Being ‘proud’ of a comic about a threatening issue?
I released this comic with mixed feelings. On one hand, I am happy with how the comic turned out, as a piece of science communication. On the other hand, it is hard to be happy about the underlying premise of the comic, and the ramifications of Peak Oil for society.
Rest assured that I try to navigate a constructive way out of our mess, with the 3 other comics of my upcoming Thermoeconomics book.
Despite the implications of fossil fuel depletion, there are certain things I wanted to highlight as ‘pride points’ with Peak Oil.
Pride point #1: the sheer audacity
Peak Oil is a 120-page comic. It is a 20 minute reading experience in the era of clickbait and short attention spans.
I’m proud of myself for drawing it, and I’m proud of you for reading it. (And for reading these additional blog posts!)
Releasing Peak Oil to the world feels incredibly audacious. Like I’m doing something on my own terms.
It is a bit like how I imagine Bob Dylan felt when he wrote and released the double album Blonde on Blonde (1966). The album contains 73 minutes of new, original music, and is considered the first double album in the history of rock music.
Importantly, not only did Dylan have the audacity to write the double album, he had the audacity to release it. Releasing the album implied that he expected his listeners would have the patience to listen to the entire thing.
That is how I feel right now. I had the audacity to spend 12 months drawing this comic. Now I expect my readers to have the patience to spend 20 minutes reading the entire thing.
That’s right: I am Bob Dylan.
Pride point #2: another step towards the social tipping point for climate action
The evidence is overwhelming. Human activity is causing global warming. As George Monbiot said:
“[The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report is] perhaps the biggest and most rigorous process of peer review conducted in any scientific field, at any point in human history.”
Read that quote one more time, and consider the confidence with which scientists are telling us that we are risking the habitability of Earth. No matter what your climate-denying uncle says.
There are no more excuses. If we continue burning fossil fuels, we are destroying Earth’s future habitability in full knowledge of the facts.
Yet, despite this knowledge of global warming, public knowledge of Peak Oil remains low.
Peak Oil is hopefully the final nail in the coffin for many people who are still ambivalent about acting upon global warming.
The take-home message is: even if we wanted to continue burning increasing amounts of fossil fuels, Earth’s geology simply will not allow this to occur. So we must urgently transition toward renewable energy now.
Hopefully my comic plays some part in convincing people of the need to urgently deviate from our current fossil fuel trajectory.
Even if the news is scary, it is better to face the problem wide-eyed, rather than turn our backs on the issue.
Pride point #3: keeping the comic a secret until its release
I created and released Peak Oil without any sort of warning or pre-announcement.
Personally, I think it’s a nice change from the current trend of endlessly chattering about minute-to-minute details of works-in-progress. Or sending time-wasting “I have a surprise for you tomorrow…”-type announcements.
I simply waited until I had something to say, and said it.
Pride point #4: taking readers through the five stages of grief
Towards the end of the comic I take Hubbert on an emotional journey, as he realises that the roller-coaster is going to continue its downward trajectory forever.
Hubbert’s character displays emotions like denial, anger, and ultimately acceptance.
That is the mental journey that we must all take, upon fully appreciating the implications of Peak Oil and global warming.
The future won’t unfold quite as we’d expected.
We will need to change many of our plans.
There are limits to what is possible.
There are consequences to actions. And we need to face them.
I can vouch for feeling topsy-turvy after reading (the now-defunct) LifeAfterTheOilCrash.net in 2005. I spent many weeks in a funk, digesting the fact that the future wasn’t guaranteed to be rosy. For a 20th century kid used to things always automatically getting better, Peak Oil was a shocking concept.
With my comic, it was important that I pre-empt these human reactions in my readers. Peak Oil is about more than cold mathematical facts: it is about creating realistic expectations for the future. It is also about puncturing unrealistic expectations that are impossible in a post-petroleum future.
Hopefully I can fast-track readers through the troubling thoughts, and point them towards a constructive mindset. A realistic mindset that embraces our situation, and chooses to maximise the time and resources that we still have remaining.
There are options, there are solutions. But we will only look to them when we accept that business-as-usual cannot continue.
Pride point #5: making it freely available to all, in multiple languages
I didn’t draw Peak Oil to be a cult favourite for a select microaudience. I drew it to communicate the facts of Peak Oil to mainstream, everyday readers.
Despite the massive time and expense it took me to create the comic, I am glad that it is freely available to the web, and in multiple languages.
Despite the $0 price tag, I hope that my readers will pay me back for the comic, and complete the cycle of generosity. All funds that I recoup from Peak Oil PDF sales will be used to fund the creation of my three upcoming Thermoeconomics comics. Which I guarantee you will like.
A call for patrons
As the below video describes, I am currently drawing three other comics in a similar vein to Peak Oil.
Can you ‘pay it forward‘ toward your next stuartmcmillen.com comics-reading experience?
If so, please become a recurring monthly supporter via crowdfundstu.com. Thanks in advance!
Other ‘making of Peak Oil‘ articles
This is the final in a seven-part series covering various aspects of the comic’s creation process. Click here to read the others.