Kathryn Schulz

Kathryn Schulz is author of the book Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. Her freelance magazine work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Nation, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere. She was previously an editor at Grist.

A wrong time coming

What have environmentalists been most wrong about?

Photo: limonada via FlickrFirst things first: Don’t ask me how I went from being an editor of Grist to an expert in wrongness.  It’s a long story.  Suffice it to say that in 2006, I left Grist (with much regret) in order to write a book about being wrong.  (That’s the eponymous Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, published earlier this month by Ecco/HarperCollins).  At first blush, these two jobs don’t seem to have much in common.  Lately, though, I’ve been wondering about the overlap between my identity as an environmentalist and my identity as a wrongologist.  Here’s …

Our Poverty & the Environment series comes to an end, but our concern doesn’t

The sun sets on our poverty series. Photo: Clipart. There’s something a little odd about ending a series on the subject of poverty — as we at Grist are officially doing today — when the issue itself will stubbornly continue to exist. That might seem, at first, like a laughable sentence. Of course poverty will persist — when hasn’t it? — and of course our series must end. (Not so coverage of the issues, though. Publishing Poverty & the Environment was as much an act of masonry as of journalism, and we hope we have built a strong foundation for …

Two eco-leaders — one mainstream, one radical — debate the movement’s past and future

Eric Mann. When Eric Mann first encountered environmentalists, he saw them as a bunch of “arrogant, racist airheads.” When Frances Beinecke first encountered environmentalists, she felt she’d found her cause. Frances Beinecke. Nearly four decades later, both are tireless proponents of environmental sanity, but they work in very different ways. Mann is director of the Los Angeles-based Labor/Community Strategy Center, where he fights for environmental justice, immigrant and labor rights, and economic equity. Beinecke is president of Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the nation’s biggest and best-known environmental organizations. As part of our Poverty & the Environment series, Grist …

Sierra Club Chronicles

Turns out, we're not the only game in town paying attention to the intersection of economic and environmental issues (thankfully). So are the folks over at the Sierra Club Chronicles, a monthly TV series featuring community efforts to protect environmental health. This month, the series focuses on the fate of DeLisle, Mississippi, home to a Dupont chemical plant. When the plant was first built, it was welcomed by DeLisle's residents, who were hungry for steady work. Twenty-five years later, more than 2,000 current and former residents and employees are suing the company, blaming dioxin and other heavy metals from the plant for the cancer clusters and high illness rates in the area. The 30-minute film, "Dioxin, Duplicity, and Dupont," will air this Thursday (March 23) at 8:30 PM Eastern and Pacific on Link TV (DIRECTV channel 375 and Dish Network channel 9410). You can also download the film to Video iPod.

Behind the scenes at the poverty series...

Some background and some thank-you’s

As the lead editor on Poverty & the Environment, I can say that the tough thing about putting together a series like this isn't what goes into it; it's what doesn't go in -- the great stories that wind up on the cutting room floor because you run out of time, or run out of money, or the journalist goes into labor a month early, or your awe-inspiring colleagues finally say, "we'd love to but we've already worked 96 hours this week." This chronic editorial dilemma was particularly acute with the current series. Given the subject matter, "embarrassment of riches" is exactly the wrong phrase, but it is certainly (and sadly) the case that there's no shortage of important stories to be told about the relationship between environmental and economic injustice. (That's one reason I encourage all of you to use this discussion forum to share your own ideas and experiences, as well as your reactions to what you read here.) We at Grist owe our familiarity with these issues to a great many people who took the time, early on in this process, to talk to us about their work and their vision for this series. That input was so valuable that I want to post some of it here; where we have not been able to incorporate it into the rest of the series, we can at least share it directly with our readers. Herewith, then, a very abbreviated list of heartfelt thank-yous, helpful advisors, and important ideas:

Vision trouble

Democrats, environmentalists, and other left-leaning sorts are arguing heatedly over whether to move the party to the left or to the right in the wake of the election (those who aren't arguing over whether the election was legitimate, that is).  One wag challenged those who disapprove of any rightward slide to ask themselves: "What states did John Kerry lose that Howard Dean would have won?" I find this line of argument terrifying.  If we have to make the left into the right in order to win, I don't want to win.  The problem isn't Dean or Kerry.  The problem is that the left has utterly, drastically failed to generate a broadly compelling discourse about America.  We absolutely could do that -- could saturate the nation with a democratic (small d and large) vision of justice, fairness, hardwork, opportunity, creativity, exploration, unity, diversity, solidarity, and success.  We could also expose the current far-right agenda for what it is really about: fear, control, cronyism, corruption, exploitation, homogeneity, and government and corporate control. Instead, we're squirming around inside the narrowminded narrative of the right, trying to carve out some tiny, safe, identifiable space that is ours.  It'll never happen.  We can't beat them on their terms -- only when we begin to define the rules of the game.