An interview with cartoonist Kate Beaton on the environmental aspects of her graphic novel "Ducks"

Originally published at: An interview with cartoonist Kate Beaton on the environmental aspects of her graphic novel "Ducks" | Boing Boing


Another great book on the town-sized construction zone that was Ft. McMurray, get “Boom!” by Tony Horwitz, the great author of “Confederates in the Attic”. Tony died recently, tragically young, but leaves some great observations.

“Ducks” was about a farce in another way. The oil sands are obviously terrible for the environment, which is also true of every other mine that digs up toxic earth from far below the biosphere. Iron and copper mines are similar environmental disasters.

But the ducks were about 2000 ducks, all told, and aggrieved oil defenders pointed out that the offices of the newspaper printing the story, routinely killed 6000 birds per year with their windows, a part of the 100 million dead every year from house and office windows, and another 100 million from cats.

We are really only good at seeing other people’s impacts on the environment.


In case it wasn’t clear, Ducks is an excellent book and everyone should read it. I finished it a couple of weeks ago and scenes from it still haunt me. Kate Beaton is a marvel.


You’re ignoring the other environmental and social impacts she discusses, including on first nations people, which she goes into towards the end - from the words of First Nations activists. Also, check out some of that in the work of Joe Sacco in his book Paying the Land:

The larger point is that all of capitalism is a destructive system. Pointing out specific environmental impacts from on sector of the economy doesn’t mean every thing else is okay, nor did she imply that. Yes, we should have specific discussions on industries like the energy industry, because of how it shapes many aspects of our infrastructure and society.

It’s part of larger set of problems with modernity - which was her point, I think.


Ducks is fantastic, and I’m so glad to see it get eyeballs here.

I say this as an Albertan– the oilsands are an abomination that need to be ended as quickly as possible. If you think drilling for oil is bad for the planet, oilsands processing is a whole other level. It makes old fashioned oil drilling look like solar panels handcrafted by lambs and wood nymphs. For every bucket of oilsands dug out and processed, two thousand polar bears die. Probably. This shit is bad. It’s so bad that it wouldn’t even be profitable except that climate change has ironically driven the cost of oil so high that the oilsands are now worthwhile. Back in the 1980s nobody thought that was ever gonna happen. There’s more oil in those sands than in all of OPEC combined, but it’s incredibly environmentally disastrous to extract it.

Canada as a whole is doing well on decarbonizing, largely because we’re 80% hydro, so we didn’t have far to go. The only coal left is in Alberta and natural gas is on its way out soon.

The problem? America wants oil real bad and Alberta likes money real bad. Instead of grappling with climate change and working to shift to other industries, Alberta is instead tunneling down the conservative populist rabbit hole full of conspiracy theories and secessionist rhetoric. It’s the same things American conservatives are doing to avoid confronting their real problems.



“Ducks” is a great book, also worth mentioning that her previous webcomic “Hark, a Vagrant”, is a treasure.


Also Pinecone and Pony, on AppleTV+

As a fan of Hark! A Vagrant! I gave it a shot. My excuse being that as a newly minted grandpa I need to know which shows I can let the rugrat watch when his parents come to visit me.


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