I have been writing environmental stories since the beginning of my career as a journalist some thirty years ago. Partly because I have an acute understanding of the forces of fate: There are things that happen to us, to everyone, over the course of a life over which we have no or little control. Those surface regularly in life and in the news, as deux ex machina–acts of god (freak storms), or in the realm of genetics (illness), unlucky combinations of genes.
Then there are the disasters that befall people borne of human action and decision–That’s what I follow. What becomes clear is that reporting on the ‘environment’, and the battles over natural resources, is the place where fundamental conflicts over political and economic power play out. I aim to reveal the inequities in power that lead to environmental destruction and threats to our health. To probe deeply into that larger context I take a multidisciplinary approach to reporting, traversing the fields of science, economics, business, international relations and high finance. That’s why my three books thus far, as well as much of my magazine writing, have dealt with pesticides (Circle of Poison, co-authored with David Weir), toxic chemicals (EXPOSED) and climate change (CARBON SHOCK).
My work is published often in magazines like Harpers, Mother Jones, The Nation, Yale 360, The Atlantic and other publications; and, in moving pictures, on the PBS newsmagazine show FRONTLINE/World. I worked for nine years (’03-’12) as Senior Correspondent at the Center for Investigative Reporting. In addition to writing, I teach at the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism and at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
My latest book, CARBON SHOCK: A Tale Of Risk and Calculus on The Front Lines of the Disrupted Global Economy (Chelsea Green, 2014), is the product of five years of intensive reporting and writing from the hot-spots where the costs of climate change are being experienced and fought over. Publishers Weekly commented in a review: “Schapiro‘s tough look at how our current habits of consumption will cost us down the road, combined with his hard-hitting, journalistic style, makes for a dramatic read.”
My previous book, EXPOSED: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power (Chelsea Green, 2007), dived deep into the health, economic, and geo-political implications for Americans of the EU’s rise as an environmental power. Back in the 1980’s, a book I co-authored with David Weir, CIRCLE of POISON: Pesticides and People in a Hungry World (Institute for Food and Development Policy, 1981) revealed how the United States was exporting banned pesticides, which then returned to the U.S. as residues on fruit and vegetable imports.
I’ve won various journalism awards over the years including a Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi, a DuPont, Society of Environmental Journalists Reporting award, and a Kurt Schork Award for International Reporting.
(Photo credits: Peter Cunningham)