Burnin’ For You
The cartoon I chose to analyze is titled “When bodies start stacking up from climate change-related disasters, will these monsters be held to account”, Jim Morin. Date of original publication was 9, Aug 2018 for the Miami Harold. Morin has a large collection of political cartoons and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996.
I decided on this topic specifically because climate change is threatening the future of earth as a habitable planet largely due to the overuse of fossil fuels. The judgment the cartoon is making is a claim of fact that big billionaire business leaders are exploiting devastating amounts of fossil fuels to gain profits while the levels of greenhouse gases build and cause global temperatures to rise. In a perfect world, this level of greed would be considered insane when we know what the business-as-usual future holds. The cartoonist uses pathos to purposefully conjure up feelings of fear for the non-reversible damages of climate change due to the over use of fossil fuels, and anger towards the big business’s that profit at the expense of a threatened extinction.
Global warming is largely due to the production of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide which is released by burning fossil fuels. These fuels are derived from fossils of plants and animals that are buried deep in earth’s sediment and most prominently found in the form of coal and oil. We rely on fossil fuels to produce the energy we use for our everyday activities from the moment we wake up to when we go to sleep. Mellisa Denchak wrote an article about “The Dirty
Facts” of fossil fuel use. She states, “even today, oil, coal, and gas serve about 80 percent of our energy needs.”(Denchak.) This is an extremely large number to have when we know that there are alternative ways to get all the energy we need to survive, like wind and solar power.
[Denchak] also mentions coal being the biggest release of carbon: “Indeed, in terms of emissions, it’s the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel we can burn”(Denchak). The article then goes on to state the repercussions of the overuse of detrimental fossil fuels. One example is water pollution. Denchak writes, “Meanwhile, all drilling, fracking, and mining operations generate enormous volumes of >wastewater, which can be laden with heavy metals, radioactive materials, and other pollutants. Industries store this waste in open-air pits or underground wells that can >leak or >overflow into waterways and contaminate aquifers with pollutants linked to cancer, birth defects, neurological damage, and much more.”(Denchak.)Water pollution effects the human race as well as contributing to land and marine animal extinction. When oil spills into the ocean, the water becomes an acidic dead zone and no animals can survive in those dead zones.
In the cartoon, there is a depiction of a tiny version of Earth burning on a stick over a billowing fire. The artist's impression looks similar to a marsh mellow roasting over a campfire. The area of the fire takes over half of the image and is heavily inked which gives the reader insight to the oppression that the planet is being subjected to because of global warming.
This [imagery] gives readers a perspective on the risks of global warming and wildfires. Earth is in a state of alarm with high rates of wildfires and deforestation across the globe. The burning of fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases which warm global temperatures and cause climates to be drier and increases the risks of drought and wildfires. Raymond Zhong writes about global warming and the connection with wildfires: “the extreme heat wave in the Pacific Northwest last year almost certainly would not have occurred without planetary warming caused by greenhouse-gas emissions.” (Zhong.) This statement entails the perils of carbon dioxide emissions which are largely due to the use of fossil fuels.
The other half of the cartoon is largely representing the big business side of fossil fuel use and the billionaires that profit from this nonrenewable resource. A very large heavy-set man is depicted holding the stick that an extremely small earth is roasting on. In his other hand is a substantially huge bag labeled “fossil fuels” with a dollar sign which is symbolically supposed to be a massive bag of money.
The man seems to be in a trance because he has white eyes and a devilish grin on his face. He is morbidly obese because of his greed being so great. He has words in red coming out of his mouth that read, “BURN, BABY, BURN!” This use of words in red looks devilish to me and is working to show the carelessness that big business leaders have when it comes to climate change and the addiction that these billionaires have to the use of fossil fuels because of the drastic amounts of money they make from it.
Research has been done to show that billionaires have a larger consumer carbon footprint than the rest of the of the population. Jason Hickel who researches ecological economics writes about the 1% of the population contributing extreme levels of carbon emissions: “The richest 10% of the world’s population is responsible for more than half the world’s total carbon emissions since 1990” (Hickel). He says that this is because, “it’s not only that rich people consume more stuff than everybody else, but also because the stuff they consume is more energy-intensive: huge houses, big cars, private jets, business-class flights, long-distance holidays, luxury imports and so on.” This information is alarming because we need to lower our emissions to create a safer planet for all of us, including the richest of the rich in this world.
In conclusion, the cartoonist effectively uses pathos to frighten and anger viewers when they see the fact that big businesses are contributing largely to climate change because of their
use of fossil fuels. The cartoonist also captivates the audience with persuasion to believe that big business leaders profit from the detrimental threat of extinction from climate change. Global warming is largely due to the use of fossil fuels and we all need to work to reduce our carbon footprint to reduce water pollution, deforestation, and wildfires. Research has shown that billionaires contribute more than half of the world's emissions and they should be held accountable for their actions. We need to open our eyes and minds to the fight against climate change if we want the future of our planet to be habitable, and rely on more renewable energy and less fossil fuels.
Hickel, Jason. “We Can't Have Billionaires and Stop Climate Change.” The Correspondent, 9
Oct. 2020, https://thecorrespondent.com/728/we-cant-have-billionaires-and-stop-climate-
Zhong, Raymond. “Climate Scientists Warn of a 'Global Wildfire Crisis'.” The New York Times,
The New York Times, 23 Feb. 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/23/climate/climate-change-un-wildfire-report.html.
June 01, 2022 Melissa Denchak. “Fossil Fuels: The Dirty Facts.” NRDC, 1 June 2022,
About the Writer
Christina Walsh is a second year student at Mission College. She is majoring in English and has hopes to become a writer and an English Professor here at Mission in the future. She wants to apply for Stanford and UC Berkeley next year for the Fall 2024 school year.