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changing18's picture

    With each generation comes a new set of important issues to change.  In the twenty first century, one of the main issues is environmental change or climate change.  Noami Orekes and Erik M. Conway’s “The Collapse of Western Civilization” and Derrick Jenson and Stephanie McMillan’s “As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do To Stay In Denial” speak to the environmental issues but in slightly different ways.  Both novels while they get across their point of the impact of humans of the environment but do so in different ways that impacts its accessibility to readers. “As the World Burns” cartoonish mockery of a America’s corrupt government and the unreasonable assumptions of the impact of small changes activists advocate.  The effectiveness of this type of writing is significant because it reaches audiences that may not have looked into this issue. The argument can be made that it's comical nature could make the severity of the issue of climate change lesser. Yet I don’t believe this to be true because the purpose of satires such as this book is to teach a point while reaching out to a different crowd.  In comparison with the two books I think “As the World Burns” is more effective in its impact on audiences because of its style and creativity.

    The two books focus on slightly different aspects of the environmental impact.  “The Collapse of Western Civilization” focuses in a world where all of western civilization falls apart because of their negligence of their environment which created a global impact. The lingering impact of this book is a feeling of sadness and helplessness. Though the fictional scientific information was interesting to think about and made it all the more realistic, it does not reach and impact readers of all aspects. One example of the style of this book, “ A crucial but under-studied incident was the legal seizing of notes from scientists who had documented the damage caused by a famous oil spill of the period, the 2011 British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon” (11). So while this information is interesting in the context of the book, it lacks more than emotional connection.  An important part about this book is it is very small and there is a large amount of information about the demise of western civilization and essentially global catastrophe within about a small 95 pages.  Personally this left me feeling more saddened and distraught because of the amount of destruction of the world that occurred within what felt like a short range of time though was about 400-300 years.  Yet within the history of the world this range of time until collapse is actually very frightening.

    “As the World Burns” ability to access more audiences is a very intriguing feature that is unique to this book. The book allows the issue of the environment to spread to more audiences.  The dialogue seems pretty collegiate despite the cartoon characters, and I think forces readers to want to learn more about it. When the fox is speaking to the hippie like character he speaks about how the human species started vivisection and animals eating other animals is not the real problem.  The actuality of this happening is obviously impractical but it's the message it send to its audience that is important.  Although the book's format, could be a distraction for the severity of the content, I think it actually emphasizes the opposite.  Because of the comic like structure, it allows the readers to understand both visually and through the dialogue to understand the corruption and our impact.  At the end of this book when the animals all revolutionize to take down the government it is sad because humans did not take charge. So this book as well leaves a sense of helplessness also but I think it maintains more of a sense of urgency that something needs to be done.

    Based off of “As the World Burns” style and creativity it serves as a better resource to encourage thought for environmental change for a larger audience than “The Collapse of Western Civilization.” The characters in “As the World Burns” allow for more connection and emotion with the topics that were presented.  Though its cartoonish feature was more simple and childish, the dialogue presented was not. Also the comparison of the book's lasting impression, “As the World Burns” does not write off the end of civilization the same way though it leaves readers a bit doubtful of the ability of humans to be able to change corruption and their environmental footprint. In the end of the book at least it made some group feel strongly enough as to revolutionize, even though they were animals.  Hopefully in real life enough humans can come together to get a plan together to make some major changes to human impact.  So though I personally believe “As the World Burns” is more successful at impacting thought for change, what are humans in actuality going to do to prove either of these books wrong and change an undesirable fate?  


Anne Dalke's picture

You use this paper to argue that the satire of As the World Burns is more effective than all the unemotional, scientific information conveyed in The Collapse of Western Civilization. Although the dialogue in the former book is “collegiate,” you find the comic format more accessible—leaving us both with “a sense of helplessness” and one “of urgency” (not sure I understand the relation between these two feelings?). Having developed this extended comparison of style, @ the very end of the essay you ask the more important question: “what are humans in actuality going to do to prove either of these books wrong?”  I’m wondering how Van Jones’ efforts (as described by Elizabeth Kolbert in “Greening the Ghetto”) strike you as an answer to this question. Does he offer one?

When we have our last writing conference, on Nov. 30, come with a plan for either revising this paper (is there any where you can “grow” it?), or for taking up the topic of “ecological intelligence” (see syllabus for details), or for somehow combining the two….we’ll need to talk, also, about which of your twelve papers you’ll want to re-write for your portfolio. Let’s keep working on tightening your sentences, too. Come to your conference having re-worked this one, please: “Both novels while they get across their point of the impact of humans of the environment but do so in different ways that impacts its accessibility to readers.”