PERSONAL: Female. Education: University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, B.A., 1979.
CAREER: Journalist since 1979; reporter for Orange County Register and Florida Today; Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, reporter, 1990–, environmental reporter, 1993–.
MEMBER: Society of Environmental Journalists (board member, 1992–; vice president, 1997–).
AWARDS, HONORS: Scripps Howard Meeman National Environmental Journalism Award, 1983, 1994; media award, American Lung Association, 1997; teaching fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, 1999, 2002; Pew fellowship, 1999.
Contributor to periodicals, including Smithsonian.
SIDELIGHTS: Marla Cone has been a journalist since 1979 and an environmental journalist since 1985. She was one of the first to report on the appearance of the toxic algae Pfiesteria and has informed the public through her articles on pollution, the ongoing effects of the now-banned pesticide DDT, runoff into the oceans, and threats to marine ecosystems and humans who swim in the coastal waters. Cone has explored the link between contaminants and humans, focusing particularly on children's health. With a Pew fellowship, she was able to study the contamination of the people and wildlife of the Arctic region, and published her findings as Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic. The title is a variation of Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring, in which Carson warned of the dangers of DDT.
Cone discovered that the indigenous people of the Arctic, who eat the meat of the region's marine mammals, ingest incredibly dangerous levels of pollutants that drift northward from U.S. and Europeean waters and which are absorbed into the fat of these animals. The large animals are the ultimate repository of all of the contaminants absorbed by their prey from the lowest level of the food chain; thus, the Inuit of Greenland, who harvest seals and whales, have the highest recorded levels of chemicals of any people on Earth. In her book, Cone notes that the milk of mothers in this region is so contaminated that it could be classified as hazardous waste. Even as the environmentalists launch their campaigns to "save the whales," the whales are the cause of neurological damage, impaired motor skills, and other defects that are the inheritance of generations to come. The Inuit understand their fate, and only by rejecting their culture, which includes the consumption of sea animals, might they be helped. The animals themselves are also experiencing more stillbirths, cancers, and other illnesses.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "Cone's sympathy with the peoples of the Arctic and her admiration for the harsh, beautiful world in which they live make this an inspiring book." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Silent Snow "gloomy, stern and wholly memorable—certainly for environmentalists, wherever they may be, but, let's hope, reaching policymakers as well."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2005, review of Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic, p. 161.
Publishers Weekly, February 28, 2005, review of Silent Snow, p. 49.
Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation Web site, http://www.pewmarine.org/ (October 4, 2005), profile of Cone.