Taylor/Blakeslee Fellow reports from the Norwegian Arctic

Brett Simpson (left) interviews Sámi activist Beaka Niillas (right) in Kvalsund, Norway. Photo: Jørn Losvar, courtesy of Brett Simpson.

Brett Simpson (@brettvsimpson) traveled to Norway as an independent journalist last year to report on conflicting interests of a Norwegian mining company and Indigenous Sámi communities. She spent a summer in the Arctic riding in fishing boats, sharing meals with Indigenous reindeer herders, and meeting with mining executives, scientists, and leaders at the Norwegian Environmental Agency.

“I was basically on my own the whole time, immersed in remote communities; it felt, essentially, like an international reporting bootcamp,” she said.

Simpson recently earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, aided by a Taylor/Blakeslee Graduate Fellowship from CASW. She funded her reporting project with support from UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center, a Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Transatlantic Media Fellowship, a grant from the Pulitzer Center, and a CASW Taylor/Blakeslee Mentored Science Journalism Project Fellowship. The CASW award, underwritten by the Brinson Foundation, came with a small grant and the support of CASW board member and senior science journalist Dan Vergano (@dvergano) of BuzzFeed News as her mentor.

“Dan, my CASW mentor, went above and beyond helping me feel supported,” Simpson said. “I really don’t think I could have done it without him.” She credits Vergano with helping her pitch her story to National Geographic and encouraging her to follow up when she didn’t hear back right away.

“Most early-career journalists probably don’t have the audacity to be as persistent as I was with Dan in my corner,” she said.

Simpson has published three radio stories on Public Radio International’s The World. In her first dispatch, she visited the freezer vaults of the Norwegian Polar Institute with a co-author of the 2021 IPCC report, and held cores of fast-disappearing Arctic sea ice in her hands. In her second story, she covered the climate contradictions of the 2021 Norwegian election, in which voters doubled down on oil exports –– even as the country makes big investments in reducing domestic emissions. The third story is on the “world’s first” zero emissions copper mine in the Arctic, which plans to deposit its waste into a fjord supporting a community of indigenous fishers and reindeer herders.

She recently also published the print piece, “Can Norway balance its green energy goals with Indigenous communities?” at National Geographic online.

Grateful for the support provided by CASW and the Brinson Foundation, Simpson said, “CASW was the first scholarship that I got when applying to journalism school; you all were the first to help power my dream of becoming a climate writer!”