Circle of Blue Inside Out Gallery Traverse City Michigan Aubrey Ann Parker Brett Walton J. Carl Ganter

Year In Review: Looking Back on 2014, Looking Ahead to 2015

Aubrey Ann Parker reflects on our work last year and updates on stories we’ve covered in years past.

Circle of Blue Inside Out Gallery Traverse City Michigan Aubrey Ann Parker Brett Walton J. Carl Ganter

Photos © Aubrey Ann Parker / Circle of Blue
Above: the view from the parking lot of Inside Out Gallery in Traverse City, Michigan. Below, a stitch of the gallery’s inside, where Circle of Blue’s staff gave an hour presentation to more than 125 friends, family, and community members. Click image to enlarge.

It’s been quite a year for us. In January, Circle of Blue was ranked #1 in the “content excellence” category on the list of Top 50 Water Blogs of 2013. This spring, we had 500 participants on two interactive calls that we curated around the California drought. In March, our trendsetting California drought dashboard was featured by the White House Climate Data Initiative. In August, we were the only news organization to win awards from the Society of Environmental Journalists in two categories. In September, we expanded our team by hiring one of our summer interns, Kaye LaFond. In October, we topped the Guardian‘s list of water tweeters. We also hosted a great event in our hometown of Traverse City that month, an event that was well attended by our friends, family, and followers from around the Northern Michigan area.

It’s fun to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished in 365 days. I have to admit, I’d actually forgotten about a lot of the stuff that we did on the list above until I started this blog.

It’s so easy to live in the here and now, especially in the news business. We focus on what’s new, what’s timely, what’s trending. But just as important, I think, is to reflect on where we’ve been so that we have a better idea of where we’re going on our current trajectory, as well as where we want to go. It’s important to make note of the good, the bad, and the ugly so that we can better evaluate if we want to make modifications to the path that we’re on. Reflection leads to introspection, and from that comes new ideas, new ways of thinking, new ways of doing.

By pulling together this Year In Review blog and sharing it with all of you, as well as my colleagues, I’m hoping that we at Circle of Blue can learn what holes we have in our reporting; I’m hoping that you can help us to fill in those holes by sending us your stories; I’m hoping that by recognizing our history, we can start to hone in on what historical impact we wish to make in the world of water. A few good quotes to keep in mind:

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” –George Santayana*, 1905

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history.” –Aldous Huxley, 1959

“You have to look at history as an evolution of society.” Jean Chrétien, 2003

We at Circle of Blue are always evolving, always changing, always growing, always ebbing, always flowing. Small nonprofit organizations have to, I think – their nimbleness is what defines them. I find that especially true in the 21st-century newsroom during an era when budget cuts are leveling environment and science reporting almost everywhere. Fortunately for me and my colleagues, we get to work in a newsroom that values good science over speed and good storytelling over sensationalism.

Updates from Years Past
In February 2010, Circle of Blue reported on a plan for five big hydropower dams in Chile’s pristine Patagonia region. Despite much back and forth over the past four years, the Chilean government finally struck the plan down for good in June 2014.
Nearly three years after Circle of Blue first reported on ways to keep prescription drugs out of waterways, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration published new rules in September 2014 saying that controlled substances such as Ritalin and Percocet can now be disposed of at pharmacies rather than with law enforcement officials.
A temporary solution to inhibit an Asian carp invasion was introduced to Congress that would improve barriers on the Des Plaines River near Chicago, but no decision has been made on proposals to permanently separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basin. Meanwhile, radio transmitters are tracking carp that are already present in Lake Erie in hopes of testing the capability to respond, coordinate, and collaborate if an invasion does happen.
Following incremental measures to clean up its air and water, China took a big step in 2014 to address its role as a contributor to global warming. We’ve been told by our partners that our Choke Point: China from 2010 and 2011 led to two of the six major provisions in the pact, signed with the United States in November. Then on December 12, China turned the spigot on the central line of its South-North Water Transfer, sending the first gush of water from Danjiangkou Reservoir along the 1,432-kilometer route to Beijing and other cities in the country’s dry north, which we first reported on in 2011.
As Circle of Blue reported in 2011, the international community’s failure to respond quickly to early warnings of drought and food insecurity in 2011 led to the first famine of the 21st century, which devastated the Horn of Africa and killed 260,000 people. In 2014, Somalia began showing similar signs of an impending food crisis, and aid organizations are urging action before it is too late.

But the outlook for news is not all bad everywhere you look – in fact, I’m quite optimistic.

Through the power of social media and a better-connected world, stories from the heart of the Amazon to the wintry depths of the Arctic are now much easier for reporters to find. Linking sociological trends in disparate small towns is as easy as the click of a mouse and a few hours of good research. Moreover, anyone with a text-messaging cell phone can have a voice and be heard (or have an ear and listen), according to a United Nations study from earlier this year that said there are almost as many cell-phone subscriptions (6.8 billion) as there are people on the plant (7 billion). Talk about accomplishments (and it took less than two decades to achieve this).

My point with all of this is that I hope that you continue to read our stories and the stories of other trusted news organizations – the new and the old, the big and the small, the general and the niche. Regardless of the size of their budget or their staff roster, I hope that you continue to support those organizations that are getting it right and push them to keep getting it right. Likewise, I hope that the reflection and introspection of our own staff and funders propels us forward on the path that we collectively choose.

#WaterNews of 2014

On that note, here you’ll find our Top 10 stories from 2014, as selected by my colleague, our senior editor, Keith Schneider. Compare them with our staff-picked Top 10 lists from 2010, 2011, and 2012. Below you’ll find links to all our stories from 2014 that I have collected and categorized. Compare them with the list of our stories from 2012.

Here’s a look ahead at what the New Year will bring.

Also check out our 2015 preview stories, written by my colleague, Brett Walton. News headlines are often dominated by the big, unexpected events, but some stories come with advance warning. Every year, Brett picks stories that he thinks are going to be big in the coming months, and this year he has an international preview and a U.S.-specific preview. Last year, Brett predicted continued drought-related problems for California, Texas, and the Colorado River Basin, as well as new policy changes for states across the union. He also previewed two satellite missions that would help further our water-data knowledge. Check out his 2013 and 2012 previews to see how he has evolved the way in which he lays out these previews, a change that came from feedback we received from a University of Michigan environmental journalism class.

What are the trends in our reporting that you see? What are the holes? As always, we want to hear what you think. What are the big stories, the untold trends, the unsung heroes? Who are the new heroes? Contact us via Twitter, Facebook, or email us at circleofblue.org/contact.

–Aubrey Ann Parker, outreach coordinator

*Actually this is a commonly misquoted paraphrase or variant of Santayana’s actual quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

2014 Banner Stories

  1. Rio Tinto mining  #1 in Michigan (US, Great Lakes, mining, pollution)
  2. Asian Carp #1 (US, Great Lakes, invasive species)
  3. WEF Top Risks (global, report)
  4. CPX California (US, California, drought)
  5. CPX Intro: Dry Fields, Dirty Water (US, California, Great Lakes, Ogallala, Texas, drought, pollution, algae)
  6. CPX Ogallala  (US, Texas, Ogallala, drought)
  7. CPX Great Lakes  (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  8. CPX Sleeping Bear Dunes (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  9. CPX Data (US, data)
  10. 2014 Preview #1: California, Texas, and Southwestern U.S. (US, California, Texas, Colorado River, drought)
  11. 2014 Preview #2: NASA Satellites (US, data)
  12. 2014 Preview #3: U.S. Policy Renaissance (US, policy)
  13. California Drought Preview #1  (US, California, drought)
  14. California & Obama #1 (US, California, drought)
  15. California Drought Preview #2 (US, California, drought)
  16. California Drought Preview #3 (US, California, drought, data)
  17. California and Jerry Brown #1 (US, California, drought)
  18. California Drought Preview #4 (US, California, drought)
  19. West Virginia Chemical Spill (US, West Virginia, pollution)
  20. UN World Water Development Report (global, US, China, India, energy)
  21. IPCC Report #1 (global, climate change, food)
  22. California Drought Preview #5 (US, California, drought)
  23. CPIndia Dams & Floods #1 (India, energy, hydropower, climate change)
  24. Partnership Saves Canada’s Lake Laboratory (Canada, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  25. Rio Tinto mining #2 in Alaska  (US, Alaska, mining, pollution)
  26. Colorado River #1 (US, California, Colorado River, drought)
  27. WASH & Violence in South Sudan (Africa, WASH, food)
  28. National Climate Assessment report on Climate Change  (US, climate, drought)
  29. Price of Water 2014 (US, pricing)
  30. CPIndia Dams & Floods #2 (India, energy, hydropwer, climate change)
  31. Ogallala Drought #1 (US, Ogallala, Texas, drought)
  32. CPIndia Mining (India, mining, pollution)
  33. Sao Paulo Drought #1 (Brazil, drought)
  34. CPIndia Sun & Wind (India, energy)
  35. Water & Cities report (water risk, infrastructure)
  36. Colorado River & Lake Mead #1 (US, Colorado River, drought)
  37. Colorado River #2 (US, Colorado River, drought)
  38. Colorado River & Lake Mead #2 (US, Colorado River, drought)
  39. CPIndia & Modi  (India, energy, policy)
  40. U.S. Irrigation #1 (US, food, drought)
  41. Waukesha #2 (US, Great Lakes, policy)
  42. Algae & Toledo #1 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  43. Nepal & Floods (climate change, hydropower)
  44. Wastewater Recycling & California #1 (US, California, drought, wastewater recycling, infrastructure)
  45. California Drought Preview #6 (US, California, drought)
  46. Detroit Shutoffs (US, Great Lakes, Detroit, pricing)
  47. Ogallala Drought #2 (US, Ogallala, drought)
  48. Prescriptions in Water (US, drugs, policy)
  49. Ohio Infrastructure #1 (US, Great Lakes)
  50. Western U.S. Drought (US, drought)
  51. Algae & World (global, China, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  52. Michigan Aquaculture  (US, Great Lakes, fishing)
  53. California & Jerry Brown #2 (US, California, drought)
  54. U.S. Infrastructure #1 (US, infrastructure)
  55. San Antonio Infrastructure (US, Texas, infrastructure, drought)
  56. Sao Paulo Drought #2 (Brazil, drought)
  57. Ohio Infrastructure #2 (US, Great Lakes)
  58. U.S.-China Climate Deal (US, China, energy, policy, climate change)
  59. U.S. Irrigation #2 (US, food)
  60. Wastewater Recycling & Australia  (Australia, wastewater recycling, drought, infrastructure)
  61. Wastewater Recycling  California #2  (US, California, drought, wastewater recycling, infrastructure)
  62. World Food Supplies (global, US, food)
  63. Las Vegas Infrastructure (US, Colorado River, drought, infrastructure)
  64. U.S. Energy Infrastructure #1 (US, energy, infrastructure)
  65. Peru Climate Talks (global, policy, climate)

Other Stories

  1. Great Lakes Ice (US, Great Lakes, climate change)
  2. California & Obama #2 (US, California, drought)
  3. Great Lakes Algae #1 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  4. California Drought Preview #7 (US, California, drought)
  5. U.S. Infrastructure #2 (US, pricing infrastructure)
  6. Australia Policy (Australia, drought, policy)
  7. Syria Food  (Middle East, food, drought)
  8. California Drought Preview #8 (US, California, drought)
  9. Ogallala Drought Policy #3 (US, Ogallala, drought, policy)
  10. Ogallala Drought Policy #4 (US, Ogallala, drought, policy)
  11. Great Lakes Energy Infrastructure (US, Great Lakes, pollution, energy)
  12. Algae & Ohio #2 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  13. Great Lakes Algae #2 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  14. California Drought Policy #1 (US, California, drought, policy)
  15. Rio Tinto mining in Alaska #2 (US, Alaska, mining, pollution)
  16. Algae & Toledo #3 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  17. California Drought Preview #9 (US, California, drought, food)
  18. Film Review: ‘Divide in Concord’ (US, bottled water)
  19. Algae & Ohio #4 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  20. California Drought Preview #10 (US, California, drought)
  21. Hawaii River Restoration (US, Hawaii, conservation)
  22. California Drought Policy #2 (US, California, drought, policy)
  23. IPCC #2 (global, climate change)
  24. East Africa Food (Africa, food, drought)
  25. Peru and Chile mining (Peru, Chile, mining, pollution)
  26. Corporate Water Risk Report (global, water risk, business)
  27. U.S. Energy Infrastructure #2 (US, energy, pollution)
  28. California Drought Preview #11 (US, California, drought)
  29. Great Lakes Algae #3 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  30. Great Lakes Algae #4 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  31. Great Lakes Algae #5 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  32. Asian Carp #2 (US, Great Lakes, invasive species)
  33. California Drought Preview #12 (US, California, drought)
  34. California Drought Policy #3 (US, California, drought)
  35. California Drought Preview #13 (US, California, drought)
  36. California Drought Preview #14 (US, California, drought)
  37. California Drought Policy #4 (US, California, drought, policy)
  38. California Drought Preview #15 (US, California, drought)
  39. California Drought Preview #16 (US, California, drought)
  40. Waukesha #2 (US, Great Lakes, policy)
  41. Global Groundwater (global, report, drought)
  42. U.S. Water Data Hub (US, policy, data)
  43. 2014 Election Recap (US, California, Florida, Maine, North Dakota, policy)
  44. African Water Conflict (Africa, climate, drought, report)

Infographics

  1. California Drought #1 (US, California, drought)
  2. California Drought #2  (US, California, drought)
  3. California Drought #3 (US, California, drought)
  4. California Drought #4 (US, California, drought)
  5. California Drought #5 (US, California, Drought)
  6. California Drought #6 (US, California, drought)
  7. Great Lakes Algae #1 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  8. Ogallala #1 (US, Ogallala, drought)
  9. Ogallala #2 (US, Texas, Ogallala, drought)
  10. Ogalla #3 (US, Texas, Ogallala, drought, food)
  11. Ogallala #4 (1940-2012) (US, Texas, Ogallala, drought)
  12. Ogallala #5 (US, Ogallala, drought)
  13. Great Lakes Algae #2 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae, food)
  14. Great Lakes Algae #3 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  15. Hoover Dam Update (US, Colorado River, drought)
  16. Brazil #1 (Brazil, drought)
  17. Brazil #2 (Brazil, drought)
  18. World Food (global, US, China, India, Brazil, food)
  19. EPA Vetoes for Clean Water(US, pollution)
  20. Great Lakes Algae #4 (US, Great Lakes, pollution, algae)
  21. California Drought #7 (US, California, drought)

Photos, Videos, and Q&As

  1. Photos: California Drought (US, California, drought)
  2. Photos: Ogallala #1 (US, Texas, Ogallala, drought)
  3. Photos: Great Lakes Algae (US, Great Lakes, algae, pollution)
  4. Photos: Detroit (US, Great Lakes, Detroit, pricing)
  5. Photos: Ogallala #2 (US, Ogallala, drought)
  6. Q & A: Julene Bair, Author of The Ogallala Road
  7. Video: Google Fusion Tables & California Drought (US, California, drought)
  8. Video: Qlikview Tutorial & California Drought (US, California, drought)
  9. Video: Global Choke Point  (global)

Photos, Videos, and Q&As

  1. Maestro Call #1: Navigating California’s Water Maze 
  2. Maestro Call #2: California Drought’s Lessons From Australia’s Biggest Dry
  3. In The Circle
  4. Tap
  5. Stream
  6. SEJ Award
  7. CoB at White House Climate Data Initiative
  8. CoB Tops Guardian’s Twitter List
  9. CoB Tops 50 Water Blogs List

is a Traverse City-based assistant editor for Circle of Blue. She specializes in data visualization.
Interests: Latin America, Social Media, Science, Health, Indigenous Peoples

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