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The Cartoon Guide to The Environment

Updated on July 13, 2010

As I mentioned in an earlier review, I love the work of Larry Gonick. Gonick is a comics artist who's done all kinds of informational and educational comics, the most notable being the "Cartoon History of the Universe" series. Gonick has a style about him that makes information easy to consume and makes it a pleasure to learn more. 

In this volume, 'the Cartoon Guide to the Environment," Gonick teams up with ecology writer Alice Outwater to explain comprehensibly the importance of the natural world on this planet as well as the very real danger caused by threats to the ecosystem, how if we're not careful we could harm this world to an extent that it could never recover. 

What I found most interesting from this book was how Outwater and Gonick show how systems that are destructive or less productive overall in comparison to alternatives are able to perpetuate themselves regardless. For instance, they are able to explain why agriculture beat hunting and gathering amongst early humans, even though hunters were generally more fit and appear to have lived longer than early farmers. They also are able to demonstrate why current industrial practices which destroy the land, water, and air of our planet are allowed to continue, despite the fact that it is now clear that these practices are dangerously destructive.

Outwater and Gonick are also able to point out the underlying problem concerning most of the current ecological issues today, namely humanity pulling energy out of the planet and not putting any back, as natural systems usually do. If this continues, it is quite possible to reach a point where irreparable damage has occurred.

But "The Cartoon Guide to the Environment" is definitely not a doom and gloom book, explicitly rejecting the predictions that we are inherently doomed. What needs to be done to save the planet is simple enough: cut down on consumption of resources, manufacture products more efficiently, and recycle and reuse as much as possible. It'll take effort, but the work is both very possible and very worth it.

All in all, this is a great summary of the ecological problems we face, as well as demonstrating both why we need to act and how we can fix our problems. I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about this subject.    

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