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Reviews and Press
“Working in the traditions of serious environmentalists like Barry Lopez and Rick Bass, Jacob Sackin’s graphic futuristic novel, Islands, describes a southwestern landscape that has atrophied at the hands of warring cultures desperate for dwindling resources. Sackin’s desert teems with beautifully described plants, insects, and reptiles. He has a knack for integrating scientific detail seamlessly into his narrative, hardly ever veering from the storyteller’s seductive plotting to overtly “educate,” but educating nonetheless. As with Bass’s Yaak Valley and Lopez’s Arctic glaciers, Sackin’s desert is multidimensional and beautiful, the story he tells, compelling and tragic, yet not without hope for environmental and human renewal.”
–Ann Cummins, author of Red Ant House
"Compelling and terrifying, Islands' portrayal of a hotter, harsher planet will educate readers of all ages and inspire action to reduce the very real impacts of climate change."
–Sarah Mazze, University of Oregon Climate Leadership Initiative
Review of Iglu at Blue Planet Green Living
Review of Iglu at Mother Nature Network
Review of Iglu at Libdrone Books
Boulder Creek Author Pens Global Warming Fiction
San Lorenzo Valley Press Banner
May 19, 2011
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San Lorenzo Valley Press Banner
Friday, February 15, 2008
Middle-school principal Jacob Sackin teaches about the natural environment through an outdoor school program for Boulder Creek fifth- and sixth-graders — and through his book, “ Islands,” a sci-fi novel for young adults that raises awareness about global warming.
Jacob Sackin is a bit different from the average middle-school principal. “The goat has learned to jump over the fence,” explained Sackin, the program coordinator for Sempervirens Outdoor School in Boulder Creek. The outdoor school hosts fifth- and sixth-graders for a week at its remote Boulder Creek location teaching them about the natural environment.
Photo: Lucjan Szewczyk/Press Banner
When he finishes dealing with goat escape-artists, Sackin loves to write. His first novel for young-adults, “ Islands,” explores the story of two families in a futuristic world decimated by global warming.“One of the ways I deal with knowledge about global warming is to create the worst case scenario,” said Sackin, who borrowed the name of the main character, Saskia, from a student he taught in Oregon. Sackin’s story tracks the two families in a world that is too hot to live in during the daylight hours. One family lives primitively on the outside, only emerging from their cave at night, while the other lives in a technologically marvelous pyramid that protects it from the elements.
“Just the fact that this is a possible future is really scary to me,” Sackin said. “ Islands” blends the environmental impact of global warming with complicated feelings that teens have about their families, relationships and the world around them. Sackin’s themes are based on his own observations of young adults and their problems and feelings. Saskia, the main character, especially struggles with the class structures in the pyramid and has the urge to move outside its confining walls and way of life. She also deals with complicated familial relationships and the impending death of her closest relative, which leads to a bigger adventure than she could imagine.
The title of the book represents the separation between people, much like a fishbowl, said Sackin, who created the art on the cover of the book himself. Sackin feels strongly that global warming is something that is looked at the wrong way by many.
“People talk about global warming as something that happened to them rather than something they created,” said Sackin, who believes conservation of resources is more effective than finding alternatives.
Sackin’s passion for young people grows when he can show city kids some element of the natural world that they may never have seen before.
“We’re bringing these kids who have asphalt playgrounds and they come out here and they’re like ‘Oh, Redwoods’ and they don’t really understand everything. Then they start to understand,” Sackin said. “All you have to do is turn over a log and find some salamanders and they are excited for two hours.”
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'Islands' author spotlights global warming
Marcia L. Horn
The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
Friday, October 10, 2008
When human beings are part of the problem, where do you turn for the solution? With global warming, you start with education — of young adults. Problems of this magnitude did not occur overnight, and neither will solutions. So you teach young people things they can do to save our planet. That’s what 32-year-old Jacob Sackin does. A Jewish native of the Kansas City area who now lives in Boulder Creek, Calif., Sackin is a teacher by trade, having been an outdoor educator for nine years. He has also written and illustrated several children’s stories and is nearly finished with his second novel. His first novel, “ Islands,” is a book for teens that is part futuristic, part archaeological and part mystery with the goal in mind of educating them on global warming and its effects. It is meant to show what could happen if we continue our current levels of fossil-fuel consumption in addition to wasting water and other natural resources. “I kind of see this as a worst-case-scenario type of book so young people will start thinking about these possibilities,” Sackin said in a telephone interview. “Even if they question it and challenge it, they get to research these things and decide for themselves if they believe it or not. … I taught reasoning and critical-thinking (college) courses, so I really liked using this book as a way of making people think about it and make up their own minds.” Sackin also created a study guide for the book, which teachers are using in classrooms. English teachers have students read the book at the same time science teachers are teaching climate change, invasive species and needed species — and then tying it all together.
Outside looking in
The novel is not preachy or heavy in any way. The basic premise is that some 100 to 150 years from now, global warming has nearly destroyed our planet, along with many of its species. Hundreds of thousands of people are living in a self-contained giant pyramid, never venturing outside because of the heat and destruction. They are unaware that others who survived are living outside out of necessity — the poor who could not afford the luxury of the pyramid. Sackin said the pyramid is based on the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas, taken to the absolute max, but is the one thing in the book not meant to be taken too seriously. The book takes place in the Southwestern United States because, while spending time in Las Vegas and Phoenix, Sackin perceived a lot of waste in terms of water consumption and overdevelopment. Although both cities are experiencing a huge drought, they continue to develop golf courses and housing with lawns that must be watered. These green spaces are being irrigated by the Colorado River, which is draining at an alarming rate due to this usage and the drought.
Sackin is director of an outdoor school in California. Fifth- and sixth-graders come every week from various area schools and get to explore the Redwoods, organic gardens and little creatures that live under rocks, collect eggs from the school’s chickens, have campfires, etc. Many kids are from the inner city, where they rarely see any green space or animals other than domesticated ones. One of Sackin’s favorite activities is to get students to write about everything they have used in one day and trace it back to its source. For example, 60 students throwing away 10 pounds of food after a meal gets them to thinking that some of that food was grown in other countries and shipped here to the States. Now, it’s just waste. Thus they learn the principle of conservation. “Clearly, to me, the number one thing to do is conservation,” Sackin said. “My favorite statistic is that if you look at the resources we use in the U.S. and (if) everyone in the world was using the same amount of everything, we’d need three planet Earths in order to supply all the resources.” Conservation won’t be that hard, and can even be fun, Sackin contents. For example, his parents, Steve and Linda Sackin of Kansas City, Mo., teach Sunday school at Congregation Kol Ami. With the permission of the synagogue, her class pulled up a section of pavement in the parking lot, where they started a garden. “My parents didn’t know much about gardening. And when I started a garden at my school a couple of years ago, I didn’t know much about gardening, either. But just through trial and error with these students, they were able to produce dozens of tomatoes and dozens of basil plants from very little effort,” Sackin said. “They’re spending less than $100. Now people are coming out to harvest tomatoes on Sunday, and it was so easy for them to do this — 10 sixth-graders just on Sundays. So that just shows, if you think of all the grassland in Kansas City, where you could have urban gardens or just places where people are sharing little plots.” He said many people become so separated from these processes, they don’t even think about an apple coming from a tree, or lettuce coming from a seed. Children assume there’s an endless supply at the grocery store.’
Wrestling with issues
Making these connections, learning from them and passing them on to others stems from Sackin’s Jewish background, he said. It instilled in him a sense of being culturally and religiously connected. In “ Islands,” both of the main characters, one inside the pyramid and one on the outside, wrestle with the idea of God. “I created it so that in both families, there’s one character who really believes deeply and another who just doesn’t buy it and is struggling with it and they kind of argue a little bit about those things. “There’s that dialog that I had thought about from an early age that always gets through, everything about being Jewish — Sunday school, Passover and all the services — it always comes out in my writing, just that kind of conversation about belief and trying to understand it more.”
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