Non-Jewish New Year
It’s here, it’s here, it’s the end. This year was so exhausting and so much of the exhausting part came towards the latter half, which just feels unfair? I’m a list maker and number checker and if I’m behind on something I leave myself time to catch up, but this year was swallowed, by sudden and unending family visa problems, by midterm elections, by dramatic changes at my newsroom, by unused vacation time, by warfare with loved ones (over everything from significant political differences to tacos to newsroom clashes). Everything went to shit, a bit! And now the end of the year is at hand and guess who does not have a driver’s license, a cat, or any level of fluency in a desired language, correct, it is me.
That list of failings aside, it was a strangely good year (for me) in some ways. I began 2018 feeling stuck at work and in an argument over the framing of a story (literally, this is how I spent January 2, 2018, in a fight). A few months later I migrated to our climate team, and that move has been…pretty great, actually. It’s changed and challenged me and I spent a lot of the last part of this year feeling subpar and mediocre and talentless, but I also think I’ve undeniably become a better writer and a more aware person and I’m wildly grateful to the people (women, they’re all women, very hard-working women) who have invested so much time in me and in pushing me and in making me better.
And so many things happened this year because of that pushing, because of that making. I reported from Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas (!), and Michigan. My ledes go unburied. I’ve written long and short and interviewed and slammed through my anxiety to make something of the things happening around me and I’m very proud! Which is something, really, and it’s a nice something.
For next year, the bar is set low in a lot of ways — there’s a lot happening in this country and if you’re someone who isn’t happy about it, there is approximately 1% chance that next year won’t prove absolutely gloomy at some point, in some way. I can’t change that and I am a reporter and this is my life and reality, so I’m realistic about that. In my personal life I also want to be realistic; everyone in it is getting older and more tired and more drained. That’s just what happens to bodies and relationships and lives — they get a bit stretched out. Still, I would like to write more (creatively; I have a nice masters degree quietly rotting despite the thousands of dollars that I did not have that I paid for it) and yes, get the cat, and yes, get the driver’s license, and also finally answer the pleas from the Spanish app I have which stopped pleading with me to practice many, many months ago.
Maybe it happens and I hope it all does. I also hope I don’t drop the ball on running regularly and that I don’t fly off the handle at friends when I feel righteously enraged and also that I am better about pushing myself and working through anxiety and fear and exhaustion. Who knows, not me, I do not know what will happen! Maybe I will also finally improve this 5-years-running newsletter and figure out what I want with it, dream big. But either way I hope your year is good and bright and that things are soft and tender when you need them to be and that you are kind to the world around you even if it is not always the kindest to you.
2018, what a year
I wrote a lot this year — more than 100 pieces, which is the reality of life at a small, online publication where I spent the first 4 months of 2018 on a daily news cycle team driven by aggregation. But I’m proud of a lot of the original climate and green scene work I did, as well as immigration pieces and pieces with a focus on the South and Appalachia (my life, my heart). It was a ride and these were the highlights:
A year of pipelines! I talked to the doctors who struggled to access pipeline protestors in Virginia. Some of those same protestors later faced fines for protesting on their own land. The Forest Service was later slammed with a lawsuit relating to the doctors’ lack of access. Those protests against pipelines on the East Coast have been marked by gains and losses. Meanwhile, the Bayou Bridge pipeline in Louisiana remains an ongoing source of controversy.
A year of Scott Pruitt! It would take forever to list every Pruitt incident I covered, but I do remember that time in April when “at least 10 ethics investigations” seemed like a lot (we were so young and naive then.) This man also resigned while I was on a mountain in Acadia National Park and it burns me TO THIS DAY.
A year of natural disasters! Wildfires in Colorado left undocumented immigrants facing hard choices. Incarcerated people fought fires in California, at great personal risk, while farmworkers stayed at work in the fields. Immigrant communities in North Carolina struggled to find shelter as Hurricane Florence drew near.
In Puerto Rico, locals told me the island’s rocky recovery has distracted from its pre-existing problems. But the island’s most vulnerable communities have worked to survive following Maria. And I profiled the Puerto Rican activists pushing the island towards renewables, an effort decades in the making.
A lot of Texas: The oil boom has environmental advocates grappling with hard choices. The 2020 citizenship Census question is spelling trouble in Texas and protests against Trump’s immigration policies have taken on a special fervor. Trump’s call for troops on the U.S.-Mexico border went over poorly with border communities and they told me about it. Record-breaking heat overwhelmed the state’s electrical grid. The border wall is devastating for Texas parks and wildlife. The most vulnerable Texans have not recovered from Hurricane Harvey. So much Beto! (And his fight with Ted Cruz — I was in Austin for their first debate.)
…Plus, whatever people are saying now, the man did highlight climate issues. (And helped change the state-wide and national fight for environmental protection.) I also closely followed Joseph Kopser’s science-laden campaign and his young supporters. And I wrote about the most controversial ballot proposal I’ve ever covered, coincidentally in my hometown.
And Florida: I have learned so much about red tide. I also went to the state and covered how farmworkers are talking about climate change (something I wrote about a lot); the toll climate gentrification is taking on Miami; how climate activists are gearing up for a fight; and how the primaries definitely didn’t change the red tide emphasis in the general election. And sure enough, climate issues reigned on the campaign trail. (+ Even after the state moved on from the primaries, climate gentrification reared its head again.)
Some Michigan, some more midterms: The state’s Democratic primary was at times shaped by environmental issues. Environmental justice champions emerged there, as they did around the country. I asked Rashida Tlaib about her green vision for Michigan. From Flint, I wrote about the resilience of its residents. And I covered local efforts towards a “green wave” in the state. More broadly, green groups in the state threw their support behind voting rights and redistricting campaigns. Outside of Michigan, I covered Washington’s ambitious carbon tax proposal, which ultimately failed (but carbon pricing is still going to be big in 2019.)
And more! The National Climate Assessment had bad news for everyone. Developing countries are suffering while polluters like the U.S. fail to step up. Lawmakers pushed back on FEMA over climate change. Connecticut passed a sweeping bill targeting sea level rise. A bipartisan consensus opposing offshore drilling has emerged in coastal states. Immigrant detainees are being held at EPA Superfund sites (and both immigration and environmental advocates aren’t happy). The EPA “secret science” proposal remains among its most controversial. Low-income communities and the environment both suffer from SNAP crises. With my dear Amanda Michelle Gomez, I wrote about Trump’s plan to label immigrants a “public charge.” And I documented who’s benefitting from Trump’s WOTUS attack: golf course owners, farmers, and property developers.
More! Students of color in Milwaukee want to talk about the school-to-prison pipeline. I covered the Poor People’s Campaign kickoff, as well as its focus on ecological devastation. The EPA has slowly removed its website references to climate change. Trump’s brutal crackdown on highly-skilled visa recipients has gone largely uncovered by the media. Islamophobia is still rampant in the U.S. Brazil panicked over Bolsonaro and is now panicking some more as the country abandons its climate leadership. That’s a global reality, though, as we saw in Katowice.
That’s that. Here’s what to watch in 2019 when the Trump administration will go to war with Democrats over the environment. Bound to be a calm, fun time! Especially given our ongoing shutdown, which is terrible for people and also for national parks and public spaces. Very chill!