Award-winning coverage of the 2012 drought

Complete stories are here:

An emergency water year, even for a desert — 6/14/2012

You know it when you see it, but when it comes to pinning down the specifics of what constitutes a drought, location is key. Many parts of the world can define drought as a certain number of days or weeks without significant rainfall. That definition may hold up somewhat for the eastern U.S., but…

A hot spell for the books is back —6/14/2012

Ten years ago last weekend, after flying over several wildfires burning across Colorado, then-Gov. Bill Owens made an observation that still resonates. “It looks as if all of Colorado is burning today,” Owens told reporters then. While the number and size of fires torching the …

Low river flows hampering fish — 6/15/2012

Low streamflows are forcing dam operators to choose between irrigation and fish—and at some sites are taking the decision out of their hands. Endangered and other native fish may pay a price this summer, but wildlife officials are hopeful that as long as the drought does not last …

Effects of wilfire on landscape, wildlife go beyond the flames — 6/21/2012

The potential impacts of the fires currently sweeping through parts of the state — and forecast throughout this hot, dry summer — will not end when the flames go out. And, ironically, the water on which humans and wildlife depend may be one of the key resources at risk…

Spring driest, 3rd warmest on record — 6/21/2012

Grand Junction on Wednesday leaped from the frying pan into the fire, bidding farewell to a spring that was unprecedented in its lack of moisture and saying hello to a summer showing few indications that a break from the hot, dry spell is anything more than a mirage in this desert…

Drought drains Blue Mesa — 6/25/2012

Even an average snow year will leave Blue Mesa Reservoir well short of its water-holding capacity next year, and it could take years for levels to recover. As is the case with many other measurements, the amount of water stored in Blue Mesa is tracking almost eerily with that of 2002…

Water usage leaps, despite pleas — 6/27/2012

As Mesa County residents open their water bills from the first month of summer, they may be in for an unpleasant — but completely avoidable — surprise. Despite recent calls for residents to voluntarily reduce their water usage during this year’s extreme drought…

Leading horses to water — 7/02/2012

Even wild horses will require extraordinary measures to make it through this year’s drought, it appears. The Bureau of Land Management is taking the exceptional step of trucking tanks of water to a herd of wild horses, an effort the agency says is necessitated by the area’s springs …

Drought prompts Western Slope fire departments to boost equipment, training — 7/15/2012

Fire was clearly in the forecast months ago as a dry winter left thousands of acres of pinyon-juniper forest in western Colorado as susceptible to ignition as an open gasoline can. “We’re dreading it, believe me,” said James Wood, deputy chief of Lands End Fire Protection…

In drought, some insects flourishing; some not — 7/16/2012

The drought conditions that have swept through Colorado and the wider region are affecting the animal kingdom in various ways. For longer-lived large animals the exact extent of those effects might not be clear, but for many insects the impacts have been obvious and immediate…

Freelance reporting highlights

Currently contributing occasional reporting from the Bay Area as a stringer for Reuters.

Contributed several feature articles on international environmental issues for the online journal The InterDependent, which covers UN-related news:

As Invasive Pests Gain New Footholds, Little-Known Agencies Scramble to Defend the World’s Forests (Nov. 29, 2011)

Feeding the World — After Climate Change (Dec 29, 2011)

Mountains Prove Key to Fighting Climate Change (Apr. 20, 2012)

Report writing

During those inevitable times when reporting work has been less than forthcoming, I have contributed research, interviews and articles to several nonprofit reports:

Oct. 2011 - Contributed 11 articles reporting on the progress of various developing-country projects to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions for a Center for Clean Air Policy report, available here.

Feb. 2011 - Through research and interviews, wrote 20 profiles of sustainable
fisheries to be featured on the Marine Stewardship Council website. Some samples: Western Fish Boat Owners Association and North Pacific albacore tuna fishery

Foreign policy reporting highlights

Climate-related Security Predictions Coming True in Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Aug 26, 2010 (IPS) - Analysts have been warning for several years that the impacts of climate change directly relate to the national security of the U.S. and other countries, but the link has never been so clear as it is today in northwest Pakistan… 

U.S. Aid Shift Envisions Path to Self-Sufficiency

WASHINGTON, Oct 25, 2010 (IPS) - As part of a more general promise of reform to U.S. development policy, the U.S. Agency for International Development is poised to fundamentally alter the way it tackles poverty overseas.

The first steps in that new path may be unfolding at USAID, where officials have been overseeing far-reaching reforms to their implementation and procurement practices, according to agency documents and those familiar with the agency’s work…

Developing Nations Gain Clout at World Bank – Depending on Your Math

WASHINGTON, Apr 26, 2010 (IPS) - Developing countries will have a slightly larger say at the World Bank under an agreement reached at the institution’s spring meetings this weekend. But some groups are challenging whether the shift in voting shares is as large as it should be - or as large as the bank says it is…

IMF Criticised for “Fancy Footwork” over Real Reforms 

WASHINGTON, Nov 8, 2010 (IPS) - In what the International Monetary Fund is calling a historic moment, the institution approved long-awaited reforms Friday that would shift some decision-making weight to emerging economies. Some NGOs, however, do not see the reform as nearly that momentous…

Coal Plant Won’t Promote Development, Say Groups

WASHINGTON/JOHANNESBURG, Apr 10, 2010 (IPS) - As the World Bank approved a controversial three-billion-dollar loan for a coal-fired power plant in South Africa Thursday, both the details and the broader impacts of the loan continue to be criticised by community and environmental groups.

The U.S., Britain, Netherlands, Norway and Italy abstained from voting on the loan, thus showing their opposition without taking the stronger, less-diplomatic action of voting “no”. Their concerns were largely environment or climate-related, but there are also numerous criticisms of the possible effect of the plant on local communities and its lack of effect in bringing more reliable electricity to the population…

U.S. Weighs Endorsing Indigenous Rights Declaration

WASHINGTON, Oct 15, 2010 (IPS) - Just over three years after having voted against it at the United Nations, the United States is in the process of reviewing its position on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples…

U.S. Criticised for Recognising Post-Coup Poll

WASHINGTON, Nov 30, 2009 (IPS) - On a sunny Sunday afternoon in Washington, DC’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, about 50 protestors lined up outside a polling station where voting was taking place to help select the next leader of a country almost 3,000 kilometres away.

Monday, in Foggy Bottom, the controversial U.S. policy of recognising the results of the Honduran elections remained unchanged…

Agriculture and health reporting highlights

Feeding the World — After Climate Change 

Dec 29, 2011 (The InterDependent) — In the birthplace of the potato, things are heating up. Over the past decade, the Quechua farmers working at the El Parque de la Papa, outside Cusco, Peru, started noticing that the potato varieties they used to grow at lower altitudes can now only be cultivated much higher up the mountainside. “Temperate zones in the mountains are moving upwards—which is to say it’s getting warmer”… 

HIV Vaccine Advances Made Ahead of Global Conference

WASHINGTON, Jul 8, 2010 (IPS) - In 1984, then-U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Margaret Heckler famously declared, “We hope to have such a vaccine ready for testing in approximately two years.” The vaccine in question would prevent AIDS and the goal Heckler set has been missed by over 26 years.
During that time, around 25 million people have died from the disease and the search for a vaccine continues. But two studies released Thursday in the journal Science give some hope to those that have worked so long on this cause…

Sustainable Aquaculture Picks Up Steam

WASHINGTON, Jul 20, 2010 (IPS) - Some experts are predicting this is the year in which humans, globally, will begin to consume more farmed seafood than wild-caught. Whether the milestone is reached this year or not, though, it is clear the trend is here to stay and that - with wild fish stocks continuing to dwindle - aquaculture, or fish farming, has a major role to play in ensuring global food security. With that in mind, work is being done to address the serious questions about aquaculture’s negative impacts. 

Over the past several decades, wild-caught fish landings have widely stagnated or declined, yet global seafood demand has continued to rise - as has, due to aquaculture, global seafood supply. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has predicted that, due to population growth, by 2030 we will need an additional 37 million tonnes of farmed fish per year to maintain the current levels of per capita seafood consumption…

New Staple Crop Varieties Take Aim at Malnutrition

WASHINGTON, Nov 9, 2010 (IPS) - When the Green Revolution took root in the 1960s and 1970s, plant biologists’ main concern was increasing the yield of the staple crops on which people in poor countries depended. This, it stood to reason, would increase the amount of food available to the world’s poor – and decrease hunger.

It generally succeeded. But what if those staple crops were themselves lacking in the micronutrients – such as vitamin A, iron or zinc – that people were short on but which are necessary for healthy bodies? Addressing this micronutrient deficiency would require a new approach and a new effort which is only now beginning to, quite literally, bear fruit…

Funding Cuts on Horizon for Global Health, AIDS

WASHINGTON, Nov 17, 2010 (IPS) - Over the past several years, the number of people needing treatment for HIV/AIDS has risen, but so has the amount of funding for the treatment and prevention of the disease. The United States has been at the forefront of that funding, but with the new emphasis in Washington on reducing government spending that may be about to change…

GE Salmon an Ambiguous Milestone for Aquaculture

WASHINGTON, Oct 1, 2010 (IPS) - The march toward domesticating the last wild food source may be about to take a major step forward in Washington - for better or worse. Following a series of hearings last week the U.S. government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering whether to approve for human consumption a genetically engineered species of Atlantic salmon. 

The debate here has focused on whether raising this salmon in aquaculture operations would pose a hazard to human or environmental health. However that debate turns out, though - and the FDA has already decided the fish is safe to eat - the genetic modification of a fish to make it easier and more efficient to raise for human consumption is a significant milestone in the ongoing, and contentious, effort to expand aquaculture to feed a growing population…

Reporting for Inter Press Service news agency

April 2009 - March 2011

Covered a beat spanning environment, climate change, global health, foreign policy, economics, politics and the multilateral development banks. Wrote three or four feature-type stories a week, which were translated and published in newspapers and websites internationally, particularly in the developing world. Some highlights:

Climate-related Security Predictions Coming True in Pakistan (Aug. 26, 2010; IPS)

GM Crops Go to US High Court, Environmental Laws on the Line (Apr. 26, 2010; IPS)

Oil Spill Comes at Worst Time for Endangered Bluefin Tuna (Jun. 7, 2010; IPS)

U.S. Weighs Endorsing Indigenous Rights Declaration (Oct. 15, 2010; IPS)

HIV Vaccine Advances Made Ahead of Global Conference (Jul. 8, 2010; IPS)

Oil Giant Is Gone, Legal and Environmental Mess Remains (Oct. 28, 2009; IPS)

Reporting for InsideClimate News

Nov. 2010 - Jul. 2011 SolveClimate logo

Covered Washington for the start-up climate and energy news site during the tumultuous period of Senate debates on a cap-and-trade bill and the Copenhagen conference. Stories are here.

This is the About page you’re looking for

I am a journalist who has primarily covered science and environment topics, but has also dug into economics, foreign policy, energy, global health and other fields while reporting from Washington D.C., New York, San Francisco, London and Colorado.

Most recently, I spent six months on a grant-funded fellowship to increase environmental coverage at western Colorado’s regional daily, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Highlights from that work can be found here

Before that I covered national- and international-scope news out of the DC bureau of the developing-world-focused news agency Inter Press Service (IPS), through which my stories were published in more than 500 publications around the world and reached around 200 million readers in 20 different languages. Or so I’ve been told.

I have also written for Reuters, the investigative news site, the UN-focused news site The InterDependent, and reported in-depth on sustainable fisheries and developing-world greenhouse-gas mitigation for several nonprofit reports.

Prior to my journalism career, I studied comparative literature at UC Berkeley and political economy at the London School of Economics, where I focused on EU fisheries policy for my masters thesis.

My Twitter feed is @matthewoberger and I can be reached by email at matthew o berger AT

Many thanks for stopping by.