Chapters of Climate Irony Part 2: November 8th 2016

Do you remember November 8th 2016? I sure do. It was the day the world appeared turned on its head, as Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. I also remember this period of time being marked by my last semester of my Liberal Arts degree at UBC. The day after Trump’s election, campus was marked with a nervous and frenetic energy. I remember students crying in the halls, as it seemed like all the democratic principles we believed in and worked for felt threatened. This comic, written in the Winter of 2016, speaks to the sentiments of young Liberal University students, concerned about climate change, and looking to change the world and speak their truths. While 3 years have passed since Trump was elected, this comic has potentially more relevance with the global fervour concerning climate action growing, and elections, both in Canada and the US, very present in people’s minds.

This comic, on a base level, demonstrates how class and socio-economic status affect one’s carbon footprint and environmental outlook. The comic features three university educated young women who embody the classic, liberal millennial outlook. Think zero-waste, LGBTQ rights, but also, privilege. Their outrage at Donald Trump’s win and his proposed environmental cuts prompt them to “take action” by going to Texas and attempting to inform rural voters about how to lower their carbon footprints.

Often maligned in the environmental movement are: developing countries, and the uneducated lower classes (think the “basket of deplorables” quote, unfortunately expressed by Hillary Clinton). While I have a separate piece exploring the problems with maligning developing countries in the environmental movement, this piece focuses on the Republican or Conservative voters. The perception about these voters is that their “guns and God” (Barack Obama) prohibit them from accepting Liberal beliefs about climate science, and science in general. 

This comic aims to turn criticism from the much maligned political Right, to the political Left. My piece ultimately showcases that class and socio-economic status affords citizens more choice. This choice can actually lead to higher carbon footprints. In my comic, the university students, because of their privilege, actually have higher individual carbon footprints than the rural Texan mother, because the Texan mother cannot afford the same luxuries. The Texan mother cannot afford to fly, she does not have a car, and must take public transit. Her diet, while not vegetarian, is likely more sustainable than the college students’ because her family’s diet consists of food from a local farm. 

My comic is inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Plan. In Flight Plan, Kingsolver brings to sharp relief the luxuries afforded to those with privilege, and how these luxuries feed into our carbon based economy and carboon footprint. I point out the hypocrisy in the Liberal university students’ climate efforts, as their efforts, while well intentioned, are out of touch with the reality of millions of voters lives. The students’ “green” solutions are, in the end, small and somewhat trendy ways to make themselves feel better about their efforts. Is “feeling” like we are doing good, enough?

In November of 2016, the Liberal media, and the world, was shocked by the election of Donald Trump. However, it is my going back to authors like George Orwell, in Road to Wigan Pier, who shed light on some of the issues of the political Left. Orwell wrote about the issues that the Leftist/Socialist parties has in England in the 1930’s. He wrote that the Left simply encompassed too many Liberal ideas for Conservatives and the lower classes to rally behind. For example, while many lower class voters would benefit from the social programs offered by the Left, they could not get behind social advocation for gender equality, vegetarianism, and other progressive social values. In the modern United States, low income voters, who ironically rely on Democratic social programs, vote Republican because of social issues. The Democratic party embraces almost all socially Liberal organizations and principles, such as: LGBTQ2 rights, Planned Parenthood, Racial Equality, Gun Control, and Climate Change. The average low income voter, socially, may not support these principles.

Climate change is important. In fact, is it the most important issue of our time, but it has been segmented into a Liberal social bullet point. Perhaps, the way to get the political Right on board with climate is to divorce it from being a social issue, to it being a human issue. Why is climate a partisan issue when it will affect every single person on the planet?

Sometimes art leads to more questions than answers. I hope my work provokes thought. Ulimately, as Roy Scranton states in Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, our civilization and way of life needs to end before we can seriously tackle climate change. Our infinitely expanding carbon based economy is fuelling the climate crisis, however, it also runs the world. Ultimately, the onus is not on the individual’s efforts, even though most of us are trying our best. Instead of us recycling our Coca Cola can, and feeling as though we are making a positive contribution, Coca Cola, as a giant corporation, needs to reduce their annual carbon footprint. My comic interrogates not only the perceived differences between individual’s carbon footprints, but asks greater questions about what is needed to change our current political systems, and to effectively tackle the climate crisis. 

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