Comic artists unite on climate change
Kiwi comic book artists concerned over sea level rises, super storms and climate change have put pen to paper to highlight the issues. Acclaimed artists Dylan Horrocks, Sarah Laing, Chris Slane and eight others volunteered their work for graphic novel anthology High Water. The introduction is written by actress and activist Lucy Lawless.
Editor Damon Keen says the book is a way into the highly volatile debate for New Zealand's comic community. "We've had 25 years of scientists talking, politicians kind of ignoring them and I feel like it's time for the rest of us to step up," he said. "Everywhere you look there's climate change, because we have got to that point where it is critical." Climate change experts predict a one-metre sea level rise by the end of the century. But scientists have warned the actual figure could be as high as four metres.
Sea levels have been rising by about 1.6 millimetres each year over the past century. That figure has lifted to 3.2mm over the past two decades and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expects it to to rise to 10mm annually by 2100. The artists are concerned about what future generations will be left with, Keen said. "A lot of them are parents as well and it's hard not to, if you are thinking about the issue, be quite concerned about how we approach it with our children and how you should be dealing with it.
"There is that common theme of artists being socially aware to some degree, just due to the nature of the work you do. So I certainly had no problem convincing them to get involved," he says. "A lot of them were very excited to get involved . . . You want to feel like you're contributing and doing something about the issue that bugs you in the back of your mind even if we feel so powerless."
Keen says the group knows the issue will not change overnight. "We're all like pygmies, shooting tiny darts at a huge elephant of a problem," he said. "And hopefully the darts accumulate enough to bring it down eventually.
"We go into it aware that we've got to do our part as a tribe. We represent a community of communicators and it's our job to do that." The Westmere resident and his editing partner Aimee Maxwell say comics can be a way to educate and add another voice to the global discussion. The stories go from being set 40,000 years ago during the Ice Age, to what Earth could look like millions of years in the future. "In so many ways it had been politicised even though it's actually a scientific issue," Keen said.
"I've been a bit sad, I guess, about how slowly society's moved on this issue and it's hard not to get caught up in that cynicism and depression and feel powerless. "But what struck us about working on a project like this is it's exciting. You don't have to feel powerless. You don't have to do much but if we all start talking about it that would be a great start." The artists know they are enterting an arena which can be heated but Keen says adding their voices to the climate change debate is important.
"It would be great if this was a way for people to explore the issue or think about it who haven't been able to approach or have found the issue inaccessible. But also hope it's a way for people who may find a way to approach comics as well," Keen said. "If you've got this talent, these skills, this gift - whatever you call it - then using it for something particularly meaningful, powerful and an empowering thing, I think it's just what they do."
High Water was released at Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium in Auckland on April 16. Go to factioncomics.co.nz for details.