Monday, January 08, 2007

Kate Evans - Funny Weather - Everything you didn’t want to know about climate change but probably should find out

About three quarters of the way through this comic book introduction to the perils and issues around Climate Change, Kate Evans’ main character stamps his foot and laments “You know for a comic book this is not very cheerful”. Given that in the same panel, we’re told that Britain’s emissions of Carbon Dioxide have increased by 9% since 1990, you can perhaps understand the sentiment.

Kate Evans’ has created a brilliant introduction to the subject. By utilising the comic format, she will I hope, reach an audience that might be put off by other works on Climate Change, but the format in no way patronises the reader, nor dodges the science.

Kate takes us through some quite complex issues. She doesn’t just look at what causes the Greenhouse effect, she takes on those diminishing numbers of individuals who argue that the effect is not related to human activity, and she successfully skewers those politicians and corporate fat-cats who would put the future of the planet at risk, rather than address such thorny questions as reducing emissions.

By humanising these characters – corporate interests are represented by a cigar wielding, suit wearing business men – Kate prepares us to discuss and debate the issues with those around us. The “hero” of the book, a young man who debates and questions the corporate fat cat, concludes at the end, that his opponent is a “maniac”, whose policies will lead us “all to fry”.

Rather cleverly this brings in a factor that I think is missing from many articles on climate change. The issue is so great, the challenge so large, that once you hear the facts and figures, it can lead you to despondency. Kate’s comic book hero, falls into a fit of depression, only to rally and become a campaigner for change.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of Kate’s suggestions. Or perhaps it’s better to say that I would emphasise some things differently – I doubt that horses will become a major feature of urban transport this side of a total collapse of modern civilisation for instance. But these slight disagreements shouldn’t lead anyone to dismiss the book. I don’t believe that the environmental movement and the scientific community have yet found a perfect answer to how an environmentally friendly society would look – that’s something we can argue along the way. The great task at the moment is to clarify the issues for ordinary people, and offer some practical suggestions about how we can start campaigning and changing things now.

At the end of the comic, her characters (including a George Monbiot look-alike) join a demonstration, making the point that the major changes that are needed to save the planet will need to be fought for – and Kate Evans should be applauded for writing an extremely useful weapon in the battle to save the planet.

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