Current Issue / DU Alumni

Penelope Purdy advocates for the environment through editorials

“I like journalism because it puts you in contact with so many people and aspects of life,” says alumna Penelope Purdy.

What do South American rainforests, water quality and Denver land-use patterns have in common? They are all issues that Denver Post editorial writer Penelope Purdy, MA communication ’98, deals with on a daily basis.

Purdy knew at a young age that she wanted to write, and her connection to the land and the issues it presented provided her with a subject. “I have been writing since I was a little kid. I was rare in that I knew from early on what I wanted to do,” says Purdy, who grew up “close to the land” in Wyoming. “I like journalism because it puts you in contact with so many people and aspects of life.”

Purdy became an editorial writer for the Denver Post in 1989, and she immediately began to voice her environmental concerns. “I try to focus on long-term stewardship of these lands,” Purdy says. “Environmental issues closely affect our daily lives. Air pollution causes asthma, people miss school and work, and there are similar effects with food and water contamination.”

In 2001, Purdy received the Wilderness Society’s Aldo Leopold Award, which is presented to journalists who make an influential case to protect America’s wild lands. “It was one of the most meaningful awards I’ve won because it recognized my entire body of work, which is very rare in my profession,” Purdy notes.

Besides writing about nature, Purdy gets out of the office and experiences it. She has climbed 64 of the 70 14,000-foot peaks in the United States and intends to climb the rest. Purdy also has climbed in the Andes and Himalayas, is attempting to scale Colorado’s 100 highest peaks and plans to surmount the highest point in every state. Purdy also skis, scuba dives, canoes, sails boats and flies planes. “I’m always outside. A lot of my interest comes from that,” Purdy says.

Purdy continues to fight on behalf of the environment by writing about the issues that matter. “I hope to bring a thoughtful, well informed voice to major issues that are often distilled into polarizing sound bites. By bringing an issue to people’s attention, you can steer public opinion and influence public policy,” Purdy says. “The truth is, you don’t tell people what to think, but what to think about.”

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