Society of Environmental Journalists Coming to Roanoke

SEJ's 18th annual conference, hosted by Virginia Tech will take place Wednesday-Sunday, October 15-19, 2008 at the Hotel Roanoke. Here's the agenda and the link for updates.

Pre-conference boot camp: Michigan State University's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism will include sessions on computer-assisted reporting, investigative techniques, writing, ethics, and topical issues. It includes the all-day Wednesday workshop Check MSU's Knight Center for details and application. July 21, 2008, deadline.

Covering Climate Change and Our Energy Future in Rural America
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Breakfast and lunch are included. Pre-registration and $60 fee for SEJ members only.
The past, present, and future of coal in Appalachia and the southeastern United States — and therefore much of the nation's energy future — come into sharp focus in a penetrating, day-long analysis kicking off SEJ's annual conference at Virginia Tech. From the scientific perspective on global climate change to the satellite perspective on changing land patterns; from the ins, outs, and maybes of carbon capture and sequestration, to the science, economics — and wrenching emotional aspects — of mountaintop removal strip-mining; from internationally recognized energy experts like Amory Lovins to a panel of expert journalists steeped in mining these stories.... It's part of a special, in-depth, day-long immersion into coal, climate and the interdependent future of both, sponsored by SEJ with the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, Virginia Tech, and the Yale Project on Climate Change\Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media.

Hear from leading regional and local reporters bringing collective decades of newsroom experience in covering and uncovering some of journalism's most compelling stories on energy, coal, and climate change. All sessions will be at the Hotel Roanoke. Breakfast and lunch are included.

Reporting TODAY on America's Emerging Energy Future: Coal, Climate Change, and Energy Options in a Time of Extraordinary Change 8:00 - 8:30 a.m.
Continental Breakfast and Registration 8:30 - 9:00 a.m.
Program Overview and Introductions
Emcee: Bud Ward, Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media 9:00 - 9:35 a.m.
The Climate Challenge: Setting the Context for Considering our Energy Future Options
Speaker: Jacob Sewall, Virginia Tech 9:35 - 10:15 a.m.
What on Earth? Observed Changes in Land Features in North America and Eastern U.S. as Shown by Satellite Images
Speaker: Kristin De Beurs, Virginia Tech 10:15 - 10:30
Refreshment Break 10:30 a.m. - Noon
Mountaintop Removal in Context
Moderator: Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette
Speakers: Gene Kitts, International Coal Group; Joe Lovett, Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment; Ben Stout, Wheeling Jesuit University Noon - 12:45 p.m
Lunch and Informal Discussion 12:45 - 1:25 p.m.
Winning the Oil Endgame: Principles of and Progress Toward an Oil-Free America
Speaker: Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute 1:25 - 2:05 p.m.
Exploring Carbon Sequestration Potential Options
Speaker: Jim Dooley, Senior Scientist, Joint Global Change Research Institute 2:05 - 2:45
Future Energy
Speaker: L. David Roper, Virginia Tech Physics Professor Emeritus 2:45 - 3:00 p.m.
Refreshment Break 3:00 - 3:40 p.m.
Winning the Coal Endgame: The Megawatt and Micropower Revolutions
Speaker: Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute 3:40 - 4:45 p.m.
Reporters and Editors Roundtable
Speakers: James Bruggers, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal; Robert J. Byers, City Editor, The Charleston Gazette 4:45 p.m.
Concluding Remarks and Adjournment

2:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Opening Reception and Dinner at the Hotel Roanoke
5:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin

SEJ Awards for Reporting on the Environment
8:00 - 9:30 p.m.
Co-hosts Philippe and Alexandra Cousteau, ocean explorers and grandchildren of Jacques Cousteau w. clips and images of the winning newspapers, TV, online, and other recipients of SEJ's $1,000 awards. And, new this year: The Rachel Carson Environment Book Award, worth $10,000.

Welcome to Virginia Slideshow and Films
9:30 - 11:00 p.m.

Day Tours:
1. Almost Level 1: Cutting Down Mountains for Coal
Kayford Mountain, about an hour south of Charleston, WV. Notice how the massive dragline is dwarfed by the scale of the operation. Photo by Vivian Stockman, OHVEC.
Click to enlarge. 6:00 a.m. departure, lunch included, $30 fee
Larry Gibson's piece of Kayford Mountain used to be the lowest peak for miles. Now it's the highest. There's no better place to see the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining — a practice that is feeding a growing demand for coal and leveling wide stretches of Appalachia. See an active mine and hear from people who live near the mines and the processing plants and coal trucks that serve them. See mine reclamation and hear from industry representatives who'll tell you why what they're doing is good and necessary.

Tour Leaders:
Jim Bruggers, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal
Tim Thornton, The Roanoke Times
Bill Raney, President, West Virginia Coal Association

2. What Are Forests Worth? What Are They For? Can We Sustain Them?
The southern Appalachians provide a rare look at the changing face of America's forests. Walk onto an acre that was traditionally property of companies like International Paper nowadays and you're likely to find it's owned by something called a REIT or a TIMO... or maybe just some guy named Bob. See how foresters, community groups, and others are spurring a new take on sustainable forestry; how the U.S. Forest Service struggles to balance recreation demands with timber operations; how invasive species are literally eating away Appalachian hillsides; and how emerging "niche" forest products could bolster rural communities. Driving time — 3 hours total.
Tour Leaders:
Robert McClure, Staff Writer, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Kevin Miller, Environmental Reporter, Bangor Daily News

3. Rural Energy: Wind, Hydro, and Development in the Highlands
Virginia's western Highlands are some of the most pristine rural mountain regions left in the Eastern U.S. Bath and Highland counties are among the least populated east of the Mississippi, with county seats of fewer than 300 residents. But, like much of the rural U.S., these counties face new development pressures from energy industries and vacation home speculators. Highland County, with only a $7 million annual budget, has approved a $60 million wind power project. Construction is set for this year and, if built, it will be the first industrial wind power facility in the state of Virginia.
Tour Leaders:
Anne Adams, Publisher, The (Monterey, VA) Recorder
Don Hopey, Environment Reporter, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

4. Healthy Food Shed
In the wake of global warming concerns and food-borne illness outbreaks that could be partly the result of growing and processing methods used in industrialized agriculture, consumers are starting to pay attention to how their food is raised and how far it travels. Farmer, writer, and speaker Joel Salatin is the poster child of the local food and farming movement. We'll visit Salatin's 550-acre diversified Polyface Farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley and find out why his spread is, in the words of Michael Pollan, "one of the most productive and sustainable farms in America." And we'll hear from other industrious farmers, folks serving up everything from food to fiber to fuel in their communities. We'll also scope out some regional examples of Big Farming.
Tour Leaders:
Joseph Davis, Freelance Journalist and WatchDog Project Director/TipSheet Editor, Society of Environmental Journalists
Christine Heinrichs, Freelance Writer
Dan Sullivan, Senior Editor, The New Farm, Rodale Institute

5. A National Treasure at Peril — the Blue Ridge Parkway
Why are the Blue Ridge Mountains "blue"? Join us for the answer, traveling along lush ridgetops that were over-forested in the 1900s to the most photographed site on the parkway, Mabry Mill. The early 1900s community-gathering place today operates as a restored gristmill, sawmill, and blacksmith shop. As the parkway approaches its 75th anniversary, however, America's Favorite Scenic Drive faces environmental issues and federal budgetary shortfalls resulting in 57 unfilled staff positions. Air pollution emanates from coal-fired power sources, the mighty hemlocks are dying, and flourishing development blocks scenic views.
Tour Leaders:
Tom Denton, former Editorial Page Editor, The Roanoke Times
Dan Smith, Editor, Blue Ridge Business Journal
Mary Bishop, former Reporter, The Roanoke Times, The Charlotte Observer and The Philadelphia Inquirer
Rupert Cutler, retired City Councilman and official in the Carter Administration
David Hill, Principal, Hill Studio (architects)
Cara Modisett, Editor, Blue Ridge Country Magazine
Frank Radford, President, Prudential Radford Realtors
Billy Weitzenfeld, Executive Director, Association of Energy Conservation Professionals
Richard Wells, President, FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway

6. Old River, New Challenge
The New River, a misnomer if ever there was one, is one of the world's oldest rivers. It's also among the most beautiful. We'll paddle canoes six to eight miles past towering cliffs and rolling meadows. At the put-in, ecologists from Virginia Tech will conduct an electro-fishing demonstration and provide a brief presentation of the New's diverse aquatic species. After taking out, we'll drive a short distance downstream to where the local power company is planning to landfill coal-fired power plant ash in the floodplain of the New. Speakers will address the controversial issue of managing coal combustion residues. Note: You will encounter mild whitewater rapids on this run. Basic canoeing skills preferred. Driving time — 3 hours total.
Tour Leaders:
Gene Dalton, Freelance Writer and Photographer
John Manuel Jr., Freelance Writer
Nathanial Hitt, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, Virginia Tech
George Santucci, Executive Director, National Committee for the New River

7. Journey Down the James
Follow the E. coli and nutrient trail from mountain farms to the Chesapeake Bay on a canoe journey down the James River. You'll hear how nutrient and sediment runoff impacts water quality for everyone. You'll also see why farming in the mountains affects the bay hundreds of miles downstream as you paddle down about 10 miles of river through farmland and pristine forest. This trip is suitable for beginners, but expect to be on the water between four and six hours with several breaks. Canoes and a limited number of kayaks are available.
Tour Leaders:
Dina Cappiello, Environment/Energy Writer, The Associated Press
Sarah Watson, Reporter, The (Lynchburg, VA) News & Advance
Anne Marie Clarke, Watershed Coordinator, Robert E. Lee Soil & Water Conservation District
Timothy Mitchell, Director of Utilities, City of Lynchburg

8. The Appalachian Trail — Land with a Past
Like great chunks of the Appalachian Trail, which goes from Georgia to Maine, the roughly 11 miles of the trail's Catawba Ridge section pass over land that once held buildings. The jewel of this ridge is a rocky overlook, McAfee Knob, federally protected since 1987. The trail protection project marked a backward progression of sorts, from developed to backcountry — a reclamation of industrial and residential lands. Come and hike the trail to McAfee Knob and see the Catawba Valley below, which is slowly being invaded by houses. "See" what used to be on the trail — houses, a swimming pool, hunting camps. At the top, try your hand at geocaching, the latest backcountry enterprise. Hiking distance: 7 miles round-trip.
Tour Leaders:
Amy Gahran, Freelance Journalist
Christine Woodside, Freelance Journalist

9. Nuclear Power — from Ore to Volts
There are five stages in the life of nuclear power: mining, processing ore, enrichment of uranium to commercial or weapons grade, fuel fabrication, and utilization in a nuclear power plant. This tour covers the nuclear cycle with visits encompassing three of these stages. We'll visit a 1,000-acre farm, once owned by Thomas Jefferson, and now proposed as the U.S.'s first uranium mine outside the Southwest. Next, we tour a fuel fabrication facility and a full-scale nuclear plant training center, owned by the French nuclear giant AREVA NP Inc. We'll watch an actual production run, from delivery of the enriched uranium through to the completion of 12-foot-long nuclear fuel rods that power the nation's 104 commercial reactors. At the training center, we will see the inside of a nuclear power plant, with full-sized cutaways of steam generators, reactors, and other equipment.
Tour Leaders:
Thomas Henry, Environmental Writer, The (Toledo) Blade
Dan Radmacher, Editorial Page Editor, The Roanoke Times
Roger Witherspoon, Contributing Editor, US Black Engineer and Information

TechnologyIndependent Hospitality Receptions and Exhibitor Sneak Peek
5:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Location: North Entry Foyer All Day Exhibitor Tables
7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Almost Level 2: Mountaintop Removal Flyovers
The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition is teaming up with SouthWings to give journalists a bird's-eye view of one of the most environmentally controversial industry practices in Appalachia.

Exhibitor Breakfast and Craft Breakout Sessions
7:00 - 8:45 a.m.

Breakout Breakfast Sessions:
7:30 - 8:45 a.m.

The Dating Game: Connecting Scientists and Journalists
Moderator: Dan Fagin, Director, Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program, New York University

Covering Tragedies and Disasters
Moderator: Mark Schleifstein, Environment Reporter, The Times-Picayune

How to Be Your Own FOIA Lawyer
Moderator: Rebecca Daugherty, former Director, FOI Service Center, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Welcoming Remarks
9:00 - 9:15 a.m.
Emcees: SEJ's 2008 Conference Co-Chairs Bill Kovarik, Professor, School of Communication, Radford University and Ken Ward Jr., Staff Writer, The Charleston Gazette

Plenary: Old King Coal: What's His Role in America's Energy Future?
9:15 - 10:45 a.m.
Coal provides half of America's electricity and is the nation's most abundant domestic fuel source. But burning coal is a major source of greenhouse gases. And mining coal takes a toll on workers, mountains, streams, and forests. What role can — and should — coal have in the nation's future energy diet? Experts on all sides will debate the issue.
Moderator: Bob Edwards, XM Satellite Radio (formerly of NPR)
Jeff Goodell, Journalist and Author, Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind American�s Energy Future
Michael Morris, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Electric Power

10:45 - 11:15 a.m.
Location: TBA Concurrent Sessions 1
11:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. COAL
Almost Level: Mountaintop Removal Overview
Moderator: Greg Collard, News Director, WV Public Broadcasting

Must We Grow? Conservation, Green Lifestyles, and Alternative Energies
Moderator: Beth Daley, Staff Reporter, The Boston Globe

Climate Change and Agriculture
Moderator: Dan Sullivan, Senior Editor, The New Farm, Rodale Institute

Water Quality from the Headwaters to the Chesapeake Bay
Moderator: Tim Wheeler, Reporter, The Baltimore Sun

Joy Ride or Ecocide? ATVs on Public Lands
Moderator: George Wuerthner, Freelance Writer and Author, "Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation"

Toying with Toxics: Childhood Exposure to Chemicals
Moderator: Marla Cone, Environmental Writer, Los Angeles Times and Author, Silent Snow
Philip Landrigan, Professor and Chairman, Department of Community & Preventive Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics/Director, Children's Environmental Health Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Phil Shabecoff, Author, Poisoned Profits

Broken Bridges and Straight Pipes: Aging Infrastructure and the Environment
Moderator: Kristin Espeland, Environmental Reporter, Public Radio Partnership, WFPL (Louisville, KY)

Environment Reporters of the 21st Century
Moderator: David Sachsman, West Chair of Excellence, Department of Communication, University of Tennessee


Network Lunch
12:30 - 2:00 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions 2
2:15 - 3:30 p.m. COAL
Carbon Sequestration: Silver Bullet or Black Hole?

Energy 101: A Primer for Reporters

Close Quarters: Could an End to Population Growth Help Stabilize the Climate?
Moderator: Constance Holden, Staff Writer, Science Magazine
Robert Engelman, Vice President for Programs, Worldwatch Institute

Dams: Past, Present, and Future

Sharing Life on Earth: Biodiversity in Appalachia and Beyond

Workers and the Environment: Asbestos and Other Occupational Hazards
Moderator: Chris Bowman, Environment and Energy Reporter, The Sacramento Bee

Environmental Policy, Public Opinion, and the Election

The Freelance Pitch-Slam
Moderator: Sharon Guynup, Freelance Journalist and Editor, State of the Wild: A Global Portrait of Wildlife, Wildlands, and Oceans


SEJ Membership Meeting
3:45 - 5:15 p.m.

TBA Do-It-Yourself Beat Dinners
7:00 p.m. -

7:30 - 8:45 a.m.
Breakfast Plenary: Environmental Justice and the Poor

7:00 - 7:30 a.m. — Join colleagues for a hearty buffet breakfast prior to the panel discussion.
7:30 - 8:45 a.m. — Since its inception in the 1980s in North Carolina, the environmental justice movement has drawn attention to the inequitable environmental risks that many African-American communities have long been forced to bear. In Appalachia, these same inequitable risks have been borne by poor white communities. A diverse panel will discuss where the movement came from and where it's headed.
Moderator: Brenda Box, Associate Editor, National Public Radio
Robert Bullard, Director, Environmental Justice Resource Center, Clark Atlanta University
Shirley Stewart Burns, Author, Bringing Down the Mountains: The Impact of Mountaintop Removal on Southern West Virginia Communities

Concurrent Sessions 3
9:00 - 10:15 a.m. COAL
Coal Around the Globe

Biofuels: Beyond the Steel Cage Debate
Moderator: Perry Beeman, Environment Reporter, The Des Moines Register

After Tomorrow: Can We Adapt to Climate Change?
Moderator: Kristin Choo, Freelance Writer

Are the Oceans Already Lost?

Suburban Decay: The Sub-Prime Mortgage Mess as an Environmental Story
Moderator: Robert McClure, Staff Writer, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Rollercoaster World of Toxicology
Moderator: Seth Borenstein, Science Writer, The Associated Press

Environmental Justice and the Economy: From Cap-and-Trade Concerns to Green-Collar Promises
Moderator: Linda Callahan, Professor, Journalism and Mass Communication, North Carolina A&T State University

Getting the Goods: Using Court Records for Environmental Investigations

Beverage Break
10:15 - 10:45 a.m.

TBA Concurrent Sessions 4
10:45 a.m. - Noon COAL
Beyond Coal: Strategies for Appalachian Reclamation and Renewal
Moderator: Spencer Hunt, The Columbus Dispatch

Take Two: Nuclear Power Reconsidered

Climate Change and Emerging Legal Challenges
Moderator: Carolyn Whetzel, California Correspondent, BNA

Ends of the Earth: Polar Science and the Environment

Animal Business: Wildlife Trafficking and International Law
Moderator: Laurel Neme, Environmental Writer

Women's Environmental Health Issues
Moderator: Francesca Lyman, Freelance Writer

The Clean Air Act's Unfinished Business

Lunch and Plenary Session: Election 2008 and the Environment
Noon - 2:15 p.m.

Location: Roanoke Ballroom IN THE FIELD
Mini-Tour Adventures
2:30 - 6:00 p.m.
GPS technology, megalandfills, black bear research center, green buildings, agriculture research, Tall Growth Tree Chamber, sediment flumes and creek restoration, prescribed forest burn, aquaculture center, and the NanoBioEarth lab.

Saturday Night Party: All Aboard!
7:00 - 11:00 p.m.
Virginia Museum of Transportation

Bestsellers Breakfast
7:30 - 8:00 a.m. — breakfast
8:00 - 9:30 a.m. —author signing, publisher's pitch-slam and separate sessions on travel books, science and policy books, and environmental history. Wendell Berry, Ann Pancake, Penny Loeb, and others.

Breakout Author Sessions
9:45 - 11:00 a.m. Book Publisher Pitch-Slam

Sense of Place

Appalachia in Nonfiction and Environmental Journalism

Environmental History and the History of Environmental Journalism

Final Readings and Farewell
11:00 a.m. - Noon Noon
SEJ's 18th Annual Conference ends.

Sunday-Wednesday, October 19-22
Post-Conference Tour: From the Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay
learn firsthand about the continuing struggle to save it 25 years after it became a poster child for regional ecosystem restoration--from the headwaters of the James River, where you'll see efforts to control stubborn farm pollution, to the shore of the bay, witnessing along the way the sprawling suburbia that is the bay's other nemesis. go by boat to Tangier Island, a traditional fishing community in the very heart of the bay, to immerse ourselves in the human factor of this complicated story. While staying at the Port Isobel Lodge of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we'll explore a salt marsh by canoe, seine for fish, and learn about the bay's "dead zone." Finally, we'll head back to the mainland to see an oyster farm and hear from experts at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science on the latest bids to bring back the bay's signature oysters and crabs. Tour Leaders:
Lynn Davis, Public Affairs Director, College of Natural Resources, Virginia Tech
Tim Wheeler, Reporter, The Baltimore Sun