Two Reed Award Winners Announced

April 22nd, 2013
By: Debbie Heishman
The Southern Environmental Law Center is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Reed Environmental Writing Award, which is given each year to a book and a journalism article that exemplify the best environmental writing in the South. In an unprecedented decision by the judges, this year’s awards will go to two books: "Stand Up That Mountain" by Jay Erskine Leutze and "The Forest Unseen" by David George Haskell. The authors will each receive a $1,000 prize as part of the award.

In "Stand Up That Mountain," Jay Leutze tells the true story of how a small group of mountain people in North Carolina fought to save Belview Mountain from the destruction of mountaintop removal mining. While living and writing in his beloved Southern Appalachian Mountains, Leutze, a non-practicing lawyer, is contacted by two desperate women who want help saving the mountain that is their home. Leutze quickly realizes that the mining will mar the entire area—and the Appalachian Trail—and starts building a case with the help of his two new friends. With rich storytelling, Leutze paints vivid pictures of the colorful, resourceful characters he joins forces with and the mountains they love. Says long-time Reed Award judge Nikki Giovanni, “Stand Up That Mountain reads like a novel. Why don’t we get movies made from books like this?” Part documentation of a legal battle to prevent a mining company from breaking the law and part picture of life in Appalachia, Stand Up That Mountain is a powerful tale of what a determined few really can do.

David George Haskell, a biology professor at the University of the South, spends a year focusing on a small section of old growth forest floor in Tennessee’s Cumberland Forest in The Forest Unseen. The compilation of essays beautifully renders the minute happenings one can only see if concentrating carefully, possibly with a magnifying glass, as the author spends much of his year. Judge Bill McKibben notes, “David Haskell trains his eye on a single square meter of the Cumberland Plateau, and manages in the process to see the whole living planet as clearly as any writer in many years. Each chapter will teach you something new!” Through the lenses of science, Eastern philosophy, and our evolving culture, Haskell poetically describes the nearly invisible events taking place every day to create a book that, though focused on a tiny patch of forest, tells a story much larger than that.

For 18 years, SELC’s Reed Environmental Writing Award has recognized the writers and journalists who use the power of the pen to capture our imagination of the South’s natural wonders and raise our indignation at the forces that would destroy them. Educating and engaging the public in this way is central to the award’s mission and to SELC’s goal of safeguarding the South’s environment.

SELC is grateful to this year’s judges, who generously volunteer their time and talent:

Andrew Blechman Managing editor, Orion magazine.

Bruz Clark President and treasurer, Chattanooga-based Lyndhurst Foundation.

Jim Detjen Chair emeritus and founding president, Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, Michigan State University; founding president, Society of Environmental Journalists.

Nikki Giovanni Grammy-nominated poet, activist, and author of Bicycles: Love Poems.

Silas House Author of The Coal Tattoo and Eli the Good.

Janet Lembke Author of Chickens: Their Natural and Unnatural Histories.

Bill McKibben Author of The End of Nature; co-founder of

Deaderick Montague Civic leader, teacher, and writer; guiding inspiration behind creation of the Reed Writing Award; vice president of SELC board of trustees.

Janisse Ray Author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, the 2000 Reed Award winner.

Charles Seabrook Author of The World of the Salt Marsh; Reed Award winner in 1998.

Paul Sloan Executive director, Cumberland River Compact; founder, Partners in Conservation.

Donovan Webster Author of War Stories: True Life Fiction Inspired by the Global War on Terror.