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Final Revise: The Earth's Prerogative

AntoniaAC's picture

“10 ways I can Help the Earth,” was the title of a poster I saw taped to the refrigerator at the Juvenile Law Center in downtown Philadelphia. It was a lime green initiative to combat climate change illustrated with childish cartoons and littered with nearly useless ways for saving the earth. The irony, while I attempted to learning about advocacy within a systematic firmI was confronted with the very real and often poorly dealt problem of global demise. With the looming fear of Trump’s reign in my foremind the raging mad desire to undo the probable pain that he will cause as our nation’s new president-elect, I was caught in my tracks. I was exposed to the growing knowledge of the deep and vast inequalities that tens of thousand of American youth face daily and I was obligated to return to the source of my social justice quest. As the semester wound done and the class completed its transition from the personal to the environmental numerous questions were brought up, but the most glaring was: what tangible long-term change can “we” (the human race)  make to save the planet before it’s too late?  And now with the influence of so many social affiliations the word sustainable had to be inserted into the sentence.

In The Collapse of Western Civilization by Oreskes and Conway, a fictional futurist account of the world's destruction is written about in a historical analysis of the events that unfolded prior to the late 2300s. The novel creates a scientific record of these fictional events in a way that portrayed a nonfictional reality. Through another work of literature authors of As the World Burns, Derrick Jensen and McMillan, captivate their readers with a unique effort of green advocacy. Even so, both works fall short of making a powerful impact because they offer no feasible solutions whatsoever. The exclusion of the lower class and people of color is introduced in an article done by Elizabeth Kolbert called “Greening the Ghetto” tracing the activism of Van Jones who “argues for an integrated approach to combating climate change, urban poverty and racism” (Kolbert 1).

Undeniably the problems facing humans environmentally due to deforestation, rising CO2 levels, and a global warming are felt across the board. However, the law firm forced me to reexamine the major impact that socioeconomics, race and other factors of livelihood have on a person's ability to receive awareness and combat the impending end of the world.  The fictional graphic novel, As the World Burns, depicts an apocalyptic narrative with aliens, a corrupt governments and an animal overthrow while undermine many of the sham “Go Green” initiatives. The main target of the novel are middle class upper class people who can afford therapy and can buy the newest green innovation but it fail to identify the inequality in its logic. On one hand it claims money is greed but on the other it has a narrow view of who has a role in saving the world. The is no mention of solutions that would be tangible to all walks of life but rather encompasses one girl’s fantasy of the Garden of Eden. The book focus on a specific target of educated people and just as Kolbert points out about major environmental groups, “Chances are that most of the attendees [are] white, and the few who aren't will be affluent and middle-aged” ( Kolbert 2).  The demographics of the green movement has always been very asymmetrical however the danger of this is it offers a limited perspective of achievable change. The novel seek to enlighten readers of the dangers in unsustainable living and the world’s inevitable peril unless drastic efforts to halt pollution are taken. But by who?

In The Collapse of Western Civilization, democracy (neoliberalism), its blasé policies towards human pollution, and its denial of the problem were most at fault for a global warming epidemic that caused natural disasters like “fires, floods, hurricanes,” and rising tides. The consistent criticism was directed at structures of democracy like the United States that were ineffective, while commemorating the communist, ones like China, that took action to prevent total demise.  The scientist efforts to advocate for sustainability went unheard and instead a sentiment of “active denial” was ushered in that “insisted that the extreme weather events reflected natural variability” rather human destruction (Oreskes 6). The downfall of the proxy United States was due to ineffective political structure that created a “tiny elite.. Known as the ‘1 percent” to take power even at a time of mass famine, mass relocation, and disease (Oreskes 48). This logic while fiction has valid standing because it a contemporary context the United States president elect is an outspoken global warming denier who has threatened to remove himself and the nation from international efforts to combat pollution. Potentially the communist society, which originally a Marxist idea that eliminates class systems, was able employ Van Jones's method of environmentalism by making its " goal. . . to get the greenest solutions to the poorest people” (Kohlbert). The novel is fictional but it presents many accurate effects of environmental degradation and does not venture to sugar coat these outcomes for its readers but does little to propose a solution. In the “Lexicon of Archaic Terms,” one word that has become non-existent is “environment” and this is due primarily to the necessity post-destruction for the surviving humans to transcend the traditional roles of humanized zone versus the natural world (Oreskes 78).The idea behind this being that there can no longer be a disconnect between the earth and the modern world. we , humans in the present day, “Unfortunately, like every other species on the planet, [are] conservative: we don’t change our ways unless necessity forces us.”

As the World Burns takes a different stance regarding governmental critique and the solution to climate change. The illustration portrays a society that is built around greed and deception,  and for this reason aliens are equipped with the “shit” need to conquer the world. Gold which is “pulled out of [the ass]” of the aliens becomes the Judas of democracy (45). The government as well as the naive citizen perpetuate a cycle of useless movements to counteract the rising harm of human industry. In short, the solution to pollution is not a light bulb or recycling it is comprehensive, accessible sustainability that eradicates the need for capitalist corruption and environmental exploitation.

Both novels have powerful messages but neither, in my opinion, translate the travesty of the nonrenewable conditions humans, animals, and all life forms will be subjected to in the coming years.  While a whole genre of apocalyptic literature, film, and art exists, it's hard to imagine such an event outside of the fictional. We, westernized Americans, live in a time of mass desensitized towards statistics and facts causing The Collapse of Western Civilization to fall short of being effective propaganda for environmentalism because it lacked the emotional connection that people tend to desire in social movements. In my experience, people like the lime green posters that give 10 easy steps due in part to people’s love of an easy way out. However, the reality is that there isn’t one and without massive mobilization for an environmentally sustainable society both at a personal and political level very little notable progress is possible.   The novel is tragic but it is fiction and so it fails to capture me in a more profound way that the initial shock. It is undeniable that people will read the novel and be outraged by the nearing future, however, the book offers little solution and so, I for one, had no way of translating the feeling of revolt into a palpable cause. Mockery of green movements in “As the World Burns” was also disheartening and in some instances it's humorous but insensitive depiction (specifically of therapy) diluted the novels desired meaning. It undermined many of the simple solutions but the “alien” resolution of an animal rebellion was too ridiculous to fathom. Indeed there need for the destruction of the system because of the obvious inequities that have arisen but again the book does not have a plan as how to do this. Instead it villainized the government and ridicules any previous attempts people have made to find methods of pollution control.  Van Jones brings up the point that it is in involving and educating the “teens” and the youth that will truly  interrupt global warming, and while maybe not an end all solution, I believe, it could definitely steer our world in the correct direction. Teaching the youth to think radically about the environment and to question exploitative governments and movements is only of the most cohesive long term plans possible. Just like with all form of bigotry the key to eradication is through the warm hearts of the next generation that has yet to be tainted. A similar initiative must be put in place that targets the children of tomorrow and brings forward a social movement within an environmental movement to completely combat the inequalities while making substantial changes to how we conduct our lives. Assata Shakur put it simply “no one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them.”


 Works Cited 

Kolbert, Elizabeth. “Greening the Ghetto.” The New Yorker V.84 I. 44: New York, 2009. Web 14 Dec.


 Oreskes, Naomi and Erik M. Conway. The Collapse of the Western Civilization. Columbia University press. New York: 2014. Print.

Jensen, Derrick and  Stephanie McMillan As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial. 2007. Print.