This book was released five years ago, but it’s still great and still very timely and I want to promote it, so this is my short review of it.
As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial, by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan, Seven Stories Press, 2007.
As the World Burns is a graphic novel about a world becoming increasingly unlivable. Dams choke rivers and decimate fish populations, factories spew toxic garbage into the air and water and soil, and enormous swaths of open space disappear to the death-marching “progress” of industrial civilization (sound familiar?). And we’re supposed to fight this death machine by recycling? Taking shorter showers? All the while, aliens from outer space have descended, and bought off the rights to what’s left of Planet Earth’s natural resources from the torture-loving, zombie-faced U.S. President in exchange for large amounts of gold. The aliens begin gorging themselves—literally—on the forests, rocks, mountains, fish, and everything else in the natural world until almost nothing is left. And the president’s corporate masters are not happy about it…
The novel traces the philosophical evolutions of many disparate human characters—young adults, mainstream environmentalists, a nature-loving wanderer who may or may not be Derrick Jensen—and how they come together, both conceptually and physically, to rise up with appropriate levels of resistance and stop those who are killing the planet. For the nonhumans, there is never any question. The crows, the polar bears, the raccoons and fish and one-eyed “vicious terrorist” bunny who escaped from a vivisection lab, don’t have the luxury of waiting patiently for the revolution to come, for the shackles of civilization to be gradually lifted. They don’t have air conditioning, water filters, or laws to protect them; they feel the brutal effects of industry and human development every day, in their bodies, in their psyches. For those with the steel-toed Shaq-boot of civilization on their necks, there is no tomorrow.
As the World Burns is a gripping, hilarious, heartbreaking tale. I cheered and I cried when the one-eyed bunny returns to the vivisection lab and exacts revenge on his tormentors. We could all learn something from the “terrorist” bunny, and the rest of the nonhumans in the story. They never stop to question whether their actions are “moral,” legal, or fit into a rigid dogmatic philosophical doctrine (also a product of civilization, a concern that just doesn’t exist in the natural world). Freedom is all that matters.
As the World Burns is rife with Jensen’s acerbic wit. McMillan’s drawings are fabulous, too. It is necessarily less in depth than Jensen’s usual long, winding, piercing analyses. In a way, this is a blessing, since this makes it much more accessible to those not well-versed in anti-civ ideas. Get a copy, spend a few hours being entertained and inspired, and then pass it around to your friends. You just might plant the seeds of revolution.
You can buy it from your local used book store, or directly from Derrick Jensen (and check out his great website while you’re at it!).