Award ceremony to honor winners Corban Addison and Isabelle Chapman held on March 24 with Heather McTeer Toney as a special guest speaker
The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) announced the winners of its 2023 Phillip D. Reed Environmental Writing Award today. Through their work, winners Corban Addison and Isabelle Chapman demonstrate the power of writing to capture some of the most important environmental issues facing Southern communities.
The Reed Award celebrates writers who achieve both literary excellence and offer extraordinary insight into the South’s natural treasures and environmental challenges. Presented each year, the Reed Award recognizes outstanding writing on the Southern environment in two categories: the Book Category for works of nonfiction (not self-published) and the Journalism Category for newspaper, magazine, and online writing published by a recognized institution such as a news organization, university, or nonprofit group.
Corban Addison receives the Reed Award for “Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial,” where he details how a close-knit, rural community in North Carolina has battled the polluting practices of large-scale industrial hog farming taking place in their own backyards for more than a generation.
Isabelle Chapman receives the Reed Award for “Gambling ‘America’s Amazon,’” published by CNN, in which she exposes how Alabama Power plans to bury a heap of toxic coal waste in one of North America’s most biodiverse river systems, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.
An award ceremony will be held in honor of the winners during the Virginia Festival of the Book. This event is free and open to the public. It will be held at 5 p.m. on March 24, 2023, in the CODE Building, located at 225 West Water Street on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Va. The event will also be streamed online.
To register for the digital or in-person event, visit:
Heather McTeer Toney, award-winning speaker, respected author, and expert on environmental and climate justice issues, will be this year’s featured speaker. In her upcoming book, “Before the Streetlights Come On: Black America’s Urgent Call for Climate Solutions“ — scheduled to be released on April 17 in time for Earth Day — Toney discusses the disproportionate impact of climate change on the Black community and why those most affected by climate change are best suited to lead the movement for climate justice.
This Year’s Book Award Winner: Corban Addison
In the summer of 2008, while Addison was practicing law and writing books that he describes as ‘nothing anyone would want to publish,’ he had an idea for a novel and that would be the beginning of his writing journey. Four books later, his friends encouraged him to try his hand at nonfiction. His response. “Find me a true story that I can write with the narrative tension and emotional intimacy of a novel and that will captivate readers from the first page to the last, and I’ll tell it.” “Wastelands” is that story.
Addison writes in “Wastelands” of the once idyllic coastal plain of North Carolina as home to a close-knit, rural community that for more than a generation has battled the polluting practices of industrial hog farming taking place in its own backyard. After years of frustration and futility, an impassioned community of determined residents whose history is steeped in the land, led by a team of intrepid and dedicated lawyers, filed a lawsuit against one of the world’s most powerful companies — and, miraculously, they won.
This Year’s Journalism Award Winner: Isabelle Chapman
Isabelle Chapman is a producer with CNN Investigates, where she covers important national stories, including ones that focus on environmental issues. In “Gambling ‘America’s Amazon,'” Chapman exposes the dangers of coal ash and how utility companies have been careless with the substance by storing it in unlined pits for decades. Coal ash is often located on fragile waterways or in areas where communities and their drinking water sources are at risk of contamination from the pollution. Her piece focuses on Alabama Power’s Plant Barry and the surrounding river system, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta — a biodiversity hot spot with wildlife and plants found nowhere else on Earth — and the communities located in the danger zone if the coal ash were to spill and create a public health disaster.
Southern Environmental Law Center
The Southern Environmental Law Center is one of the nation’s most powerful defenders of the environment, rooted in the South. With a long track record, SELC takes on the toughest environmental challenges in court, in government, and in our communities to protect our region’s air, water, climate, wildlife, lands, and people. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the organization has a staff of 200, including more than 100 attorneys, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., with offices in Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Nashville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C.
About the Reed Award
SELC created the Reed Environmental Writing Award in 1994 to enhance public awareness of the value and vulnerability of the South’s natural treasures and to recognize and encourage the writers who most effectively tell the stories about the region’s environment. The award is named for SELC founding trustee Phil Reed, a talented attorney and committed environmental leader who believed deeply in the power of writing to change hearts and minds.
Selected by a distinguished panel of judges, Reed Award winners have recently included Catherine Coleman Flowers for her book Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret, Alexis Okeowo author of “The Heavy Toll of the Black Belt’s Wastewater Crisis” from The New Yorker; Margaret Renkl, author of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss; and J. Drew Lanham, author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature.