Gregory Barber
Staff Writer, Wired San Francisco
Honors and Awards

Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism
Received December 2022
In a remote part of Nevada called Rhyolite Ridge, there is a hill with enough lithium to power batteries for about 400,000 electric cars a year for 25 years. At a moment when mitigating the effects of climate change becomes more urgent by the day, this was an extraordinary find. But the geologic peculiarities of that ridge also created the conditions for something else: the singular location of a homely little plant called Tiehm’s buckwheat.

Greg Barber pitched the editors at WIRED a mystery story: a field of buckwheat that had been holding up the construction of a mine had been destroyed. Who did it, and why? It wasn’t a hard sell. But over several trips to Nevada, the story became more complex. In “The Lithium Mine Versus the Wildflower,” Greg explores a familiar story with a twist. We have come to expect environmentalists and corporations to fight over the environmental costs of economic activity, but in this situation the economic benefits eventually would accrue to the whole planet. Does that change the risk-reward calculation?

Greg is a rare combination. A soft-spoken and unassuming interlocutor, he nonetheless contains a lock-jaw tenacity. He will not be satisfied with a fact until he has examined it in every light. But nor is he satisfied to merely arrange a logical sequence of indisputable facts. He has a supple, inquisitive mind, and with this story, he wasn’t just interested in the debate over whether a plant with no economic value and the Endangered Species Act should hold up a lithium mine. Rather, the story became an interrogation of the nature of nature and what we, as humans, owe to species that have evolved their peculiar forms and their ecosystems over millennia. His persistence and eloquent ability to turn chemistry and botany into poetry challenged my own beliefs and assumptions. And for that, I am ever grateful.

— Vera Titunik
Formerly at WIRED
Now at The New York Times
New York, New York
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