December 28, 2010

Inaugural Awards for Natural Security Journalism

The year 2010 is drawing quickly to a close. It’s been a great year for CNAS’s natural security program. We have more of you, dear readers, than ever before. Media coverage of these timely and important issues is way up. CNAS’s events on resources and security have been packed. Important books describing these challenges, such as The Future History of the Arctic and our colleague Bob Kaplan’s Monsoon hit the shelves. We’ll be commemorating the best of 2010 this week for the blog, beginning today with our list of the top natural security reporters of the year. In no particular order, here are our top 5:

  1. Andrew Higgins (with Glenn Kessler and Walter Pincus) of The Washington Post, for excellent coverage of DOD’s bizarre dealings for moving operational fuel through Kyrgyzstan.  What a tale: non-transparent deals with a former burger joint operator in Kyrgyzstan, people who don’t seem to know anything about energy logistics awarded millions in DOD contracts to get fuel, the Kyrgyz government protesting that they weren’t getting a cut (with Russian interests naturally involved), and more. This is what we have to do to get adequate petroleum supplies into Afghanistan? We were quite surprised that the country has not been more outraged about these articles. We're hoping that Higgins takes the opportunity to turn this into a full-length book of real-life Central Asian mystique, shady dealings, and burger recipes.
  2. Keith Bradsher at The New York Times for keeping rare earths coverage at a steady clip through 2010. This is a case where no one is going to have the full story, but he’s done the best we’ve seen – and starting well before Chinese companies cut off supplies to Japan.
  3. The Reporters at Climate Desk for their work to bring solid climate change reporting to the fore. Bad science reporting has been terrible for our national dialogue – and particularly for analyzing the security and foreign policy implications of climate change. The reporters for Climate Desk represent the best journalism in correcting this.
  4. Rajiv Chandrasekaran also of The Washington Post for his story highlighting that resource issues can become intertwined with tensions between short-term military gains and long-term development. Click here to see his April 2010 story, “U.S. military, diplomats at odds over how to resolve Kandahar's electricity woes.” Please note: the issues he describes hint toward major problems that will likely confront the United States more frequently in this century’s security environment.
  5. Steve LeVine for launching the blog “The Oil and the Glory” and for his reporting in Foreign Policy. I’m not sure if he would count himself now as a journalist/reporter or as an author. We’ll include him in this year’s awards regardless.

I bet you find yourself now asking: what the hell are the “Awards for Natural Security Journalism?” Does it shine like an Oscar? Come with a large financial prize, like a MacArthur genius grant?

Sadly, no. We don’t have the resources for all of that. But we still wanted to recognize the great work that these reporters have done in 2010. To the winners: We’d be happy to buy you a fancy coffee or adult beverage to kick back and discuss natural security trends the next time you’re near CNAS, in thanks for your great work.