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As Our World Burns: Notes Towards Day 21 (Thurs. Nov. 17)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping
Cathy's placing us in Rhodes
On Tuesday, Francesca will take us to Denbigh

By MIDNIGHT on Friday:
your next 3-pp. paper, cfing the two texts we're reading this week.

By 5 p.m. Mon: eleventh short posting,
on what you'd like us to talk about, and what questions you have, about the assigned material that you'd like us to address in class. [should we try to do this as a webby post????--following up on Amanda's suggestion re: more conversation on serendip, rather than all stand-alone postings?]

For Tues, finish reading Jensen and McMillan's graphic novel

II. (11:30) Review instructions for your final portfolio and checklist

[remind me to do writing workshops!]

III. (11:45)
Getting going on the graphic novel....
get into groups of 3, with different folks...
come up with a statement of the thesis of the book

share out

IV. (12:00) play the believing/doubting game

V. (12:15) form the argument takes

playing now with different genres, waying of communiting the problem, urging people to act:
essays (diatribes?), novels (Trojan horses?), science fiction (warnings of the future?)-->
and now comics: earlier experiences w/ this form? access? images and words? effects?

VI. (12: 25) workshopping the paper:
share your initial thoughts with others in your group.

Reviews to help us think:
Grade 10 Up–This simply drawn graphic satire is largely message-driven, but the message is still entertaining and thought-provoking. As the lighthearted lead character shares what governments, corporations, and activists tell individual Americans to do to save the Earth, her cynical counterpart exposes the futility of these simple solutions. The truth is, even if each and every one of us switched to compact fluorescent bulbs and became vegetarians it would only be a drop in the bucket compared to the damage corporate and government policies are doing to the world environment. The story that binds these notions together is an upcoming alien invasion and a renegade bunny trying to end animal experimentation. The characters are crudely drawn with bare sets, but this style works in a tale in which the words are carrying so much weight. (The politicians have sharper teeth than the bears.) This book doesn't offer up any real answers to what is clearly portrayed as a frightening state of affairs–it includes an animal uprising. However, it will inflame teens' passion about the environment and possibly open more eyes. --School Library Journal

"McMillan's expressive style, pared down to the basics and intensified over the years, allows for instant communication of thoughtful rage. . . a fast-moving page-turner."-"The Comics Journal"

"In "As the World Burns" the large scope and indictment of every facet of society is, to say the least, thought-provoking."-"Cleveland Free Times"

"Readers exasperated with, or just plain tired of, simplistic guides offering purportedly quick and easy ways to resolve global warming and other momentous concerns of the day will delight in this razor-sharp critique packaged as a cute-kid-and-funny-animal cartoon... Jensen and McMillan roll critical thinking and well-structured graphic-novel storytelling into a compelling whole."-"Booklist"

"A compelling message and an expressive artwork."-"The Sylvanian"

"As the product of the creative marriage of activist philosopher Derrick Jensen and political cartoonist Stephanie McMillan, "As the World Burns" displays trademark qualities of both prof

By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on January 11, 2008

The anarcho-primitive activist and post-civilization philosopher Derrick Jensen really knows how to make an impact. Readers who agree with his general philosophy need not agree with every single one of his positions, though you can't deny that he's very effective at advancing them with deft use of persuasion and polemics. This tongue-in-cheek graphic novel came as a bit of a surprise, because I assumed that the "stay in denial" portion of the title would be directed at anti-environmentalists. On the contrary, the book is actually directed at environmentalists who have fallen for popular rhetoric about how their individual actions (recycling, buying new light bulbs, driving a hybrid, etc.) may actually make a major difference in the health of the planet. I don't totally agree with Jensen's disdain for personal virtue, but it's hard to deny that casual environmentalism detracts attention from the true causes of the world's problems. The status quo in business, economics, and politics is the real problem, and to save the planet we might just need a revolutionary structural overhaul of modern civilization. While this fictional story is simplistic and a bit forced, and comes nowhere near the intelligence and emotion of Jensen's other works, as an entertaining graphic novel the message is quite compelling. The low-key but expressive artwork of political cartoonist Stephanie McMillan surely adds to the effect. Perhaps this type of quick-hitting storytelling, rather than lengthy technical and philosophical screeds, will inspire caring folks to take real action. 

By Jessica Lux on February 17, 2008
Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan's As the World Burns is a revolutionary graphic novel decrying the failure of the green movement. We have become a self-congratulatory society of "green" consumers, recyclers, yogi mediators, and letter-writers. Utilizing pigtailed girls, a one-eyed eco-revolutionary bunny, and a wise bird, the authors expose the fallacies of patting ourselves on the back as we continue down an unsustainable consumption path headed straight for world destruction. Some quick math performed by Kranti (a character from McMillan's Minimum Security cartoon) reveals that even if everyone (100% of the US population) changed our light bulbs, recycled half our total waste, cut our driving in half, installed low-flow showerheads, and adjusted our thermostats by two degrees, the end results would be a ONE-TIME 21% reduction in carbon emissions, which given our current rate of growth, would be offset in 10 years.

The real culprits in our ecocide? Corporations and the government they have in their pockets. And what are they doing? Running marketing campaigns and releasing movies to convince individual consumers to take the blame. In As the World Burns, a former-politician-turned-activist conspires with corporations to distract individuals from the systemic predicament, knowing full well that green consumers will pay more to feel good about themselves.

As the World Burns is much more than sharp dialogue about the futility of eco-friendly consumerism. Aliens have also arrived on the planet, intent on eating up all Earth's resources, and expecting to have to fight the planet's current residents.
By Howard M. Switzer on November 19, 2007
How to Teach Resistance: Assign "50 Things"
By CLWriter on January 29, 2008
This graphic novel presents a satiric view of the most destructive elements of our society: human beings, especially the ones who are devoted to money, progress, and technology. The story line follows a disparate group of characters: space alien robots, corporate CEO's, government functionaries, children, a "terrorist" bunny named Bunnista, and an assorted cast of various animals, plants, and even fish. The first panels depict two girls discussing why changing your light bulbs and recycling bottles aren't enough to save the planet. The plot thickens as space alien robots pay corporate and government agencies for the right to consume all the earth's resources (except for a token 70 trees, 70 rocks, 70 fish, etc.) Bunnista releases animals from a research lab, the authorities round up ALL rabbits in retaliation, and the scene is set for a big confrontation between rabbits, animals, children, and indigenous people against the evil forces of the aliens/government who wish to annihilate all life forms that do not directly lead to corporate profit.

The comic-style drawings are amusing, appealing, and at times heartbreaking, as when a little bear says goodbye to his mother as she runs off to do battle with the aliens. There is most definitely a message in this fine stew of eco-tragicomedy: Jensen and McMillan have teamed up to provide a rationale for activism that goes beyond putting a few things in the recycle bin each day.

This graphic novel would work well for high school students, 14 and up. Art classes, history or government classes, leadership classes, journalism classes, or literature classes could hold some fine discussions after reading this book, or selections from it. Teachers could assign students to create their own social commentary by way of a comic strip or graphic novel. Highly recommended for adults as well. Danger: this book will make you feel as well as think!