THOUGHT BUBBLE 2023! The most worrying thing about climate change is that we may already be beyond the point of no return in combatting humanity’s greatest existential threat. With vested interests fighting against ecological protest for their own agendas, and governments in thrall to corporate greed reluctant to act, it has increasingly fallen to younger voices to convey the message that we are living on a planet rapidly approaching environmental collapse. Emma Reynolds’ Drawn to Change the World, published by HarperCollins, sees 16 youth climate activists and 16 comics artists coming together to explore this crisis from a wide range of diverse and international perspectives.
Reynolds herself is the founder of #KidLit4Climate, described as “the first global illustrated climate campaign” and is an award-winning illustrator/author in her own right. Drawn to Change the World is an appropriately uncompromising book, unafraid to criticise and apportion blame where due. Indeed, Reynolds’ introduction will no doubt resonate in particular with UK readers when she speaks of the current corrupt UK Conservative government’s complicity in the crisis.
Packed with accompanying non-comics information in the form of infographics, essays, interviews, a comprehensive glossary, and a section on steps to take in terms of the reader’s own activism, this isn’t simply a comics anthology. It’s a plea for change, a rallying cry to young people to take the future in their own hands, and a reminder that community activism can make a valid contribution to a better future for all.
Art by Gloria Felix
Each of the short comics herein spotlights the work of a specific youth activist from around the world matched up with an artist, and followed up by an update on their current efforts. It’s a hugely impressive set of accounts of young people striving to make a difference. Autumn Peltier, for example, whose story (illustrated with great clarity and empathy by Natasha Donovan) concerns the lack of access to clean water for Indigenous peoples in Canada, and whose protesting would go on to see her speaking at the United Nations general assembly.
While Greta Thunberg, the powerhouse young campaigner of our times, gets her own entry (illustrated by Reynolds herself), it’s the stories of the voices that may be new to the reader that will, perhaps, most capture the imagination. India’s Ridhima Pandey, who in the wake of devastating flash floods and aged just 9 took legal action against the Indian government for failing to take the requisite action to fight climate change (illustrated by Shivana Sookdeo whose visual characterisation adds extra layers to this tale); Russia’s Arshak Makichyan who relentlessly campaigns to raise awareness in a country where protest is suppressed (with sensitively framed art by Margarita Kukhtina); or Uganda’s Leah Namugerwa whose mission to plant a billion trees is matched with the vibrant visuals of Natasha Nayo.
Art by Anoosha Syed
Drawn to Change the World is one of those key projects that comes along every so often that reminds us of just what a powerful medium comics is in communicating ideas and disseminating important messages. This is a truly inspirational anthology and all credit to Emma Reynolds for being the driving force behind it.
Emma Reynolds, Ann Maulina, Natasha Donovan, Teo DuVall, Devon Holzwarth, Erin Hunting, Margarita Kukhtina, Victoria Maderna & Federico Piatti, Shivana Sookdeo, Anoosha Syed, Jade Zhang, Derick Brooks, Gloria Félix, Natasha Nayo, Bill Masuku • HarperCollins/HarperAlley, £8.99
Emma Reynolds is at Table B68-A in the Dstlry Hall at Thought Bubble 2023
Review by Andy Oliver