Nonfiction — print. Translated from the French. Harry N. Abrams, 2014. 467 pgs. Library copy.
When it comes to comics and graphic novels, I tend to be drawn to those on the nonfiction shelf. I find the format tends to make darker or complex topics more accessible and personalized than a long nonfiction tome. So I was intrigued by Squarzoni’s comic, which is subtitled “a personal journey through the science”, when I was browsing the library’s comics section.
This book grew out of Squarzoni’s efforts to present the French president’s political platform in a graphic format and the realization that he was writing about a topic — climate change — that he knew very little about. His partner, Camille, insists that Squarzoni will end up writing an entire book on the subject as he begins researching what exactly “climate change” is and, well, turns out she was right.
The book becomes an interesting blend of Squarzoni’s research, interviews with scientists and policy makers, and struggle to reconcile what he learns with how he lives his life. He has a rather off-putting obsession with how a storyteller chooses to start a story and devotes a number of panels to this question, including several on the movies he’s watching.
Once he moves onto the actual topic of climate change, Squarzoni makes a connection between our consumer-based economy — that is, the fact that economic growth only comes from increasing consumption of goods — to the increase in greenhouse gases and the destruction of the environment worldwide. And, like many people, he ends up wrestling with how to adopt the solutions being advocated by those he interviews into his own life.
Some of the solutions — reducing energy consumption, refusing to drive large vehicles or adopt other behaviors he sees as imports from America — are ones he’s already doing while others require government policy to change or an individual to sacrifice a convenience of modern life. At one point, he is offered what sounds like a fantastic opportunity in Laos and turns it down because he cannot overcome the guilt he feels over flying given its contribution to greenhouse glasses. Two years later, he and Camille travel to Montana to visit the very glaciers disappearing because of climate change. It is just not reasonable to expect him to never travel again.
Squarzoni’s difficulty with reconciling macro-changes to his life on the micro-scale fostered a lot of apathy within me as I was reading the book and, unlike others on the topic before it, I didn’t finish the book feeling as though I could rush out and try to change the world. After all, there are only so many light bulbs one can change, reusable bags one can carry, or car trips one can switch for public transportation.
But it also is a refreshingly honest addition to the section of the library devoted to climate change. And Squarzoni’s book lends a lot of credibility both through this honesty — climate change science is hard to understand, climate change is hard to address given there is no one band-aid solution — and given its its ability to breakdown the complexities of the issue into easily digestible bits through interviews and beautiful drawings.