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In As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial, authors Derrick Jenson and Stephanie McMillan create a clever comic essay to capture their youthful audience into imminent environmental issues. First published in 2007, their essay contains bantering between two young girls which engages the audience into a statistically dominated argument on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to save the planet. However, the statistics show that minor lifestyle changes will not have a lasting impact. Then, with input from many pleading species of animals and a native person, a resolution to change is decided upon.
Big business, industrialism, over-population and a modern technical society are portrayed as the main problems. The authors present a strong message to future generations on environmental issues, using a comic style with young children as the main characters, native peoples and pleading animals, and repetition with emotional and ethical appeals to the readers.
The authors use a comic style which is well suited to the intended audience.
The girls’ bantering back and forth to solve the world environmental issues appeals to youth, through the knowledge of one girl and the idealism of the other. One is idealistic and the other a brainy one. The authors cleverly use children to get the message across of our environmental imbalance. In one scene’s caption the light hair girl says,” And the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. And it all keeps killing the planet”. Some may find that Jensen and McMillan’s pictures and text are simplistic and annoyingly over-done.
The bantering and pleading may put-off some readers. This comic technique has not-so-subtle innuendoes of politics and anti-establishment. A good example of this is the cow who remarks “And recognize your real enemies: production, the system that requires, the people in power who keep it running.”
The use of native people and pleading animals is also an effective technique. This is especially evident when a crow brings various species of animals to the discussion with the girls. A rapid succession of pleas are written, a good example is a heron saying, “Fight with all your heart” and a toad’s exclamation of “It may even be too late.” These statements conjure-up emotions due to the visual impacts and words on the reader. The native person suggests that their land should be returned to them, in its original, pristine state.
The third part of the author’s message is delivered through repetition and emotional appeal. Through the voices of children and soon to appear various species of life, the pleas are unrelenting and repetitive. People like children and animals; this is a good avenue to gain immediate attention to the audience. The anxiety of simply living in today’s world is brought forth by the authors in the girls’ reaction to giving up their standard of living in these statements: “We don’t know how to live without these things.” and “We’ll die without them”. These examples are one way that the authors pull the audience into an emotional state of guilt.
Authors Jenson and McMillan successfully deliver an environmental message using a comic style with young children, pleading animals and native people, and a repetitive, emotional appeal. The criticisms of government and politics are craftily woven into the essay especially for the desired audience. The tone of this essay is emotional and authoritative; only if the reader does what is suggested by the animals will the world survive. The repetition of the animals’ emotional pleading has a lingering effect on its readers. How can one resist pleading animals? The essay’s ending makes the reader feel that there is acceptance by all parties of the need to change and all will be in harmony. The author’s succeed in communicating a message of hope: we can save the planet if we work together in harmony with nature. Jenson and McMillan’s essay did a fine job in communicating their thoughts and imparting the urgency of our need to change our behaviors for the environment now.
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