Two Scripps Institute-affiliated researchers, Dr. Jeremy B.C. Jackson and award-winning journalist Steve Chapple, ask themselves the same thing – and set out to the American heartland to devise real solutions to our environmental crises from those directly affected by them in their book, “Breakpoint: Reckoning With America’s Environmental Crises.”
The two recently read from and discussed the work at D.G. Wills on May 6 at DG Wills Books and with a presentation on May 7 at the Birch Aquarium.
“I grew up in the highlands, went to La Jolla Elementary and La Jolla High School,” said co-author Steve Chapple. “When they opened up what I call the ‘geriatric masters’ (an interdisciplinary program for aspiring ocean leaders) at Scripps, I enrolled. That’s where I met Jeremy Jackson. Since then, we have been sharing an office, and our work began from there.”
Following the tragic Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill off of the coast of New Orleans in April of 2010, the two realized that the apparent “solutions” on how to deal with this environmental degradation were completely shortsighted or unrealistic. They realized that the effect of the spill would ultimately entail a “100-year degradation” for the area – in a myriad of ways often not the most conspicuous.
“When we started out on this project, we were in a completely neutral mindset,” said Chapple. “But, with the Trump administration attacking climate pollution and agricultural issues – denying climate change – we became much more polarized after the book’s completion.”
“While it was a lot of fun to chase these inherently American ideals throughout the country,” said Chapple. “Unfortunately, we found that there seemed to be no one ‘real’ scientific or ecological solution to any of these issues. The desired result of this work was to look at the big picture and connect the dots.”
As previously mentioned, Jackson and Chapple’s in-person interviews often mirror this sentiment – there are solutions, but not necessarily the “end-all, be-all.” Early on in “Breakpoint,” the two are speaking with Kevin Hobbie, an ethanol plant manager in Glenville, Minn.
“I’ve been involved with ethanol for a long time,” said Hobbie. “I like what it stands for. We need to have an alternative to oil. Is this the silver bullet to take us out of the oil age? No. But it’s a piece of the puzzle.”
Ultimately, “Breakpoint” provides a great example of entertaining, personal, “boots on the ground science” [according to Leonardo DiCaprio]. The work provides unbiased scientific data examining what is “pushing our country to the breaking point of ecological and economic collapse.”
For more information, visit yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300179392/breakpoint.