Amelia's Anthology of Illustration
by Amelia Gregory
Anyone who has argued with climate change deniers knows that explaining the science is hard work. Its complexity can be baffling, and scientific experts have an unfortunate tendency to misunderstand the importance of communicating their ideas, believing that their data and their authority are sufficient to merit public trust. That may explain why a simple slide show, accessibly presenting complex ideas and attempting to make an emotional connection with its audience, made Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth such an unlikely success. Images wield tremendous power to inspire.
But if the science can be tough, explaining how the potential technologies of renewable energy involve far more than solar panels and wind turbines is an even tougher sell, particularly as the carbon-consuming and nuclear industries have succeeded in portraying renewables as marginal contributors to our overall energy consumption. That probably explains why this Anthology of Illustration, edited by designer and Climate Camp activist Amelia Gregory, is self-published. I can't imagine a mainstream publisher having the slightest idea how to squeeze a profit from sales of the closest thing I've seen to one of those 'Bumper Books of Knowledge' that I remember from childhood, but devoted to renewable technologies.
Gregory has commissioned 40 artists and illustrators to try to explain creatively the range and diversity of ideas - from bio wave power to Gorlov's helical turbine (a horizontal axis hydroelectric water turbine, which sounds insanely like a giant egg whisk but has been deployed successfully by the Korean government) - through a series of ingenious and wonderful drawings and illustrations. Not everything works; a couple of contributions confuse more than they illuminate. But most does, and the book is also a celebration of the illustrator's art - containing interviews with each of the contributors and other examples of their work, including the artwork for last summer's Climate Camp at Blackheath.
The Anthology of Illustration tries to take technologies often seen as difficult, cold and utilitarian and make them colourful, emotional and inspiring. No one else, as far as I know, has even considered this necessary or important; and for that, this vibrant, strange book deserves a wider audience.
Kevin Blowe is a community centre worker and activist in Newham, east London.