James Fallows

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

James Fallows: Green

  • Why We Need a Quadrennial Energy Review

    Goals to cut emissions don't amount to a plan. We should look to the Pentagon for guidance on how to meet our objectives.

    By Julio Friedmann

    On good days, when I'm more optimistic about achieving our needs in climate and energy, I imagine that we as a country or globe will wake up and realize we need to clean our room (see last blog entry).

    If so, we need a plan.

    Many people discuss this undertaking as something akin to the Apollo project or the Manhattan project. I rather think those are the wrong metaphors. In both those other projects, there was only one client (the US government), the physics was fairly straightforward, and market forces didn't matter. In energy and climate, the situation is opposite. Everyone's a customer, the systems are complicated and non-linear, and all energy and environmental technology competes in the global market.

    A better analogy may be the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt post-war Europe. It laid out goals over time and spent tons of money transforming systems in disrepair, with little immediate direct benefit to the US taxpayer. It was controversial, driven by a moral compass and some sobering economics. It required time, money, and focus.

    More »

  • Saving the Planet: Just Like Cleaning Our Room

    Changing human behavior, even for near-term benefits, can be very hard. Reducing greenhouse gases is much harder.

    By Julio Friedmann

    When I think about the climate and the atmosphere and the harsh mathematics of greenhouse gas accumulations, I have good days and bad days.

    On the bad days, I think about how hard it is to get my young children to clean their rooms.

    At heart, people don't like to clean their rooms. It takes time and effort away from fun things and doesn't change the functionality of the room (still has a floor, bed, dressers, door, etc. even when unkempt or unclean). Barring filth and contagion, cleaning the room is a drag.

    In a similar vein, people who are sick don't take their medicine. People who are too heavy won't diet and exercise (this includes me). People who know smoking is bad for you smoke. Changing human behavior, even for near-term tangible benefits, can be very hard.

    Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is much harder.

    More »

  • Green China Rising

    Chinese energy consumption may be staggering but so is the country's commitment to wind, solar and other innovations that we can't afford to ignore

    By Julio Friedmann

    I had the pleasure of visiting a clean-energy project just outside of Shanghai last year. The project installed brand new equipment on a large coal-fired power plant to capture 120,000 tons of CO2 each year. Dr. Liu, our guide, impressed us with a few facts

    -- The new equipment was designed, built and made operational in just one year, incredibly fast for this kind of operation.

    -- In fact, it was permitted in three days! It had very low operating costs (still does after one year of operation, too).

    -- Everything we saw was indigenous design.

    More »

  • Why It's Hard to Talk About Energy

    To many, power comes from the wall and gas comes from a gas station. Most people don't see or experience oil wells, refineries, power plants and natural gas pipelines.

    By Juilo Friedmann

    When I completed my doctorate in geology, I didn't know that I would spend the next 16 years working on either climate or energy. I've worked in Australia and Wyoming, Ireland and Spain, Alaska and Azerbaijan, California and China. I've been fortunate to act from inside industry (ExxonMobil for five years), to learn from top scientists there and in Universities (including a stint at the University of Maryland), and both learn from and present to world-class scientists. In both gigs, my job was creation of knowledge. In my current gig as Carbon Management Program lead at one of the national Labs, I am honored to serve an additional formal role: providing technical insight and information to government. In 23 years as a scientist, I've learned a tough lesson: Talking to people about climate and energy is hard.

    More »


The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it."


What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

From "swag" to "on fleek," tweens choose.


Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming



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