Hear from founder of Rewriting Extinction!
Paul, what led you to start Rewriting Extinction?
I started from the position of trying to reach audiences who aren't engaging with environmentalism, because we all need to be in this together, and there's so many people who are on the outside at the moment. So then I thought to myself, how can we help people care and love animals and species? Comics, which can go anywhere, any time and put words and ideas into the mouths of anyone and anything - are perfect.
They also are great at distilling complex messages, and they do incredibly well on social media... so the answer was staring me in the face and we've had over 125m views on our comics, and got listed as a Sunday Times Book of the Year and a bestseller - so I think it's really worked! (Also, I'm a MASSIVE comics fan!).
What does being a good human look like for you?
For me, being a good human means doing as little harm as you can, and taking the time to learn what harm you've been unconsciously doing that's harmful, and dealing with it. It's that simple for me.
What I do is think about the impact of my actions. I just ask myself "would I want to be on the other end of this?" - so whether it's plastic pollution, animal cruelty, racism or abuse, you soon find yourself making much better choices and it feels GREAT.
What's something you've learnt on your journey with Rewriting Extinction that you think Earthly Education's audience would benefit from knowing?
We all can make a much bigger difference than we'll ever know just by talking to people. We need conversations about the planet to be as normal as people swapping exercise advice and tips; and we need to be as inclusive as possible, and welcome any and everyone who wants to help, and not judge their past. If they're ready to listen, let's all talk.
As a specific example, I've found I get messaged regularly by people who've read our comics but have never heard of things I would consider to be popular knowledge... things like palm oil deforestation, bycatch, factory farming etc.
Because our comics aren't factual, scientific or judgemental and they're (mostly) funny, they're an easy 'way in' for people. And because we don't judge them, they feel comfortable asking for more information. For me, that is my proudest achievement: the moment when I hear that someone now knows about something like bycatch and is ready to make a change... and anyone can do that, just by talking to others.
Do you experience climate anxiety and if so, what does it look like for you and how do you handle it?
Crikey YES! All the time. Because of what I do, which is work as an editor or writer on all the stories we make, it means I read and hear about hundreds of horror stories of the planet that haunt me. But, to be honest, those hurt me terribly, but nothing breaks my heart like my friend Jenny Jinya and her stories, which make them more real for me than any article or video.
I often find I look around the world and see nothing but laziness and ambivalence towards saving the planet. But then I remind myself, if you go to a party, the only person you tend to remember is the loud mouthed drunk making a massive mess... you never remember the people quietly having a great time without hurting anyone. And that reminds me, that reminds me that good behaviour isn't as visible as bad behaviour, and for every person you see doing bad, there's a hundred doing good and changing their lives in a hundred ways for the better.
I'd also say, I've seen incredible change happening. In just the last few years, I've witnessed it with my own eyes in so many ways. A few years ago, I could barely get businesses and media to pay any attention - but now, they're all falling over themselves to listen and do better. Change WILL happen, and it'll happen quickly. Our role is to make sure that we help accelerate it so it happens sooner.
(Paul would also like to say, a major support mechanism for him is the Rewriting Extinction team. They're a collection of volunteers who are giving up their time day after day to fight for this planet and they work so, so hard, and they're the ones who keep him moving when everything seems too much to manage. So he says a massive thank you to them. To Sarah for being the best friend and partner in this journey anyone could imagine, to Vera and Katie who are behind all Rewriting Extinction's marketing and socials and blow him away every day, to Camilla who has stoked media interest across the planet and raised more awareness than he could ever imagine, to Marie and their charity partners for saving so many species from extinction and ensuring what they do matters, and lastly but not least, to Cornelia, Tasmin, Jamie and Poem for making the comics and content that have allowed us reach and impact so many people. They keep Paul going in so many ways and deserve so much of the credit.)