After reading As The World Burns written by Jensen and Mcmillan to page 150, I get the similar feeling of reading The Collapse of Western Civilization(“The Collapse" for short), but in a more comic and hilarious way. Because The Collapse is constructed as a historical review from the future aspects, gathered a great amount of datas and details, however, As The World Burns is more like a narrative story that hides its meanings behind its exaggerated characters in a humorous way. The collapse is a scientific novel while ATWB is a graphic novel. But both books reflect the reality that human is consuming the earth resources and destroying the place where we live in. The ideology is pretty similar in the two books but the forms are totally different, which can be compared in the following way.
Both book bring about the idea of helpless that people know what’s going on but we can do nothing about it. In As The World Burns( ATWB for short) the little girl in white hair represents the majority who believe in everything in the media about solutions to climate change, Kranti blows her bubble off and off again by telling us the fact that what we do is meaningless compare to the huge destroying by the system. “we need to dream big, or nothing big will ever happen,”says the girl, “I saw that on television.” Their debate about the environment saving smash the fact in our face that its too naive to believe the small things we do as individuals could make a real difference to the world. The Collapse states“ the civilization knew what was happening to them but were unable to stop it.”(2).
Second, both book point to the crime to our system. As suggested in The collapse, the systematic fault is positivism and market fundamentalism, which refer to human adaptive optimism and “the invisible hand”. In the ATWB those factors are not greatly mentioned, but the authors condemn the greed of politicians(human with authority)—their pursue for gold and power. “give them gold and they don’t care what you take from them. Trees, animals, water, soil…they’re so eager to trade these things away, they practically hand you a knife and fork!”(18) It’s a bit exaggerated in the book that the president is so eager to trade the natural resources away for fortune, but the big idea could be seen clearly in this way. And the struggle between president of America and the leader of cooperation point out the reality that everyone fights for his/hers own interests, nobody really cares the environment.
Finally, both book agree that it’s not everyone’s blind—the voice of those who identifies the problem are either inundated by the public or suppressed by the government. In the collapse, scientists were failed to persuade the public about the danger because “western society was rejecting that knowledge in favor of an empirically inadequate yet powerful ideological system. “(37) and also thwarted by government because “scientists were preventing the economic development essential for coping with climate change.”(12) While in ATWB Kranti represents those who see the big picture clear, her ideas hurt the white hair girl who represents the majority because the reality makes her feel sad. She also perceived as psychopath by the doctor because he thinks her anger is the product of an anti-social characteristic and even accuse her as a terrorist. Not only her, everyone who conflicts with “permit” should be arrested, including the farmers, fisherman, and even the president of Mexico. The result will be aliens keep eating the planet till we all die, but the president don’t care because he’s not going to live that long till the world ends. The selfishness is striking and also exaggerated there, but the implication echoes with the idea of the Collapse—we are not stop exploiting the resources because we think the disaster is not that close, we give up long-term stability for short-term profits because we don’t don’t aware of the danger. “Scientists understood that it was only a matter of time before the Arctic summer would be ice-free, and that this was a matter of grave concern. But in business and economic circles it was viewed as creating opportunities for further oil and gas exploitation. ”(22, the collapse) Both book draw a warning to this and results are pictured clear.
There are some other ideologies that echoed in the two books. In the constructed “lexicon of archaic terms” there states the definition of environment which, “separating humans from the rest of the world” is outdated. The authors convey their idea here that we should never separate our lives from the place we live in, or we will never get the problem solved. And Kranti said: “The store doesn’t give us food. The earth give us food.”(63) Apart from that, USA is condemned in both books. In ATWB the president of USA makes profits at the expense of natural resources and even the wellness of other countries: when his secretary says the permits are only good for America, he says “The permits are good whenever I say they are. I’m the president of the United States! This country extends all over the world, doesn’t it?”
Although the ideology and function are similar in the two books, they are different in terms of genres and styles.ASTB is a comic book, which uses graphic and dialogue box to illustrate the story while The collapse is a science fiction, the author narrates the story based on scientific facts. Compare to the The collapse, ASTB can make the book more lively by adding humor and emotion into the text, making animal talks, turning the uncertainty into real things by imagination, for example, depicting the unknown disaster as alien, the opposition force as animal alliance… In which it is able to address more audiences because it’s more accessible. The author is able to conduct different attitudes though his portrait of characters, like the politicians are been portrayed as ugly and dumb. An interesting contradiction is aroused between the light tone of the comic book and the seriousness of the topic in ASTB. In The collapse the seriousness it’s easier to capture the author’s central idea, since there are thesis statements and large amount of deducing processes and evidences.
The two books share the similar belief and ideologies, both make a good use of irony and analogy ,but they’re written in different ways and genres. They both serve as warnings to human about the environmental changes that are happening on the earth and our reaction to them.
Jensen, Derrick, and Stephanie McMillan. As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial. Seven Stories Press, 2007.
Conway, Erik, and Oreskes, Naomi. The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future. Columbia University Press, 2014.