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About me

I'm a writer in Mount Rainier, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC. For ten years I've written about science and the environment for outlets from niche trade and university magazines to the New York Times. In that time, I've become one of the most active journalists covering forests, ecosystems and the natural world — what I've come to call the "nature beat." I’ve probably written as much about trees, wetlands, fungi, insects and soil as any other journalist in the past decade. To see my work, check out my website.

Unfortunately, nature isn't really a traditional news beat. To take just one albeit prominent example, the Times website has sections for sports, dance and real estate, but not nature. More stories have probably been written in the past year about crypto, Elon Musk or Twitter than about the natural world. I don’t know of a single journalist who focuses exclusively or even primarily on the natural world.

And that’s a problem, because we could easily live without crypto, Elon Musk or Twitter — indeed, we did until very recently — but we could not live without nature. Yet we seem to feel that nature is something that just happens, that we need not pay attention to.

As extinctions accelerate and vital ecosystems collapse, the costs of our ignorance of nature are becoming clear. But I would argue there’s an even more important and fundamental reason to read and write stories about nature. Nature is awesome. It’s fascinating. It’s beautiful. It’s healing. It’s inspiring. It’s our home. The more intimately we can connect with nature, the more fully we can live. And as humans, one of our primary ways to connect with something is through stories.

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that the concept of “nature” is problematic, maybe even…unnatural. It’s often used to mean the part of the world that’s separate from culture — in other words, separate from us. I don’t see nature as something separate, but rather as something we’re intertwined with — indeed, that we’re part of, and that’s part of us.

But then why define it at all? I do so mostly out of convenience; when I say I’m writing about “nature,” you probably have a pretty good sense of what that means. And everything — a story, a blog, a career — needs to be about something. Perhaps we’ll eventually arrive in a “post-nature” world where such categorization will seem quaint and unnecessary. But for now, “nature” seems like the best word we have for what I’m writing about; it seems we’re stuck with it.

I also want to acknowledge that there’s a literary genre called nature writing. Some of my favorite writing, such as Annie Dillard’s classic book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, belongs to this genre. But for the most part, it’s not a world that I inhabit as a writer, at least so far.

The bottom line is that a lot of story and essay ideas I have — including, I think, really good ones — struggle to fit into traditional journalist categories and find homes at traditional outlets. This newsletter is a place for me to write some of those things, to experiment, to explore. Perhaps some of what I write here will serve as rough drafts of pieces that eventually get published. I will likely post no more than once a week and sometimes less. Whatever kind of adventure this ends up being, I invite you to join me for it. And if you feel like supporting my work, please feel free to donate. (But for now, all writing here will be available at no cost.)

Subscribe to The Nature Beat

The Nature Beat is an attempt to fill a major gap in the journalism landscape. I write and publish stories and essays about nature, trees, forests and all the living things that keep our world going.


Gabe Popkin

A writer covering science, the environment and the natural world from just outside the nation's capital.