Guatemala

Amazon Basin

Southeast Asia

December 2015 –

Ongoing

 

 

In the winter of 2014

I found myself in Manila in journalistic crisis. I had come to Southeast Asia on a Pulitzer-funded project to write about the murders of environmental journalists. It had not gone well. The first leg, in the forests of Cambodia, would end with the editors killing the piece. Now, with a typhoon bearing down on the city, I was supposed to go to Palawan, on the Philippines' far western frontier, to write about a murdered radio reporter for The New Republic.

And just as I was anxiously refreshing weather reports, trying to figure out if I could beat the storm to the airport, my Google Chat beeped: catastrophe. A note from a friend: The New Republic had undergone some sort of internal coup. My editor had quit. So had most of the other editors. The magazine that had sent me to the Philippines had been gutted. The project was collapsing around me, and a typhoon was bearing down. 

I do not know what reserves got me out of my hotel, into a taxicab, and to the Manila airport to begin a story that had no home and no apparent future. (It was the right call: two years later, both that story, and the Cambodia story, are in print: you can read them below.) Out of that decision came the stories in this collection: a linked, multi-country odyssey from Southeast Asia to the Amazon, tying together stories of extraordinary people facing down the storm on the edges of the frontier.

 
 

 

Dying for the Planet

The last twenty years has witnessed a boom in environmental journalism—and in killings of journalists and other environmental activists. At last count, dozens journalists had been murdered on the environment beat in the developing world. Last year, I went to Cambodia and the Philippines for the Pulitzer Center to try to answer why.

Part 1:

 

 
Photo credit: Claire Eggers for Vice Media

Photo credit: Claire Eggers for Vice Media

Dispatch

The Death of Try

Vice Magazine
September 1, 2016

Cambodian journalists are dying in a quest to save the country's forests.

 
photo credit  by Jes Aznar

photo credit  by Jes Aznar

DISPATCH

Dead Air

California Sunday Magazine
November 18, 2015

The Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, especially if you’re in talk radio.

Video

Dying for the Planet
 

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
December 16, 2015 

In the last decade, 41 journalists have died covering the environment -- more than were killed in the entire war in Afghanistan.

 

 

Part 2:

Cities in the Forest

From Southeast Asia I traveled to the Peruvian Amazon on a fellowship from Mongabay, to explore a region being rapidly transformed as the Brazilian and Chinese states have poured money into a system of roads, rivers, and dams designed to bind together the nations of the Amazon Basin. Down these new roads travel waves of impoverished settlers from the Andes Mountains, clearing the forest in search of the same things Americans settlers sought in the West: a new start, a better life, a chance to strike it rich. Now the government and army are coming to the lawless frontier they have created, trying to bring order to the wilderness.

 
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POSTCARD

The Golden Serpent

Men's Journal
January 2017

Eighteen days down one of Amazonia's last wild rivers.

 
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POSTCARD

Colonizing the Amazon

Al Jazeera America
September 22, 2015

Among the illegal settlers carving a fresh start from the edge of the forest.

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POSTCARD

Mining the River

Al Jazeera America
September 21, 2015

In 2012, the Peruvian state began a military campaign against Amazonian gold miners. It did not go well. 

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Postcard

"You Have to Fight"

Mongabay
September 21, 2015

On the frontier between agriculture and mining, exploitation and environmental protection, force is the only reliable way to protect your land.

 
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Portrait

Keeping Them Up on the Farm

Mongabay
August 21, 2015

Tracking the source of the migration boom in the frozen highlands of Peru.

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Argument

The Mountains are High and the Emperor is Far Away

Foreign Policy
October 6, 2015

Faced with organized crime and deforestation on its frontier, the Peruvian government has taken decisive action -- by declaring the area a protected national park. Will this be enough? (paywall)

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Interview

Why Ayahuasca is Still Having a Moment

Men's Journal
October 6, 2015

A Q&A with legendary explorer and ethnobotanist Wade Davis on psychedelia, ayahuasca, the things that you find in the the jungle, and the forces that are coming out of it.

 

Photo credit:   ali eminov   via   Visual hunt   /   CC BY-NC

Photo credit: ali eminov via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

 

Part 3:

Bringing up the Bodies

In 2011 I  traveled to a different sort of jungle: Guatemala City, a sprawling, honking, vibrating city grown feral out of the movements of millions of people seeking to strike it rich. I came to report on a different sort of battle against the wilderness: a series of anti-mafia and war crimes trials, as local prosecutors tried to tame the huge, corrupt Guatemalan state. 

 
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Portrait

The Most Dangerous Job in the World

The New Republic
June 3, 2013

What happened when ruthless street gangs moved in on Guatemala City's private bus system.
 

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Narrative

The Long Road Home

The Texas Observer
March 30, 2012

A son searches for his vanished mother in the fragments left behind by Guatemala's civil war.
 

Argument

Guatemala's Child Migrants are Fleeing More than Gangs

The New Republic
July 13, 2014

There is less difference than we generally assume between "economic migrant" and "refugee."
 

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Dispatch

Soldiers Stand Trial for Sexual Slavery

Al Jazeera America
February 25, 2016

Thirty years after the killings, a bloody land dispute reaches its final round.
 

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Dispatch

Bringing up the Bodies

Al Jazeera America
February 23, 2016

When reconstructing atrocity is your day job.
 

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Argument

"The New Field of Battle is the Courts of Justice" 

Foreign Policy
April 5, 2016

To the Guatemalan left, the trials are a necessary step toward justice. To the right, they're a "legal lynching."