Conservation news

Audio: Margaret Atwood on her conservation-themed graphic novel, dystopian futures, and how not to despair

Today’s episode features best-selling author and environmental activist Margaret Atwood as well as the founder of a beverage company rooted in the Amazon whose new book details the lessons he’s learned from indigenous rainforest peoples.

Like our guest on the last episode of the Mongabay Newscast, Jane Goodall, our first guest on today’s episode probably needs no introduction. But here goes anyway: Margaret Atwood, whose novels and poetry have won everything from an Arthur C. Clarke Award for best Science Fiction to the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction, recently tackled a medium she is not as well-known for: comic books. Not only that, but she has written a comic book series, called Angel Catbird, that “was a conservation project from the get-go,” she told Mongabay. The graphic novel explicitly looks at the environmental impacts of pet cats, the plight of declining North American songbird populations, and other ecological concerns, within a really captivating story about a half-man, half-owl, half-cat superhero named Angel Catbird (and yes, he deliberately has three halves).

“We know that there are four big killers of especially migratory songbirds, but birds of all kinds, and they are pollution, habitat loss, glass window strikes, and cats,” Atwood says. “Conservation organizations have tiptoed around it, not wishing to alienate and infuriate cat-lovers. And since I have been a cat-lover and have had a number of cats, I understand that. So h ow better to address the problem than by creating a flying part cat, part bird, part human superhero who can understand both sides of this problem? It seemed obvious to me!”

Atwood discusses what motivated her to build environmental awareness through a comic book, what she hopes a work like that can achieve, and how it feels to see so many of the dystopian scenarios she has written about in the past creeping ever closer to becoming reality today.

Our second guest is Tyler Gage, co-founder of the beverage company Runa. After graduating from college, Gage moved to Ecuador and created Runa to sell products made from the guayusa leaf, a tree leaf found in the Amazon that has been brewed like tea for thousands of years. “Runa” is the word the indigenous Kichwa people use to describe the effects of drinking guayusa; it translates to “fully alive” — which also happens to be the name of a new book that Gage has just published detailing the lessons he learned in the Amazon that led to the launch of Runa and its mission to partner with indigenous communities in business.

Gage appears on the podcast today to tell us all about the book, Fully Alive: Using the Lessons of the Amazon to Live Your Mission in Business and Life, and what he hopes its readers take away from it.

Here’s this episode’s top news:

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Margaret Atwood. Photo by Liam Sharp.

Follow Mike Gaworecki on Twitter: @mikeg2001