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  October 25, 2006 | Emissions Targets « Previous | Current | Next » Comments (0) | Archives | About Email lind at

I set out to write a cartoon on urban sprawl, leading up the municipal elections across Ontario on November 13. All the elements were there: I feel passionate about the issue; there's plenty of material to satire; there's a pressing deadline. But nothing seemed to work. I tried a Halloween theme, a movie called Night of the Living Developers or SprAWl (something like SAW). But it all felt too contrived, too much like a "message cartoon." I might have well have just written "Vote on November 13 -- Ontario's future depends on it" and called it a night. But that's not funny, is it?

So the above cartoon is where I ended up. The fact that it's almost Halloween provided me with some opportunities for visual fun (likely readers will be most appalled by seeing Horst in his skivvies). I was happy that Harper's emissions targets and Horst's emissions targets could be dealt with in one cartoon.

This is an example of how my reptillian brain doesn't always find humour where I want it to. I'm drawn to the more personal side of political these days, despite having been winded by an article detailing how climate change is turning out to be happening faster than sober scientists' worse-case scenarios. Likely I'll mull it over and somehow something funny will spit out in the next while. But not now. Now I'm just freaked out.

Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth PowerPoint-orama is already out-of-date (and not in a good way), according to this article in Salon, in which Bill McKibben reviews some recent books on the subject, including the latest by James Lovelock (the scientist best known for the Gaia theory that sees the Earth as a single, self-regulating organism).

Below is an excerpt. Read it on Halloween and be afraid. Be very afraid. Then do something to cut your CO2 emissions. I feel kinda lame getting a new furnace, contemplating a tankless water heater or purchasing Bullfrog Power wind-energy when the Alberta tar sands are cranking out a third of Canada's emissions (and rising). But if we all do it... Well, it feels less lame. And it's the least we can do. Really, we should all be cutting back by 70% to keep the planet from going postal on us. Here's hoping.

The regular reader of Science and Nature is treated to an almost weekly load of apocalyptic data, virtually all of it showing results at the very upper end of the ranges predicted by climate models, or beyond them altogether. Compared with the original models of a few years ago, ice is melting faster; forest soils are giving up more carbon as they warm; storms are increasing much more quickly in number and size. As I'm writing these words, news comes across the bottom of my computer screen that a new study shows methane leaking from Siberian permafrost at five times the predicted rate, which is seriously bad news since methane is an even more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

In this fast-changing scientific puzzle, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has given the world valuable guidance for a decade, stands the risk of being outrun by new data. The panel is supposed to issue a new report in the coming year summarizing the findings made by climate scientists since its last report. But it's unlikely that its somewhat unwieldy procedures will allow it to incorporate fears such as Lovelock's adequately, or even to address fully the far more mainstream predictions issued during the last 12 months by James Hansen of NASA, the planet's top climatologist.

Hansen is not quite as gloomy as Lovelock. Although he recently stated that the Earth is very close to the hottest it has been in a million years, he said that we still have until 2015 to reverse the flow of carbon into the atmosphere before we cross a threshold and create a "different planet." When Hansen gave this warning last December we had 10 years to change course, but soon we'll have only nine years, and since nothing has happened in the intervening time to suggest that we're gearing up for an all-out effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the divergence between Hansen and Lovelock may be academic. (Somehow it's small comfort to be rooting for the guy who says you've got a decade.)

What's amazing is that even Al Gore's fine and frightening film "An Inconvenient Truth" now lags behind the scientific cutting edge on this issue -- the science is moving fast. It's true that the world is beginning slowly to awaken to the idea that global warming may be a real problem, and legislatures (though not ours) are starting to nibble at it. But very few understand with any real depth that a wave large enough to break civilization is forming, and that the only real question is whether we can do anything at all to weaken its force.



You can see a more extensive portfolio of my work at the blog, including This Bright Future, a distilled and partial continuation of Weltschmerz, Turtle Creek, a daily comic about a turtle and a computer, and Footprint in Mouth, a quarterly cartoon I draw for Alternatives.

Weltschmerz in Print

Weltschmerz ran in Toronto's Eye Weekly from 1997 to 2007. It ran in weekly papers in southwestern Ontario, Ottawa and Edmonton between 1995 and 2008.

Notes on Writing a Comic Strip

I wrote this 17-page, 4 MB PDF document for my workshop at the 2006 Eden Mills Writers' Festival. It details the creation of one strip and gives tips on writing comics.

Politics and Environment

Monbiot | Guardian columnist and Heat author George Monbiot's blog. Not only about global warming, but expect plenty of refutations of the flat-earthers. His writing is witty, incisive and bang-on.

Desmog Blog | An indispensible (and Canadian) resource that "clears the PR pollution that clouds climate science."


Weltschmerz playlist at CBC Radio 3 | Some of the music I listen to while drawing this comic -- independent and Canadian.

This American Life | Radio documentaries that hit the heart, brain and funny bone.

CBC Podcasts | I don't listen to much live radio. Now, podcasts allow me to catch a lot of what I miss. I listen to The Current, Ideas, Spark and Search Engine while inking.


Diesel Sweeties by R Stevens | Witty repartee between guys, girls and robots drawn in a pixelated yet surprisingly versatile style.

Scott Pilgrim Manga-style indie-rock romance by Canadian Bryan Lee O'Malley | The most fun I've had in a comic book in recent memory. Highly recommended.

Dykes to Watch Out For | Alison Bechdel's brilliant weekly strip has been ghettoized because of its gay themes but deserves a wider readership.

Doonesbury | Garry Trudeau is still great after all these years.

Kevin Heuzenga | Enviable drawing style and dry wit. Start with Time Travelling.

Graeme MacKay | The editorial cartoonist for the Hamilton Spectator has a distinctive, addictive drawing style. And he makes me chortle.

Friends and Neighbours

Blog Guelph | Hometown photos and events.

The Narrative | Riveting photoblog. Matt O'Sullivan is at the right place at the right shutter speed.

Breast of Canada | A calendar promoting women's health.

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