Genesis of the Big Idea

Early in 2018, IJNR staff and a couple of foundation program officers started kicking around what we simply called, “The Big Idea.”  

Foremost in our minds were the many upcoming 50th anniversaries of U.S. environmental policy and engagement: The first Earth Day (1969), National Environmental Policy Act (1969), the Clean Air Act (substantially amended in 1970), formation of the Environmental Protection Agency (1970), the Clean Water Act (rewritten in 1972), Endangered Species Act (1973), and others.

We knew these anniversaries could provide the perfect framework around which to build a suite of several Institutes, examining critical questions: What happened five decades ago, where do we stand now, and what might the future hold? And, just as importantly: What role did journalism play then, and what role does it play now?

“What if,” we thought, “we could put together a sweeping series of Institutes that sheds light on critical local and national issues, examines history and context, looks to the future - and also, hopefully, helps revitalize and reinvigorate environmental journalism in North America?”

So, that’s what we aim to do. Our plan is to conduct at least six Institutes (possibly more) between 2019 and 2021, spanning coast to coast, diving deep into history, taking a hard look at what these policies, acts and laws have wrought - and asking what role journalism, public engagement, and social climate all play in this conversation.

And, try as we might, we can’t shake that initial, temporary nickname for the project  - so “The Big Idea” it remains. 

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