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The World Bank's estimate that a full SUV tank of biofuel would be enough, in its original form of food, to keep a person going for a year left me skeptical. It's a figure you'll see everywhere if you google it, though it does vary a little, in a modern version of broken telephone. Though the figure in the original document applied to a "person," in other permutations, including my own, it's used for "African." Do Africans need less than North Americans?

Shocked by the information that filling up his fuel-efficient Honda Fit deprives someone somewhere of a half a meal (if the gas has five percent biofuel), Cosmo has given up driving and is trying to live on the 240 kg of corn, or 600 grams a day, of the World Bank estimate.

I took the easier route: I asked nutritionist and Guelph Councillor Maggie Laidlaw (who, conveniently enough, represents my ward. For easing this cartoonist's late-night research, she's got my vote.). Maggie graciously did the math and sent me this email:

The average adult North American female requires about 1800 kcal/day to maintain an average weight and the average adult male requires about 2400 kcals. That works out to an average of about 2100 kcals/day between the two sexes. 1 cup of corn weighs 164 g and contains 131 kcals of energy. Therefore, to get 2100 kcals, you would need to consume 2100 X (164/130) = 2629 g corn, which is 2.629 kg. That is the per day amount, so you need to multiply that by 365 to get the yearly amount, which gives you a value of about 960 kg.- in other words, way more than the African would require. Looking at it the other way, 240 kg would only keep the average North American going for 91 days. Is this what you needed?

Yes it is! Thanks Maggie! So, the it looks like the World Bank needs to go take Nutrition 101. Or perhaps they figure a starvation diet is what Africans "need."

So, I figure Cosmo is going to run out of both sexual energy and vegan fuel pretty soon. But we will take a break from his hunger strike. Next week, we visit Horst again and find out how his broken heart is faring.

One of my favourite columnists, whom I cite all the time, is George Monbiot. I'm a reformed vegetarian, and I eat chicken now and then (every week or so), and other meats once in a blue moon. I've long been aware of the environmental arguments against eating meat. Monbiot, among others, has put it in the biofuel context in this column.

As he says there,

Beef cattle eat about 8kg of grain or meal for every kilogramme of flesh they produce; a kilogramme of chicken needs just 2kg of feed.

However, he isn't a vegetarian, as he explains below, in a style that shows why I like his writing.

But I cannot advocate a diet I am incapable of following. I tried it for about 18 months, lost two stone, went as white as bone and felt that I was losing my mind. I know a few healthy-looking vegans and I admire them immensely. But after almost every talk I give, I am pestered by swarms of vegans demanding that I adopt their lifestyle. I cannot help noticing that in most cases their skin has turned a fascinating pearl grey.

He calculates a sustainable level of meat consumption and comes up with "420g of meat per person per week, or about 40% of the UK’s average consumption."



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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