Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting presented The Grantham Prize for Excellence in Reporting on the Environment to James Astill of The Economist at the 2011 Grantham Prize Awards Ceremony.
Astill (pictured above) received US$75,000 for “The World’s Lungs: Forests, and How to Save Them,” an 8-part special report on the state of global forests and the rising threats they face from human exploitation and climate change. It was announced Friday, Sept. 30.
To research the series, Astill traveled to the forests of Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Uganda, where he interviewed many people trying to protect trees or destroy them.
The report suggests the risks to tropical forests are extremely grave, but that the situation is not hopeless. Once forests are valued properly, Astill argues, they can be saved. But he warns that his new approach should not be considered optional: a future without extensive tropical and other forests is too dire to contemplate. To reinforce that message, Astill sought to impart some of his own sense of wonder at these precious ecosystems.
Grantham Prize Jurors described Astill’s report as “meticulously researched and a thoroughly reported series deserving acclaim for spotlighting forests as an often-misunderstood component of the international debate on climate change policy.”
“It is our great pleasure to recognize James Astill’s exhaustive coverage of the perils facing global forests and the innovative approaches toward conserving these critical habitats,” said Sunshine Menezes, executive director of Metcalf Institute and Grantham Prize administrator.
James Astill’s journalism career flourished while based in Nairobi covering much of Africa for the Guardian newspaper and The Economist. He won several awards for his dispatches from a dozen African wars.
After moving to Islamabad to report on Pakistan and Afghanistan for the same publications, he joined the staff of The Economist in 2004 as defense and security correspondent. In this role, he covered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and global security.
In 2007, he moved to New Delhi to be The Economist’s South Asian Bureau Chief, where he has reported on India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. He has a particular interest in the environmental consequences of India’s economic rise; he has written extensively on India’s inefficient use of water and climate change policy.
Astill took leave of his beat in June and July 2010 to travel and report on the world’s forests. He has just recently moved to London, where he has been appointed The Economist’s Energy and Environment Editor.