I refuse to call the genre “graphic novel” because most of the graphic books I read are nonfiction.
It was the title, the past tense, of the book that drew my attention to it in the display. I checked it out, and only then saw that it was in graphic format. So I read it asking what the graphic structure provided that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Early on I noted a lot of talking-head frames. My first reaction was negative, but then I noticed that the faces were distinguishable. In fact there is a listing of sources by face as well as name and credential at the end of the book. Saves a lot of he said, she said and allows for an improved flow of information.
It also allows for some dramatic juxtapositions. In the biofuels section, a frame with a person filling a car, the hose comes from a malnourished woman and child instead of a pump. After a discussion of living on the amount of carbon that the earth can sustain per person and comparing it to poverty, the frame shows a homeless man against a wall with a Nike advertisement and the words, “Just do it.” When he talks about climate-change deniers, one frame’s illustration is of an old advertisement: The cigarette most doctors choose. And yes, a few frames later, it turns out that the scientists for each issue were the same.
The book is a survey of the science, the philosophy, and the politics of the climate issue, told as “a personal journey.” What does that decision gain? It keeps the science, etc, from existing as theory only. It invokes personal reaction. It admits ambiguity and conflict as one observes contradictions and limits.
Squarzoni covers natural and human made climate change and illustrates with graphs–graphs that are more integrated in the graphic format than they would be in text with inserted figures. He describes and critiques solutions, showing both their potential and limitations.He addresses personal and structural issues. Climate has already changed, he concludes; we cannot stop it, but can still mitigate its effects if we start soon enough. A paradigm shift is needed from individualism to the common good (of people and the environment). He is not overly optimistic, but neither is he entirely pessimistic.
There are several points where Squarzoni ponders how to begin, then later how to end. Each time the meaning is a bit different.