Helvarg, David 1951-

views updated

HELVARG, David 1951-

PERSONAL: Born April 10, 1951, in Flushing, NY; son of Max (an executive) and Eva (an art gallery owner; maiden name, Lee) Helvarg. Education: Attended Boston University, 1971; Goddard College, B.A., 1974. Politics: "Yes." Religion: "Sort of."

ADDRESSES: Home—Sausalito, CA. Agent—Joe Spigler, 154 West 57th St., Room 135, New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Reporter in Northern Ireland, 1973; print reporter in San Diego, CA, 1974-79; print, radio, and television reporter in Central America, 1979-83; television news and documentary producer, 1983-93; writer and television producer, 1993—.

AWARDS, HONORS: Censored Story Award from University of California Project, 1978; San Diego Emmy Award, 1982, for investigative reporting, and 1985, for best documentary; investigative reporting award, Radio and Television News Directors Association of Northern California, 1986; American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Emmy Award nominations, outstanding background/analysis of a single current story, 1986, 1988, Emmy Award, community service, 1988, for AIDS Lifeline; television news award from John Muir Medical Film Festival, 1990; NIA Interpretive Media Award, 1991.


The War against the Greens: The "Wise-Use" Movement, the New Right and Anti-environmental Violence, Sierra Books (San Francisco, CA), 1994.

Blue Frontier: Saving America's Living Seas, W. H. Freeman (New York, NY), 2001.

Contributor to magazines and newspapers, including Mother Jones, Penthouse, In These Times, California, and Columbia Journalism Review. Editor, San Diego Newsline, 1974-79.

SIDELIGHTS: David Helvarg is a reporter who focuses on controversial social issues. In his two books, Helvarg continues these themes. Indeed, in The War against the Greens, he goes so far as to suggest that the movement against environmentalists in the U.S. is as violent as the conflicts he covered in Northern Ireland and Central America. Based on more than 500 interviews that Helvarg conducted with environmentalists, anti-environmentalists, lawmakers, law-enforcement officers, and wise use advocates, the book, in the view of Environmental Action Magazine contributor Barbara Ruben, is a "mesmerizing, meandering and wholly disturbing sojourn into the trenches of the anti-environmental movement." The harassment against environmentalists that Helvarg documents in the book includes death threats, arson, pipe bombings, vandalizing of property—including painting of swastikas—and even the poisoning of activists' pets. "This book hits you like a baseball bat," wrote Backpacker reviewer Mark Jenkins. "Helvarg has had the courage to tell it like it is." Wilderness contributor Charles E. Little expressed similar praise for the book. "Its reporting is solid and fair and brave and vividly presented," he wrote. "And what is presented—the aggregated anarchy and terrorism of a 'Wise Use/Property Rights' movement that intends to deny citizens their right to a healthful environment, to plunder the natural resources held in trust for the future, and to abrogate environmental and conservation laws on the books for decades—is important for all Americans to understand."

Blue Frontier: Saving America's Living Seas is an exploration of recent biological, economic, and policy changes that affect oceans. Cyril T. Zaneski in the National Journal described the book as "an encyclopedic primer on North America's use and abuse of its marine resources," adding that Helvarg's descriptions of his personal experiences as a diver and surfer add interest but also detract from the book's cohesiveness. "His descriptive writing sometimes seems glued on," Zaneski commented. Los Angeles Times reviewer Richard Ellis also noted Helvarg's style, observing that the author "takes us on the ultimate wave, cresting and carrying us at breakneck speed, introducing one subject after another, bound together by two molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen. It's a fast, watery ride, and you're going to get wet before it's over." Though Ellis appreciated the book's subject, he felt that its digressiveness prevented its argument from being fully successful. In the Quarterly Review of Biology, John M. Teal observed that Helvarg's presentation of scientific material is clear and that his discussion of policy issues is "insightful and accurate."

David Helvarg told CA: "As a reporter in Northern Ireland, I acquired my first combat reporting experience while covering the conflict between the British and the Irish Republican Army (IRA). I reported on the IRA car-bombing campaign and British undercover operations.

"In Central America, I covered the expanding U.S. role in the conflict there as a stringer for the Associated Press. Exclusive reports included combat coverage of the first town to fall to Sandinista rebels, the first delivery of U.S. gunships to El Salvador, the first visit to Contra camps in Honduras, and the last interview with Sister Ita Ford before her murder. I was arrested by the army, while reporting on a civilian massacre, and was deported from El Salvador in 1983.

"As a television news and documentary producer, I created programs focusing on the military, politics, health, and environmental issues, as well as immigration, technology, and the oceans. I used my reporting background to get a private investigator's license. I produced these works in the United States, Mexico, Bolivia, and Brazil."



American Enterprise, July-August, 1995, Jesse Walker, review of The War against the Greens: The "Wise-Use"Movement, the New Right and Anti-environmental Violence, p. 91.

Backpacker, August, 1995, Mark Jenkins, review of The War against the Greens, p. 95.

Booklist, December 1, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of Blue Frontier: Saving America's Living Seas, p. 617.

Choice, September, 2001, R. L. Smith, review of BlueFrontier, p. 150.

Environmental Action Magazine, winter, 1995, Barbara Ruben, review of The War against the Greens, p. 36.

Los Angeles Times, April 5, 2001, Richard Ellis, review of Blue Frontier, p. E3.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 2, 1995, Beth Hanson, review of The War against the Greens, p. 7.

National Journal, July 14, 2002, Cyril T. Zaneski, review of Blue Frontier, p. 2267.

Population and Environment, March, 1996, Mary Pinschmidt, review of The War against the Greens, p. 351.

Quarterly Review of Biology, March, 2002, John M. Teal, review of Blue Frontier, p. 91.

Washington Post Book World, April 22, 2001, review of Blue Frontier, p. 4.

Wilderness, winter, 1994, Charles E. Little, review of The War against the Greens, p. 34.

World Watch, January-February, 2002, Curtis Runyan, review of Blue Frontier, p. 39.


Global Policy Forum,http://www.globalpolicy.org/ (September 15, 2003), Jeff Jacobson, review of The War against the Greens.*