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Photography by Dudley Edmonson, an African-American writer and photographer specializing primarily in outdoors and nature writing and photography. Check out Dudley's work here.

Welcome to The Seedling, brought to you by the Uproot Project. In one month, we’ll officially be in hurricane season. Researchers from Colorado State University have already predicted that the 2022 season, which lasts from June 1 to November 30, will be another active one, with the potential for nearly twenty storms. If that happens, this year could be the seventh above-normal season, meaning that more than 14 storms – the historical average – will form in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. 

The worst part about reporting on disasters in America is that every year, you could write the same stories: How the most vulnerable members of society aren’t given the resources they need to survive. How, after the rains clear, they will still be living in damaged homes for years while they wait for federal dollars to reach them, or get denied altogether. Storms are more common, and more frequent, than ever before thanks to climate change, which is driven by the very fossil fuel industry that dominates the Gulf South, making it even more vulnerable to climate catastrophe.

Some days, it doesn’t feel like enough to tweet out a link to a story about what people who lived through a disaster already know. This year, I’ve had the opportunity to rethink my approach, and to try and work more closely with folks on the ground to shape disaster coverage. I recently helped Southerly develop a disaster glossary with some of the most crucial information that people need before disaster strikes. Much of this information exists on government websites, scattered across dozens of state or federal agencies. Which papers and documents will you need to have on hand when you need to repair a roof? How can you plan an evacuation? We’re planning to partner with local, grassroots groups to distribute this information in communities where access to this information can be life-saving. 

Doing this work from a different angle has challenged me to think more critically about the extractive approach that journalists are often encouraged to take after a crisis. I still don’t have the answer to how we truly serve audiences in the era of climate change. But for now, I’ll leave you with this from Lina Tran’s essay on growing up in coastal Alabama: “The future will eventually disabuse us of feeling at home in the weather. I once relished the never-ending cocoon of the rain. Then hurricanes took on a darker shade of gray.”

-Amal Ahmed, Freelance Reporter

What Are You Planting? 

Name: Shantal Riley, Freelance reporter covering water and industrial pollution published in Washington Post Magazine, Frontline PBS, NOVA PBS, Vice, among others.

What's one of your favorite pieces you’ve written? My favorite piece is a recent story I wrote for the Washington Post Magazine. It covered chemical pollution in Lake Superior. The area of the contamination surrounded tribal lands of the Ojibwe. It’s my favorite piece for a few reasons: One, I think it’s well-written, in no small part due to my excellent editor; two, it covers an issue near to my heart – PFAS pollution, which I’ve covered for years now and intend to keep covering; three, I feel like it has the potential to make a difference in the communities surrounding the Great Lakes. Also, my photographs came out quite nice in the piece. 

What's a piece of advice you wish you could give to your younger self? Do the kind of work that makes you happy. If you don’t have the skills you need to do this, go out and get them. Most importantly, make sure your work is in line with your personal values. Also, give back – whether it’s through your job, or through charities. It will bring incredible satisfaction.

What's your intention with every story? To educate!

Read their work here!

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