Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Speaking on the world oceans crisis, Portland, Maine, Nov. 19

I'll be speaking on the crisis in the world's oceans -- climate change and all -- this Thursday, November 19th at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, Maine.

The event, held in their HUB Athletic Center at 119 Fort Road, kicks off at noon. It's free and open to the public and I hear there will be a book signing afterward.

Regular readers will be familiar with "Mayday," my recent six-day Portland Press Herald series on climate change and the Gulf of Maine. Longstanding  ones may know that I traveled the world in the late 1990s, reporting on oceans issues for The San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Chronicle of Higher Education while researching my first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas. The talk draws from this experience, and from subsequent reporting around the world -- including from Greenland, the Baltic, Adriatic, Iceland and close to home.

My next public speaking event on the schedule is in early April, 2016, at the Boston Athenæum, where I'll be talking about what will then be my newly published book. American Character. There's a book tour coming up in March, though, so expect more events posted at my booktour page in the coming weeks.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

50 years ago today, the Peter Francis murder

As we digest the horrible attacks in France and Lebanon yesterday, I've been thinking a lot about both Paris and Pleasant Point, Maine today. Regarding ISIS, who appear at this writing to be responsible for the attack, I highly recommend this Graeme Wood article from The Atlantic's March 2015 edition.

As for Pleasant Point, readers of "Unsettled", the 29-part series I wrote for the Portland Press Herald on the harrowing recent history of Maine's Passamaquoddy tribe, will recall the horrific murder 1965 murder of Peter Francis by five white hunters. That killing -- for which the perpetrators were allowed to walk away from -- happened fifty years ago today.

My thoughts are with the families of Peter Francis and the late Christy Altvater, who was brutally beaten in the attack, and who celebrated the two  men's lives in a ceremony there today. The Francis family continues to seek justice for the killing, as four of the five Billerica, Massachusetts hunters who were involved in the attack remain alive.. (The fifth, amazingly, has a scholarship named after him at Billerica High School.) Don Gellers, the attorney who blew the whistle on local authorities' mishandling of the case and ultimately paid a terrible price for representing Indians in Maine, died just over a year ago.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Canada's new government unmuzzles scientists

In today's Portland Press Herald I have a follow-up to "Mayday," our six-day series on climate change and the Gulf of Maine.

While researching the series, my reporting efforts were repeatedly interfered with by Canadian officials tasked with preventing government scientists from freely communicating information about their research with journalists. The controversial policies -- implemented by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper's administration -- had been condemned by the scientific community at home and abroad and had become a campaign issue in this October's federal elections.

Harper's party was humiliated in a landslide election Oct. 19, losing every single seat in Atlantic Canada to the Liberals, whose government was sworn in a few days ago. As I report today, within 48 hours, incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's appointees reversed the policies, directing scientists to speak freely with the media.

Before the changes, I spoke with CBC-New Brunswick about my experiences trying to report the series in Canada.

Last week I also also the guest on the Michelangelo Singnorile show on Sirius XM radio, talking about the series. When it posts online, will add a link.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Climate change and the Gulf of Maine series concludes

Our six-day, seven-part series on the rapidly warming Gulf of Maine wraps up in today's Portland Press Herald with this story on what can and isn't being done to address the challenges here in Maine. I also wrote a companion story on the release yesterday of a new study in the journal Science linking the rapid warming of the gulf to the failure of its cod stock to recover.

Yesterday's installment focused on the baleful effects of ocean acidification already being visited on clams, mussels, oysters and other commercial shellfish species in the state. Wednesday's focused on the expanding range and population of warm water invaders like green crabs, blue crabs (!), squid, black sea bass, and some unplesant tunicates.

The full series, entitled Mayday: Gulf of Maine in Distress, can be found at this landing page at the Press Herald.

Thanks also to CBC-New Brunswick and WCSH-6 here in Maine for their interest in the series, and also to New Brunswick's largest paper, the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, which I understand plans to republish the entire series in their print editions.

For those in Maine interested in learning more about the crisis in the world's oceans, I'm giving a talk on my first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas, at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland at noon on November 19th. It's free and open to the public. There will be a book signing afterward held by the campus bookstore.

Thanks to photographer Greg Rec, designer Brian Robitaille, web designer Karen Beaudoin managing editor Steve Greenlee, graphics designer Michael Fisher, and my other Press Herald colleagues for helping create such a powerful package.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Talking with CBC, WCSCH-6 about Gulf of Maine and climate change

Mayday, our six day, seven part series on how climate change is affecting the Gulf of Maine, continues this morning in the Portland Press Herald with this story on how invasive species are taking advantage. Yesterday's story showed the ongoing retreat of many cold-loving native species.

Yesterday, I spoke with CBC-New Brunswick's prime time "Shift" program about how Canadian officials hindered my reporting of the series by blocking access to marine scientists. The interview is now available here.

I also spoke with Pat Callaghan of WCSH-6, Maine's flagship NBC affiliate, about the ongoing series. Here's that segment as well, which ran yesterday evening.

Mayday, which continues through Saturday, has its own landing page where you can find all the stories.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Climate Change and the Gulf of Maine, Parts 1 & 2

For the past ten years, the Gulf of Maine has warmed more rapidly than anyplace else in the world's oceans, save for a section of the Kuroshio Current northeast of Japan, with 2012 the hottest year on record since observations began in the Civil War era. The effects have been manifold and sobering, particularly when you consider that even at the more gradual projected warming rates, 2012-like conditions will be the "new normal" by mid-century.

For the past few months, I've been at work on a multi-part series on this issue for the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, where I'm a staff writer. The resulting series -- seven stories over six days reported from across the region -- kicked off in this week's Telegram.

The first story provides the overview, along with a sidebar on how, under outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canadian officials interfered with my attempts to communicate with government scientists there about their research.

Today's story -- Part 2 of 6 -- is on concerns over how warming will effect the sort-of "krill of the gulf", a copepod species that most everything else int he food chain ultimately depends on. Puffins and right whales are among our canaries.

"Mayday" has its own landing page where the additional stories will be posted as they come out.

Readers of the series may also be interested in my first two books, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas (which looks at the global crisis) and The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier (a cultural and environmental history of coastal Maine.)

I'll be speaking on Ocean's End at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, Maine November 19th.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Reviewing Tom Gjelten's new book for the Washington Post

Fifty years ago, the United States liberalized its immigration regime, doing away with the racist reforms of 1924, which sought to prevent the country from becoming more diverse. Remarkably, neither proponents nor critics of the 1965 reforms sought to increase the country's racial and ethnic diversity; on the contrary, both camps argued the changes would not have this effect.

NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten's new book, A Nation of Nations, examines the consequences for the country in general and for Fairfax County, Virginia in particular. I review the book in today's Washington Post.

For readers of American Nations: Gjelten's detailed case study of Fairfax County provides ample evidence that at least this corner of Tidewater is likely transforming into something that looks and sounds an awful lot like the Midlands, and Fairfax's experience is likely replicated across much of fast-growing northern Virginia.

My last review for the Post was of former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Kounalakis's memoir of her years in Budapest, watching Hungary fall under the shadow of its autocratic leader, Viktor Orban (who I wrote about for Politico here.)

[Update, 10/21/15: The Denver Post picked up the review in their Sunday edition this week.]

[Update, 10/22/15: Australia's Financial Review has also reprinted the review.]

[Update. 10/26/15: The Kansas City Star as well.]