#SEJ2022 Annual Conference • Houston, Texas • March 30-April 3 • Contact

Agenda

The #SEJ2022 Annual Conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Houston, Texas officially begins Wednesday, March 30, 2022, with a star-studded Welcome to Houston evening dinner reception.

Before the official kick-off, three all-day workshops will be held, as well as an afternoon meet-and-greet with fun networking opportunities.

Please note: SEJ is committed to supporting a harassment-free environment at the conference. Please read our anti-harassment policy.

Stay up-to-date on the agenda and registration by subscribing to our Annual Conference email list.

Concerned about COVID? We are too! Proof of vaccination or recent negative test results will be required for all registered attendees. Masks will be mandatory unless otherwise specified. Read SEJ’s COVID-19 Protocols.

Wondering why journalists should meet in Houston in 2022? The reasons are many! Read more.

#SEJ2022 DRAFT AGENDA

Note: All information is subject to change.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022
Thursday, March 31, 2022
Friday, April 1, 2022
Saturday, April 2, 2022
Sunday, April 3, 2022

All sessions, as well as registration, exhibits and breaks, will take place at the Royal Sonesta Houston Galleria, 2222 West Loop South, Houston, TX 77027, unless otherwise indicated.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

All-Day Journalist Workshops

Workshop 1. Covering Biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples

8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. ($75 fee includes breakfast and lunch)

Indigenous peoples across the globe account for about five percent of the world’s population, but conserve about 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity. Join National Geographic Explorer Sharon Guynup and Debra Krol, Indigenous Affairs Reporter for the Arizona Republic, along with conservation biology scientists, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representatives, UN officials and Indigenous leaders to learn more about how to cover the struggle to preserve ecosystems and how to best address threats to these living systems that are critical for all life. SEJ members and journalists only. Space is limited; register soon to secure a seat.

Workshop 2. Covering Oceans and Coasts

8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. ($75 fee includes breakfast and lunch)

Join The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate’s Mark Schleifstein and other journalists along with experts from NOAA, NMFS, Rice University’s SSPEED Center (Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation From Disaster), and more for a deep dive into covering ocean health, climate change impacts and coastal resilience. We’ll address carbon sequestration in the ocean, sea level rise and natural protection, threats to fisheries and the successes and failures following 50 years of marine protection laws. SEJ members and journalists only. Space is limited; register soon to secure a seat.

Workshop 3. Tracking Toxics Data Training Workshop

8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. ($75 fee includes breakfast and lunch)

Join us for a day of hands-on database training, including presentations from Tableau, USA Facts, Grist and the U.S. EPA. You’ll learn how to use data for quick turnaround investigations and longer stories. We will use historic examples of environmental disasters (like chemical accidents) and practice using relevant state and federal datasets. You’ll learn how to track specific toxic releases from specific facilities, how to analyze data (using basic Excel functions and/or Tableau) and report on possible impacts to local communities. SEJ members and journalists only. Space is strictly limited; register soon to secure a seat. Registrants must bring their own laptops.

Moderator: Lisa Song, Reporter, ProPublica

Speakers:
Clayton Aldern, Senior Data Reporter, Grist
Matt Dempsey, Managing Editor, USAFacts
Owen Mattison, Public Affairs Specialist, Tableau
Sarah Swenson, Stakeholder Engagement Branch, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Lylla Younes, Reporter and News Applications Developer, ProPublica

Resources:

 

Afternoon Meet-n-Greet

3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

 

Opening Reception and Dinner at the Royal Sonesta

5:30 – 9:00 p.m.

Welcome to Houston, and welcome to Harris County, the most ethnically diverse in the country. Meet up with old friends or mingle with new ones over science poster sessions and other attractions, then settle down for dinner and an evening of presentations to give us a sense of place and set the stage for the rest of the week’s agenda. We’ve invited Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and others to give us a big-picture look at the environmental challenges the city and region face, and the unique solutions some are trying.

Moderator: TBA

Speakers:
Robert Bullard, Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy, Texas Southern University and Co-Chair, National Black Environmental Justice Network

 

Thursday, March 31, 2022

All-Day Tours

Advance registration is required for all Thursday tours. Attendance on each tour is strictly limited, so registering early is important. Departure times vary (see below), but all Thursday tours will return to the Royal Sonesta Houston Galleria about 5:00 p.m. Planning is still underway, so please check back here or keep up to date by subscribing to our Annual Conference email list. For those looking for some exercise, tours 2, 3 and 4 are your best options. Other tours involve moderate exercise. Tours 1 and 5 are best suited for those with limited mobility.

1. Sustainable Fishing, Coral Health and Marine Life in the Gulf of Mexico

6:00 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

Join us for a trip to Galveston, where we will set out for a half-day of fishing. Between casting our lines, we will discuss how fishery management works in the Gulf of Mexico. We’ll use as a case study how challenges with the ever-popular red snapper have been addressed. Back on shore, we’ll eat local seafood and learn about the national marine sanctuary protecting coral here. Experts will fill us in on why these coral are so important globally and how oil and gas interests were balanced in trying to keep them safe. We’ll cap the day with a visit to Texas A&M Galveston’s sea turtle hospital, where scientists have been working to protect the threatened and endangered species. Total drive time: 2.5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Emily Foxhall, Environment Reporter, Houston Chronicle
Katie Watkins, Environmental Reporter, Houston Public Media

2. Boomtown, Flood Town: Climate Solutions for the Nation’s Oil and Gas Capital

6:30 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

The fast-growing Houston metropolitan area, which is home to 7 million people and the largest petrochemical complex in the country, has in recent decades been repeatedly pummeled by climate change-related weather disasters. From Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 to Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the region is home to the worst urban flooding events in modern American history. Scientists also say it is a sitting duck for a monster hurricane that could kill thousands of people and inflict irreparable environmental harm. A variety of solutions have been floated to guard against these events, from nature-based ecological restoration to a multi-billion-dollar public works project that is awaiting congressional approval. On this water-front tour, you’ll hear from the scientists, advocates and government officials who are working on these complex issues, visit some of the most at-risk places by boat and hopefully enjoy a hearty oyster lunch. Total drive time: 3.5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Kiah Collier, Investigative Reporter, ProPublica/Texas Tribune
Halle Parker, Environment Reporter, The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate | NOLA.com

Speakers:
Jim Blackburn, Professor in the Practice of Environmental Law, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and Co-Director, Severe Storm Prevention, Education and Evacuation from Disaster (SSPEED) Center, Rice University
Sam Brody, Director of Center for Texas Beaches and Shores; Regents Professor; and George P. Mitchell ’40 Chair in Sustainable Coasts, Department of Marine and Coastal Environmental Science, Texas A&M University at Galveston

3. Birds and Racism, Conservation and Energy Companies

7:00 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

View spring bird migration with the Houston Audubon Society at its High Island and Bolivar Flats sanctuaries to observe spring migration of shorebirds and songbirds. We’ll stroll a Gulf Coast peninsula created by an enormous 1898 jetty and get a birds-eye view from a boardwalk in the tree canopy. We’ll hear about Houston Audubon’s relationship with oil companies that donated land for the sanctuaries and provide financial support to the group. We’ll discuss the racism that haunts birdwatching and the English names for birds. Houston Audubon, under the directorship of a Black woman, will describe how it reaches out to the area’s diverse population. If time allows, we’ll include a special stop. Total drive time: 3.5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Sergio Chapa, Energy/Business Reporter, Bloomberg
Cheryl Hogue, Senior Correspondent, Chemical & Engineering News

4. Wildfire, Prescribed Burns and Indigenous Traditions

7:30 a.m. departure,($60 fee, lunch included)

For millennia, Indigenous communities have used prescribed burns to manage forests and create openings for wildlife and berries to thrive. Today many of these traditions still exist across the country but are often stifled by government regulations, complicating already convoluted forest and wildfire management and leaving communities vulnerable to more intense wildfire. In Texas, we’ll visit the Sam Houston National Forest to examine wildfire ecology, including prescribed burns to stimulate longleaf pine restoration and other treatments to protect communities from destructive wildfires. Total drive time: 4 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Michael Kodas, Senior Editor, Inside Climate News; Photojournalist, Educator & Author of “Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame” and “High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed”
Debra Krol, Indigenous Affairs Reporter – Climate, Culture & Commerce, The Arizona Republic

Speakers:
Pauly Denetclaw, Freelance Reporter

5. The Future of Clean Energy

8:00 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

Electricity plays a key role in a low carbon future. This tour highlights energy efficiency building technology and the role renewables can play to help disenfranchised communities. First, we’ll tour energy research hub, the Houston Advanced Research Center. We’ll tour the certified, net-zero energy building (one of less than 50 certified zero energy office buildings in the US and the first in Texas). After lunch, we’ll visit the site of the future Sunnyside Solar Farm, located in the historic Sunnyside neighborhood. Once built, the solar array will be the largest urban solar farm in the country. Total drive time: 2.5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Mitchell Ferman, Energy and Economy Reporter, Texas Tribune
Nushin Huq, Freelance Journalist

6. Flood Protection, Dam Safety and Cumulative Trauma

8:30 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

When the reservoirs behind Addicks and Barker dams swelled during Hurricane Harvey, the federal government chose to flood some neighborhoods in order to save others downstream. With future storms posing similar risks, you’ll get to tour the dams and hear from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Harris County Flood Control District about the challenges of maintaining the country’s dams and how best to localize these stories. You’ll hear from marginalized minorities in Houston’s Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens about the inequities they’ve faced in the recovery process. We’ll also travel to Meyerland, a community victimized by flood after flood. Total drive time: 1.5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Zach Despart, Harris County Reporter, Houston Chronicle
Sarah Rafique, Investigative Producer, ABC13 Houston

7. From the Fenceline to the Frontline: The Battle Against Environmental Racism in Houston’s Ship Channel

9:00 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

This tour will visit neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by pollution in their communities in the Houston Ship Channel, a highly industrialized and predominantly Latino area. This tour will provide journalists with access to environmental justice advocates as well as pollution and air quality experts. Journalists will also speak directly with community members about their experience living in a fenceline community. Tentatively, journalists will tour an oil refinery or chemical plant, or see the plants from a boat tour. Total drive time: 2 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Erin Douglas, Environment Reporter, Texas Tribune
Syan Rhodes, KPRC 2 TV, Houston

8. Superfunds: Climate Threats and Corporate Stonewalling

9:30 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

We’ll tour the San Jacinto Waste Pits and the French Limited Superfund Sites, both along the San Jacinto River, and hear from attorneys, environmental researchers and activists who have been pushing for a clean-up of the waste pits, which have dumped dioxin into Galveston Bay and continued to leak during recent hurricanes. Despite Houston’s urban industry, the San Jacinto River still has historic towns where residents used to enjoy fishing and boating and who struggle to co-exist with Superfund threats. We’ll stop in a historic Freedman’s town, have lunch at a BBQ place and tour two or three Superfund sites to spotlight one of several areas in the U.S. where multiple superfund sites are clustered in heavily populated low-lying areas. Often these sites were not properly capped or cleaned up especially in light of changes in flood plain maps, stronger hurricanes and sea level rise. Total drive time: 1.5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Lise Olsen, Senior Reporter and Editor, Environment and Investigations, Texas Observer
Dianna Wray, Freelance Journalist

9. Highway? No Way! Why Cities Are Moving Away From Highways

10:00 a.m. departure ($60 fee, lunch included)

In every major city, building highways has required demolishing bustling, densely packed and walkable avenues, and paving over them to make room for dozens of lanes of high-speed traffic. Tight-knit communities — almost always primarily people of color — were broken up as families were scattered all over the city. Houston is ground zero for a growing fight in Texas to rethink the way that we move people around cities. This tour will explore the proposed route of the I-45 expansion, how the federal government is rethinking the history of civil rights violations in highway expansions, the impact that highway design and transportation policy have had on communities of color in Houston — and how a new way forward is possible. Total drive time: 2.5 hours.

Tour Leaders:
Amal Ahmed, Environmental Justice Reporter, Texas Observer
Megan Kimble, Freelance Journalist
Raj Mankad, Op-ed Editor, Houston Chronicle

 

Independent Hospitality Receptions and Exhibitor Sneak Peek

5:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Now a popular SEJ tradition, this is the conference’s best networking opportunity. After spending the day in the field, meet with hosts of multiple receptions. They’ll have experts on hand as well as displays, materials and, of course, great food and drink. Mingle with our exhibitors and build your source list.

 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Opening Plenary: Climate Change, Oceans and Coasts

9:00 – 10:30 a.m.

Moderator: Justin Worland, Senior Correspondent, TIME

Speakers:
Robert Bullard, Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy, Texas Southern University and Co-Chair, National Black Environmental Justice Network
Katharine Hayhoe, Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy

 

Beverage Break and Exhibits

10:30 – 11:00 a.m.

 

Concurrent Sessions 1

11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

  • The Craft
  • The Climate
  • The Ocean
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Health

 

Luncheon Plenary: The Energy Transition and Environmental Justice

12:15 – 2:00 p.m.

Scientists have shown that using clean electricity to power as much of the economy as possible — from cars and trucks to kitchen stoves — may be the cheapest, easiest way to fight climate change. But doing that equitably, while keeping the lights on, is another story. Will the push to “electrify everything” currently underway in California and other states raise energy costs and force low-income families to spend money they don’t have on new vehicles and appliances? And what happens when fires, floods and heat waves made worse by climate change inevitably cause chaos on the electric grid?

Moderator: Sammy Roth, Energy Reporter, Los Angeles Times

Speakers:
Pedro Pizarro, President and CEO, Edison International

 

Concurrent Sessions 2

2:00 – 3:15 p.m.

  • The Craft
  • The Climate
  • The Ocean
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Health

 

Beat Dinners

7:00 – 11:00 p.m.

 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Concurrent Sessions 3

9:00 – 10:15 a.m.

  • The Craft
  • The Climate
  • The Ocean
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Health

 

Beverage Break and Exhibits

10:15 – 10:45 a.m.

 

Concurrent Sessions 4

10:45 a.m. – Noon

  • The Craft
  • The Climate
  • The Ocean
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Health

 

Lunch and Plenary Session: Solutions Journalism and Environmental Justice

Noon – 2:00 p.m.

Environmental reporting in communities of color often lacks depth and nuance. Stereotypes of who cares about the environment abound. Narratives about environmental injustice present frontline communities as victims, devoid of agency. These stories often omit communities’ efforts to organize and find solutions. From framing a story to the ethics of maintaining relationships with BIPOC communities, panelists will discuss the common pitfalls of reporting in communities of color, the role of evidence-based solutions journalism in environmental justice reporting and how reporters can provide smart and informative coverage for underrepresented communities.

Moderator: TBA

 

Afternoon Mini-Tours

2:15 – 5:30 p.m.

 

SEJ Dinner Party on Rice Campus

6:00 – 10:00 p.m. ($40 fee includes dinner and music and dancing with an awesome band)

We’ll mix and mingle with Rice University faculty and students and Houston community leaders in an outdoor dinner extravaganza. Research demos, hands-on projects, and behind-the-scenes tours will be offered throughout campus. Food stations will spread us out as leading Gulf Coast environmental artists and activists offer performances of their work.

 

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Breakfast and Books

Time TBA ($25 fee includes breakfast and airport shuttle, with arrival at airport no later than 1:00 p.m.)

Join us for a full breakfast and our Sunday morning authors program. Check back for details.

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As a journalism organization that believes in an open society, SEJ each year welcomes a diverse group of attendees to our annual conference. Attendees include representatives of business, government and environmental groups, as well as working journalists, academics and students.

Because non-journalists are here, you may see or hear presentations or responses to presentations that you might not expect from mainstream journalists. The presentations and any responses do not necessarily reflect the views of SEJ or any of its members.

As our guest, you should respect our interest in open discussions of environmental issues by thanking all participants in sessions you attend and not disrupting presentations of views you disagree with.

Finally, please respect our rule that SEJ members are given preference during question-and-answer sessions.

Please note: SEJ is committed to supporting a harassment-free environment at the conference. Please read our anti-harassment policy.