ranging from a public-private bike initiative in Paris that encourages residents to forego their cars to the pursuit of new technologies and policies aimed at offsetting the effects of the aviation industry, such as new, synthetic jet fuels, and even a second generation dirigible airship.
Along the way, the kontentreal team stopped by London, to investigate new approaches to charging for car travel; Portland, Oregon, consistently ranked as one of America’s most livable cities, with the second lowest per capita transportation spending of the country’s 28 largest metropolitan areas; and Seoul, which deconstructed a major city freeway to undertake a major environmental restoration project.
Grantham Prize Jury Comments on e2: transport
Much reporting on the environment leaves readers and viewers with a sense of despair. The problems are so enormous, so daunting, that doing anything about them as an individual often seems futile.
Not so with “e2: transport.” This television project, an installment of a larger PBS series covering a range of environmental topics, is remarkable in the manner in which it captures human spirit and ingenuity around the world in tackling one of the modern world’s biggest challenges: How to move people around without further damaging the Earth.
The e2 team traveled to London to tell the tale of how a visionary mayor bucked pressure to build an effective transit system; to Paris to relate how an unlikely business — the world’s largest billboard company — was co-opted to fund a massive initiative to get Parisians out of their cars and on to bicycles; and to Seoul to report on how a devastated waterway was restored to become the center of public life. Other chapters looked at Portland’s collective courage in making transportation decisions, and at the importance of local food production in an environmental context.
The writing, videography, editing and online presentation of this series are all superb. It is a prime example of the transformative power of television when — as is too seldom the case — it is done well and on a worthy topic.
About the e2 Team:
Tad Fettig founded kontentreal with Karena Albers after a long career as a director of photography, producer director and executive producer in the advertising and independent film world. During that time, he worked for leading companies such as Scott Miller & Co., Propaganda and Pytka on campaigns for clients such as Mazda, AT&T, MCI and Ford as well as programming for NBC Sports. Independent films he produced include “Dopamine” (Sundance Film Festival 2003) and “Junta Relations” for King Entertainment. Since creating the company, he has taken on the roles of co-executive producer and director of all original content. Tad has been responsible for the critically acclaimed visual style of e2, as well as the focus of the content on solutions to environmental problems. He continues to apply his creative storytelling and production skills to grow the company into a leading supplier of documentary programming specializing on sustainability.
Karena Albers founded kontentreal in 2003 after more than 15 years as a high-level advertising executive for major clients such as Morgan Stanley, Exxon Mobil, State Farm, Mercedes Benz, Louis Vuitton and General Mills. She was founder and president of Integrated Marketing International, a marketing agency specializing in strategic corporate alliances for non-profits and international organizations. She was also group director for DDB Worldwide, the second largest advertising agency in the world, where she conceived and developed a successful new independent business unit for strategic alternative brand marketing solutions. As partner/owner of kontentreal, she has continued to champion the synergies between brand strategy and entertainment and used her entrepreneurial and marketing acumen to achieve the company’s mission as an instrument of change and innovation through high quality programming focusing on the environment. She is the original creator and Executive Producer of the PBS series, e2, about sustainable development.
Veronique Bernard is a television producer with 25 years’ experience in non-fiction programming and broadcast journalism in the United Kingdom, Australia and the U.S. She is responsible for hundreds of hours of factual television including news and current affairs, talk shows, magazine programs, documentaries, series, live shows and remote broadcasts for companies such as National Geographic Television & Film, New York Times Television, ABC News Productions, Condé Nast Media Group, WNET, WNYC, PBS, Discovery Communications, Sundance Channel and SBS TV in Australia, where she was the Head of Production. She has secured production funding for documentaries and series from federal bodies such as the National Endowment for the Humanities an the Australia Council and has worked on award-winning programs for NOVA, the Learning Channel, National Geographic Specials and Discovery Times. She is director of development for kontentreal.
“Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent”
Canada is the fifth largest exporter of oil in the world and home to the world’s largest energy project. In “Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent,” published by Greystone Books, author Andrew Nikiforuk examines the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, and what they mean for the economy and the environment of Alberta and the world.
Every major oil company in the world has a lease in the tar sands, a naturally occurring phenomenon with sand, clay water and dense petroleum. Scientists and environmentalists see the refining of oil from the sands as one of the most environmentally destructive projects on earth.
The open-pit tar sand mines take up an area the size of New York City and bring in $100 billion a year, and growing. Nikiforuk argues that the project is not only bad for Canada but worse, constitutes a double-barreled threat to the planet as a whole.
Tar Sands Presentation (pdf)
Grantham Prize Jury Comments on Tar Sands
The tar sands oil development in Alberta, Canada, may be the largest single fossil fuel project on the planet, covering an area the size of Florida. The International Energy Agency estimates the amount of recoverable oil trapped in Alberta’s sandy soil at roughly 170 billion barrels, putting Canada second only to Saudi Arabia in oil reserves. Some geologists suggest that the tar sands could eventually yield 10 times that amount. Whatever the number, most of Canada’s politicians and industrial leaders endorse the project. Every major oil company now owns a lease in the tar sands, and there is obviously big money to be made, not only for the these companies but for Canada and its citizens.
Andrew Nikiforuk, a Canadian journalist and award-winning magazine writer, has an entirely different take on the tar sands development. In his book — Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent — Nikiforuk argues that the project is not only bad for Canada but, worse, constitutes a double-barreled threat to the planet as a whole.
He writes that producing oil from tar sands is a hugely energy-intensive process that emits two to three times the greenhouse gas pollution of conventional oil. At the same time, the process greatly diminishes Canada’s ancient Boreal Forest — a major storehouse of terrestrial carbon that would be released into the atmosphere when the trees are flattened for oil. Not incidentally, the forest is also the reservoir for a significant fraction of Canada’s fresh water supply, and home to a rich variety of wildlife.
Nikiforuk makes no secret of where his sympathies lie: He is deeply opposed to the projects. He is also, however, a careful and diligent researcher and writer, and his book makes excellent reading. “Tar Sands” is a valuable and timely reminder of the mounting environmental costs of our addiction to oil.
About Andrew Nikiforuk
Andrew Nikifork has written about energy, economics and the West for the last two decades. He’s written for a variety of Canadian publications, including The Walrus, Maclean’s, Canadian Business, the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, Chatelaine, Georgia Straight, Equinox and Harrowsmith. In the late 1990’s, he investigated the social and ecological impacts of intensive livestock industries and the legacy of northern uranium mining for the Calgary Herald. His public policy position papers on water diversion in the Great Lakes (2004) and water energy and North American Integration (2007) for the Program on Water Issues at the University of Toronto’s Munk Centre sparked both discussion and reform. He currently writes a biweekly environmental column for the Alberta CBC, and writes a monthly column for Canadian Business on energy issues (“Full Disclosure”). In his spare time, he edits a newsletter for landowners on oil and gas issues in the Canadian West: The Land Advocate (landadvocate.org).
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Thirty years ago, a carcinogenic flame-retardant material was taken out of children’s pajamas. In 2008 it was being used with frequency in products such as baby carriers and bassinetts. This was just one of several discoveries made by Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in their series, “Chemical Fallout.”
The team exposed government programs that favored chemical makers over the public and conflicts of interests among regulators. Rust and Kissinger reported that there was no such thing as “microwave-safe” plastics. An outside laboratory tested containers labeled as such and found toxic levels of chemicals leached from every item.
The Journal Sentinel team did their homework: They reviewed hundreds of scientific journal articles and worked with scientists to determine that the federal government’s assurances that bisphenol A (a chemical compound found in many plastics) is safe are based on outdated U.S. government studies and research heavily funded by the chemical industry. PBS broadcaster Bill Moyers compared the reporting to the legendary Upton Sinclair. David Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said that the Sentinel was doing the work that the agency should have been doing all along to protect the public.
Grantham Prize Jury Comments on Chemical Fallout
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series “Chemical Fallout” reveals important information about the government’s lack of oversight of hazardous chemicals the public is exposed to every day.
Reporters Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger determined that the EPA allows companies to keep information about hazardous chemicals secret, despite rules mandating disclosure. Rust and Kissinger found evidence that an EPA program designed to warn the public about toxic chemicals favors the chemical industry in reporting possible threats. A flame retardant taken out of children’s pajamas years ago after being found carcinogenic is now being used in furniture and baby carriers, and manufacturers are under no obligation to relay this to consumers.
The series also revealed that the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) leaches out of food containers labeled “microwave safe.” The Journal Sentinel had a laboratory test ten items, including products marketed for babies, and found BPA at levels that several scientific studies say harm lab animals.
Rust and Kissinger spent months consulting with scientists and studying government databases and peer-reviewed research. Their straightforward, no-hype writing style and good use of tables and graphics made the series a pleasure to read. “Chemical Fallout” exemplifies the good that journalists can do given the time and resources.
About the Chemical Fallout Team:
Senior Reporter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Susanne Rust was part of a reporting team that won the 2008 Sigma Delta Chi award and the Society of American Business Writers and Editors award for detailing chemical dangers and lax regulations in Washington, D.C. The team also won the 2008 John B. Oakes Award. Rust has continued to break new ground throughout 2008 with more stories exposing the failures of the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration. In her five years at the Sentinel, Rust has also trekked through the hills of Rwanda to cover stories on civil engineering and AIDS; hacked through the dense foliage of a Ugandan rain forest in search of mountain gorillas; poked around Scotland’s Roslin Institute looking for clones; and written about eco-friendly agriculture in Costa Rica. Before joining the Sentinel, Rust pursued a doctorate in biological anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Investigative Reporter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Meg Kissinger is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s investigative reporter focusing on health and welfare. She and two of her colleagues won the 2008 Sigma Delta Chi award and the Society of American Business Writers and Editors Award for a series of articles on the government’s failure to screen for dangerous chemicals in household products. The series also won the 2008 John B. Oakes Award. Kissinger has spent the last year breaking new ground on the failures of the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration to regulate toxic chemicals. She was a finalist for the 2007 Selden Ring and Investigative Reporters and Editors awards for her reports on the filthy and dangerous housing conditions in Milwaukee County for people with mental illness. That series won the Mental Health America Award for best news reporting. In her 25 years in the newsroom, Kissinger has written about abuses in the nursing home industry, the scam of the door-to-door magazine sales industry and the travails of an oncologist who unwittingly discovered his own end-stage cancer. She graduated from DePauw University.