Dan Fagin

Dan Fagin

A science journalism professor at New York University, Dan Fagin is a nationally prominent journalist on environmental health topics. He has twice been a principal member of reporting teams that were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, he won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction, and he has won both of the best-known science journalism prizes in the United States, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Association of Science Writers. His work has been recently published in Nature, The New York Times, Scientific American, Slate and New Scientist and he is the author of Toxic Deception. At NYU, Fagin is an associate professor of journalism and the director of the masters-level Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program (SHERP).
Great books to give this holiday season from Island Press

2017 Holiday Gift Guide

This holiday season, consider the Icelandic tradition of gifting books. They don't go bad, are one-size-fits-all,...

This holiday season, consider the Icelandic tradition of gifting books. They don't go bad, are one-size-fits-all, and are sure to make anyone on your shopping list smile.With a library of more than 1,000 books, make Island Press your one-stop shop for book buying, so you can get back to enjoying the holidays. To help you out, we've compiled a list of staff selections and mentions on various best-of lists. 

Get any of these books at your favorite neighborhood bookstore or online retailer!


For the health nut in your life – Whitewash

Let me just say I am unequivocally a health nut; I am definitely that friend who will straight up say “you so should not eat, it is so unhealthy for you.” So If you have a friend or family member that is kind of like me and cares about the kind of food and chemicals they put in their body; Carey Gillam Whitewash is the book to have!  This riveting number exposes just how far one company is willing to go to line their pockets while showing total disregard for public health and safety. You think you know what is being sprayed on your food, well this book is here to say think again!

Whitewash is aslo one of Civil Eats' Favorite Food and Farming Books of 2017


For the Lego lover in your life – Design for Good

What good is building something if it doesn’t help the people it’s build for? In John Cary’s Design for Good, readers are presented with colorful, character-driven stories about project around that are designed with dignity in mind. Did we mention it also contains a ton of drool-worthy photos of architecture?

Design for Good is aslo featured on the San Francisco Chronicle's 2017 holiday books gift guide. Check it out!


For the peacekeeper in your life – The Spirit of Dialogue

Know someone who always serves as the conflict resolver for your friends or family? Give them some new ideas of masterful mediation with The Spirit of Dialogue which draws lessons from a diversity of faith traditions to transform conflict. Whether atheist or fundamentalist, Muslim or Jewish, Quaker or Hindu, any reader involved in difficult dialogue will find concrete steps towards meeting of souls. 


For the history buff in your life – Toms River

Toms River recounts the sixty-year saga that plagued this small New Jersey town. Your history-loving friend will meet industrial polluters and the government regulators who enabled them, the pioneering scientists who first identified pollutants as a cause of cancer, and the brave individuals who fought for justice. Longtime journalist Dan Fagin won the Pulitzer Prize for this page-turner, and gives us all a reason to think twice about what’s lurking in the water.


For the person in your life who thinks the environmental movement is made up of white outdoorsmen (or for the person in your life who thinks that the environmental movements doesn’t include them) – Energy Democracy

Energy Democracy frames the international struggle of working people, low-income communities, and communities of color to take control of energy resources from the energy establishment and use those resources to empower their communities—literally providing energy, economically, and politically. The diverse voices in this book show that the global fight to save the planet—to conserve and restore our natural resources to be life-sustaining—must fully engage community residents and must change the larger economy to be sustainable, democratic, and just.


For the lazy environmentalist in your life – Design Professionals Guide to Zero-Net Energy Building

We all know someone who really means well and cares about the environment, but cannot be bothered to change his lifestyle. With the Design Professionals Guide to Zero-Net Energy Building, you can introduce the zero-net energy building, which offers a practical and cost-effective way to address climate change without compromising quality of life.


For the foodie in your life – No One Eats Alone

For your favorite gourmand, give the gift of No One Eats Alone, an exploration of how to deepen connections to our food sources and to our own communities. Through over 250 interviews, Michael Carolan shows concerned food citizens opportunities for creating a more equitable and sustainable foodscape


For the conservation warrior in your life – Nature’s Allies

Worried about the state of nature in our divided world? Or know someone who is? Nature’s Allies is a refreshing antidote to helplessness and inertia. Within its pages Larry Nielsen brings alive stories of brave men and women around the world who have responded to the conservation crises of their time by risking their reputations, well-being, and even lives to stand up for nature when no one else would do so. These stories provide inspiration for a new generation of conservationists to step up in the face of adversity and challenge social and environmental injustice occurring today—and to assure them that they can make a difference by speaking out. This year, give a holiday gift of courage and inspiration: Nature’s Allies.



For the traveler in your life – Let Them Eat Shrimp

This book brings to life the importance of mangroves. Mangroves have many jobs: protecting coastlines, acting as nurseries for all kinds of fish, provide livlihoods and food for people. Kennedy Warne dives into the muddy waters of the mangrove world and shares the stories of the people who depend on them. The book is both a well-written travelogue and exploration of the science of the mangroves ecological service they provide.

Don't just take our word for it, check out these best-of lists:


For the nature-in-cities lover in your life – Handbook of Biophilic City Planning & Design

Featured on the ASLA's The Dirt Best Books of 2017


For the bike lover in your life – Bike Boom

One of Planetizen's Best Books of 2017 and one of the four books in Bicycle Times' Gift Guide Cycling Enthusiast


How important is it that the main-stream media covers climate change?

A piece from Grist...

A piece from Grist points out that major TV networks spent just 50 minutes on climate change—combined—in 2016. We’ve asked a few of our journalist-authors what kind of responsibility the media has to report on climate change topics. Does this lack of coverage happen because there isn't a compelling news story or narrative? Check out what John Fleck, Dan Fagin, and Randy Olson have to say about it below. 

John Fleck, author of Water is for Fighting Over:

As a journalist-turned-academic who has spent much of the last two-plus decades working on climate change issues, I agree with Grist and Media Matters that coverage of climate change is important, and that there should be more of it. In that regard, one of the highlights of the study is that there is a network that provided extensive coverage of climate change issues last year—PBS. Viewers' time is precious, and they have choices. On this issues, as on many important public policy questions, PBS is a good one.








Dan Fagin, author of Toms River

The problem is not that media coverage of climate change is imbalanced. 'Balance' is not even something we should aspire to in journalism; fairness is, along with clarity and context. Why? Because all ideas shouldn't be given equal weight; some have a lot more evidence behind them than others! Actually, when climate issues are covered in media (with the very notable exceptions of FoxNews and right-wing websites like Breitbart and Daily Caller), the coverage usually reflects the scientific consensus. The bigger problem is that climate is so rarely covered at all, or at least it isn't covered as anything more than a political struggle. There are many reasons for this, including that climate is rarely "breaking news"; it is often very difficult to make accurate connections between specific local news events (such as storms and droughts) and global climate change. 

A less obvious but even more important reason why climate in the mainstream media tends to be rare and shallow is what the communications scholar Dan Kahan at Yale has called the "polluted science communication environment" that plagues certain issues, including climate change. Through some very clever experiments, he has shown very clearly that what we may think is a relatively straightforward question of atmospheric physics and chemistry is actually now very emotional question of cultural identity. When we decide what we think about climate, we rarely make up our minds based on a dispassionate evaluation of the scientific evidence. Instead, we take our clues from the broader culture, because climate has become a powerful cultural signifier. Most of us believe whatever we believe about climate based on which "team" we prefer to be on—Team Red or Team Blue. Do we like Jon Stewart or Rush Limbaugh? Saturday Night Live or Duck Dynasty

Once an issue has acquired this kind of cultural salience, it becomes very problematic for major media to cover because each side very passionately wants the coverage to reflect its point of view. So, more often than not, these very polarized issues either aren't covered at all or are covered as political struggles instead of us explications of evidence. That's a crucial failing of big journalism but it's a very difficult problem to solve because polarization is so difficult to avoid. Indeed, Kahan's research shows that the more people know about climate change—the more the understand the details of atmospheric chemistry and physics, for example—the greater the polarization becomes! Why? Because people cherry-pick that new information to reinforce what they already believe! Communications scholars call this 'motivated reasoning', and it is an extremely powerful force on issues that have become cultural signifiers. 

The good news is, not all issues are as polarized as climate change, and we're not all automatically prisoners of motivated reasoning. Young people, especially, tend to be more open to evidence, especially if the topic is unfamiliar and has not been "polluted" with lots of partisan messages. For the rest of us, a smarter, deeper dialogue on global climate change is going to require talking about climate in ways that don't force our audiences to renounce their deeply held sense of who they are, what 'team' they're on. People like E.O. Wilson understand this; when he talks to evangelicals about biodiversity he frames it as "creation care". For journalists, though, this is a tricky business—we equate such framing with marketing and advocacy, not journalism.

Major media are going to produce more and better coverage of global climate change only after we can figure out ways of telling true stories about our changing planet that avoid antagonizing large chunks of our audiences while also living up to the ethical standards of good journalism. That's the challenge we face, and it's a daunting one.


Randy Olson, author of Don't Be Such a Scientist:

First question — who says that climate change is “the defining issue of our time”? Seriously. Yes, we know that the educated left feels this way, but what about the general public? What percentage of them would answer “climate change” to the question of “What is the defining issue of our time?”?   

This is a lot of the problem of the climate movement—an air of “everybody knows this” to all that they say. Everybody doesn’t know this. I would bet most people would say “the defining issue of our time” is terrorism. So that’s the first problem.

In fact, here’s the real, broader problem, which happens all the time—the production of solutions to problems that nobody feels we have. Effective communication is built around the problem/solution dynamic. Too often smart people sense a problem that few others do, come up with a big set of solutions, then can’t figure out why nobody wants to implement the solutions when presented.

Agreeing on “the problem” and agreeing it’s urgent and important is the challenge. When people sense problems they act. So far, climate change is still not perceived as “soon, salient and certain.” These are three words that EVERYONE in the climate movement should live by. Furthermore, they should all read Andy Revkin’s excellent and profound 2006 blogpost, “Yelling Fire on a Hot Planet” over and over again.  

That blogpost is still about the smartest thing I’ve ever read on climate change. In the middle of it he cites Helen Ingram of U.C. Irvine who offered up those three words—soon, salient and certain.

And then talk to the two New Jersey TV meteorologists I met at a workshop a couple years ago who told me that before Super Storm Sandy their audience had zero interest in climate change. After it, they wanted to know everything about it. They had been the victims of an event that was soon (just happened), salient (happened to them in a big way), and certain (definitely happened).

Communicating effectively requires understanding the perceptions of the audience.  If they don’t perceive a problem, they aren’t going to listen to your solutions, no matter how brilliant and passionately conveyed.

And so guess what drives TV coverage?   It’s all about the problems the public wants solved.  Convince them that climate really is the defining issue of our time and that it’s a problem and they will demand you present solutions.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Island Press Holiday Gift Guide 2016

This holiday season, give the gift of an Island Press book. With a catalog of more than 1,000 books, we guarantee there's something for everyone on your shopping list. Check out our list of staff selections, and share your own ideas in the...

This holiday season, give the gift of an Island Press book. With a catalog of more than 1,000 books, we guarantee there's something for everyone on your shopping list. Check out our list of staff selections, and share your own ideas in the comments below. 

For the OUTDOORSPERSON in your life:

Water is for Fighting Over by John Fleck | An Island Press book

Water is for Fighting Over...and Other Myths about Water in the West by John Fleck
Anyone who has ever rafted down the Colorado, spent a starlit night on its banks, or even drank from a faucet in the western US needs Water is for Fighting Over. Longtime journalist John Fleck will give the outdoors lover in your life a new appreciation for this amazing river and the people who work to conserve it. This book is a gift of hope for the New Year.

Satellites in the High Country: Searching for the Wild in the Age of Man by Jason Mark
Do you constantly find your friend waxing poetic about their camping tales and their intimate connection to the peaceful, yet mysterious powers of nature? Sounds like they will relate to Jason Mark’s tales of his expeditions across a multitude of American landscapes, as told in Satellites in the High Country. More than a collection of stories, this narrative demonstrates the power of nature’s wildness and explores what the concept of wild has come to mean in this Human Age.

What Should a Clever Moose Eat?: Natural History, Ecology, and the North Woods by John Pastor
Is the outdoorsperson in your life all dressed up in boots, parka, and backpack with nowhere to go? Looking for meaning in another titanium French press coffeemaker for the camp stove? What Should a Clever Moose Eat leaves the technogadgets behind and reminds us that all we really need to bring to the woods when we venture out is a curious mind and the ability to ask a good question about the natural world around us. Such as, why do leaves die? What do pine cones have to do with the shape of a bird’s beak? And, how are blowflies important to skunk cabbage? A few quality hours among its pages will equip your outdoor enthusiast to venture forth and view nature with new appreciation, whether in the North Woods with ecologist John Pastor or a natural ecosystem closer to home.

Also consider: River Notes by Wade Davis, Naturalist by E.O. Wilson

For the CLIMATE DENIER in your life:

Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change by Yoram Bauman
This holiday season, give your favorite climate-denier a passive aggressive “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” with The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change featuring self –described Stand-up Economist Yoram Bauman and award-winning illustrator Grady Klein. Give the gift of fun, entertaining basic understanding of what is, undeniably and not up for subjective debate, scientific fact!

Also consider: Heatstroke by Anthony Barnosky, Straight Up by Joseph Romm

For the HEALTH NUT in your life:

Unnatural Selection: How We Are Changing Life, Gene by Gene by Emily Monosson
Give the health nut in your life the gift of understanding with Unnatural Selection. Your friends and family will discover how chemicals are changing life on earth and how we can protect it. Plus, they’ll read fascinating stories about the search for a universal vaccine, the attack of relentless bedbugs, and a miracle cancer drug that saved a young father’s life.

Also consider: Toms River by Dan Fagin, Roads Were Not Built for Cars by Carlton Reid, 

For the ADVOCATE in your life:

Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay by Sanderson, et. al
Need an antidote to the doom and gloom? Stressed-out environmental advocates will appreciate Prospects for Resilience: Insights from New York City's Jamaica Bay. It’s a deep dive into one of the most important questions of our time: how can we create cities where people and nature  thrive together? Prospects for Resilience showcases successful efforts to restore New York’s much abused Jamaica Bay, but its lessons apply to any communities seeking to become more resilient in a turbulent world.

Ecological Economics by Josh Farley and Herman Daly
Blow the mind of the advocate in your life with a copy of Ecological Economics by the godfather of ecological economics, Herman Daly, and Josh Farley. In plain, and sometimes humorous English, they’ll come to understand how our current economic system does not play by the same laws that govern nearly every other system known to humankind—that is, the laws of thermodynamics. Given recent financial and political events, there’s a message of hope within the book as it lays out specific policy and social change frameworks.

Also consider: Tactical Urbanism by Mike Lydon, Cooler Smarter by The Union of Concerned Scientists

For the CRAZY CAT PERSON in your life:

An Indomitable Beast: The Remarkable Journey of the Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz
The cat lovers in your life will lose themselves in An Indomitable Beast, an illuminating story about the journey of the jaguar. This is the perfect book for any of your feline loving friends, whether they want to pursue adventure with the big cats of the wild, or stay home with a book and cup of tea.

Also consider: The Carnivore Way by Cristina Eisenberg, Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz 

For the GARDENER in your life:

Wild by Design: Strategies for Creating Life-Enhancing Landscapes by Margie Ruddick
Give your favorite gardener an antidote to the winter blues. The lush photographs of Wild by Design, and inspirational advice on cultivating landscapes in tune with nature, transport readers to spectacular parks, gardens, and far-flung forests. This book is guaranteed to be well-thumbed and underlined by the time spring planting season arrives!

Also consider: Brilliant Green by Stefano Mancuso, Principles of Ecological Landscape Design, Travis Beck

For the STUBBORN RELATIVE in your life:

Common Ground on Hostile Turf: Stories from an Environmental Mediator by Lucy Moore
For the person keeping the peace in your family this holiday season, the perfect gift is Common Ground on Hostile Turf, an inspiring how to guide demonstrating it is possible to bring vastly different views together. This book gives lessons learned on setting down at the table with the most diverse set of players and the journey they take to find common grounds and results. If your holiday dinner needs some mediation, look to the advice of author Lucy Moore.

Also consider: Communication Skills for Conservation Professionals by Susan Jacobson, Communicating Nature by Julia Corbett

For the HISTORY BUFF in your life: 

The Past and Future City: How Historic Preservation is Reviving America's Communities by Stephanie Meeks with Kevin C. Murphy
When it comes to the the future of our cities, the secret to urban revival lies in our past. Tickle the fancy of your favorite history buff by sharing The Past and Future City, which takes readers on a journey through our country's historic spaces to explain why preservation is important for all communities. With passion and expert insight, this book shows how historic spaces explain our past and serve as the foundation of our future.

Also consider: The Forgotten Founders by Stewart Udall, Aldo Leopold's Odyssey, Tenth Anniversary Edition by Julianne Lutz Warren

For the BUSINESS PERSON in your life:

Nature's Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature by Mark Tercek
For the aspiring CEO in your life who drools at phrases like "rates of return" and "investment," share the gift of Nature's Fortune, an essential guide to the world's economic (and environmental) well-being.

Also consider: Corporation 2020 by Pavan Sukhdev, Resilient by Design by Joseph Fiksel