Three questions with...
2022 Fellow Abrahm Lustgarten

Your fellows project will center on human migration as a major consequence of climate change. Why did you choose to write about climate change from this people-centered perspective?

I spend a lot of time thinking deeply about climate change—not just how to slow it, but how it will change how we live. I don’t think there is a greater way that warming stands to change the world we live in than by leading to dramatic shifts in where populations gravitate. That will then determine peace or conflict, wealth or poverty, even basic sustenance. And so, with many possible priorities to choose from, I just felt like this was the most important, and largest, human story that had to be told. And at its heart, it's really about individual people full of hope and need and trying to find something better for themselves, which we can all relate to.

What considerations do you make when writing about the scientific aspects of climate change for a general audience? How do you balance technical language and compelling narrative?

I try not to use technical language at all! Sometimes it slips in. But the art or the goal is always to figure out how to put complex things in terms everyone can not only relate to, but stay engaged with. It’s the only way that anyone will actually read what you write. As for the narrative, the ideal (not easy to achieve) is a narrative that explains what needs to be explained without switching back out of it. But otherwise its a rhythm. You can write what feels right and switch gears to cover more difficult or science-y material when the story itself seems ready to shift. If the human narrative carries more momentum and is easier to read—often the case—then you can use it to paddle your story along, and then coast through a little explanatory, then paddle again.

You have long researched and reported on environmental issues and the climate crisis at ProPublica and other outlets. As climate conditions worsen, how has your reporting changed?

That’s almost too big a question to answer. I’ve always focused on investigative reporting with clear wrongdoing and accountability. That’s easier when talking about pollution or the destruction of the environment, than with climate change. Climate change is sprawling, intensely depressing, and until very recently has also been mostly focused on the future. Its been difficult to do classic investigative work about the future. I’ve gone through stages of evolution as I’ve switched gears, and also as climate change has become more mainstream in the news media.

Most recently I’ve responded to the enormity and overwhelming nature of it by gravitating towards very big projects, more conceptual and what my editors like to call “intellectual scoops,” where I try to pay attention to the things that no one else is covering and connect the dots across issues in very complex ways. That gets overwhelming in itself though, and so I’m on the lookout for the classic climate crime investigation now all over again.

Two Cents

Fellows on when they know they're on the right track with a project.

1: When the people I am interviewing provide a revelation, idea, or framing I had never considered before. — Clint Smith, Class of 2020

2: When conversations with the various people involved in editing and producing it start to become more and more interesting. — Mike Giglio, Class of 2022

3: It never feels that way!! — Anna Louie Sussman, Class of 2022


The Afghanistan Observatory Scholars have published the podcast No Way Home and a series of articles which tell the story of last summer’s perilous exodus from Afghanistan brought on by two decades of broken promises in the U.S. war on terror. The Scholars Program was created in partnership with the Intercept and the Future Frontlines and Fellows programs at New America. 

Andrea Elliott's book, Invisible Child, has been longlisted for a Baillie Gifford Prize for nonfiction.

Rachel Aviv appeared on CBS Sunday Morning to discuss her new book, Strangers to Ourselves. 

Clint Smith was awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in nonfiction for his book, How the Word is Passed. 

Two Cents
New America Events

The top 3 New America events we recommend you check out. Now.



Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us

Join the Fellows Program for a conversation about Strangers to Ourselves by Rachel Aviv, Class of 2019, in conversation with Larissa MacFarquhar, Class of 2018. Learn more


How Should the U.S. Respond to Disinformation?

Join a discussion on the issue of disinformation and how the United States does and should respond to it.This event is a part of the Future Security Forum 2022 series. Learn more


How “Soft” is the Power of Sport?

Join the Fellows Program and the Convergence Lab at Arizona State University to explore how nations leverage sport to advance political agendas, and how we fans, as sport’s “consumers,” should think about these efforts and react to them. Learn more

Reading this month

A thrilling tale of (fake) piracy on the high seas and an investigation into a global financial conspiracy. 
— Zeke Faux,
Class of 2023

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Intellectually, I know that almost everyone struggles to produce good work. But when you're behind your desk, stuck on a paragraph, you can kind of lose sight of that. I really find that this podcast helps! 
 Mona Chalabi,
Class of 2023

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I loved reading Red Mars as a kid, but Robinson's bracing, deeply researched vision of the near future here on Earth has captivated me in an entirely new way later in life—and partly inspired my New America project!
— Joe Posner,
Class of 2023

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Free Swag

Fill out the form below for a chance to win a copy of Surveillance State by Josh Chin, Class of 2020, and Liza Lin.

Please submit by Monday, October 17th to be considered.

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