Tuesday, April 5, 2011

EDITORIAL: John Wathen gets environmental accolades

Tuscaloosa News

EDITORIAL: John Wathen gets environmental accolades

Published: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 4, 2011 at 9:52 p.m.
 Hurricane CREEKKEEPER by P. Batson, flight by SouthWings
John Wathen, the CREEKKEEPER for Friends of Hurricane Creek, is an ubiquitous figure in these parts in his efforts to protect his fragile watershed feeding into the Black Warrior River.
If someone is perceived to be polluting Hurricane Creek and others creeks that feed into it, Wathen is usually there within hours with his cameras and knowledge of environmental law. He has also been known to go a few public rounds with local and state agencies charged with protecting the environment throughout West Alabama.
But his receipt of the Wild South's
Roosevelt-Ashe Society Conservation Award for Outstanding Journalist in Conservation had less to do with his local efforts than it did his indefatigable work for the national Waterkeeper Alliance following the oil spill nearly a year ago in the Gulf of Mexico.
The award is given to people who have contributed to the environmental movement during the year by Asheville, N.C.-Wild South, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire people to enjoy, value and protect the wild character and natural legacy of the South. Wathen was chosen as a nominee for the media work that he does based around environmental issues.
“We all have the same premise that these are our waters, and people don't have a right to deprive us of those clean waters,” Wathen said.
In addition to his photographic and video documentation of ongoing conditions in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the blow-out of the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon well last April, Wathen is a prolific blogger who can be found on the web by searching for “BP Slick.” He said the blog is a group effort of more than 300 people along the Gulf Coast over the last year and has had well over two million Internet visitors.
Nelson Brooke, the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, nominated Wathen for his work at the Gulf and at home.
“John is an amazing advocate and activist,” Brooke said. “(He) has done an incredible job in the past number of years giving up his personal time to get out and document major, national, environmental catastrophes and put the word out there in the form of blogs, photos and videos so that the masses can see what's going on out there from the ground and from the air. He's giving a viewpoint that's just not being given by the general media.”
But Wathen said despite the prestigious award he received, the attention should be elsewhere.
“I got an award for journalism and for just telling the story of people who are in pretty dire straits down there on the coast,” Wathen said. “It's their story. “
And sadly, as those touched by the spill struggle to recover, it is a story that is likely to continue for quite some time.

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