A brief sneak-peek at one of the characters for my upcoming graphic novel on wolverine conservation:
Tentatively, this graphic novel is entitled ‘Enlightenment Junkies,’ which comes from an expression used by Dr. Susan Clark, who founded the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative and was my adviser at grad school. Susan began her career working with black footed ferrets, discovering a surviving population outside of Meeteesee, Wyoming, after the species was believed to be extinct. She soon realized that conservation involved more than simple scientific research, and shifted her focus to the field of policy sciences, which strives to understand systemic and governance issues that underlie many of the larger conservation challenges. In policy sciences parlance, people are understood to be governed primarily by eight values: wealth, security, power, rectitude, affection, well-being, skill, and enlightenment. The idea is, you can map your own or another person’s (or group’s) motivations by ranking what really drives them. Environmental advocacy groups, for example, are driven primarily by an interest in telling you how things ought to be (according to their vision) and this makes rectitude their motivating force. Corporations are interested in wealth, and politicians are generally interested in power. It’s crude, but it does offer you a method of organizing perspectives when you’re dealing with a bunch of people who come from very different standpoints. The larger point is the fact that while there are some environmental disputes that may be resolved purely through the use of science, science itself will not resolve anything if there are profound underlying values conflicts among groups of stakeholders. Climate change is the perfect example; the science is clear, but we can’t get anywhere because the raging debates about the validity of the science mask value disputes that no one is willing to address head-on. Conservation is rife with similar examples at various scales; we can talk about that later, and it’s a major theme in the comic book.
Amongst ourselves, jokingly, we sometimes refer to different groups as addicts to their chosen value – so advocacy groups of any stripe are generally ‘rectitude junkies,’ and we all know people who are either ‘power junkies’ or ‘affection junkies.’ Amongst ourselves, somewhat less jokingly and with a small degree of anxiety over our own intense dorkiness, we at NRCC have confessed that we are all primarily driven by enlightenment; that is, we value knowledge and the pursuit of knowledge over most other things, including, occasionally, our own well-being. We are the archetypal Enlightenment Junkies. And this is a comic book about what it takes to belong to that elite society, and to try to save the world when the world is merrily intent on skipping to its own destruction.