You have definitely, CERTAINLY, seen one of Dan Piraro’s comics. His art is published daily in over 360 newspapers. We caught up with Dan after watching one of his latest comics go viral. His new take on the “evolution of man” image tells a story we are all too familiar with and begs us to take a minute to think about what we might do for our Earth today. Read more about what inspired this comic, how Dr. Jane and Roots & Shoots inspires Dan, and how you can put your creativity to work for causes that you care about…
Q: We love this image! Were you surprised to see that it went viral? Why do you think so many people are engaging with it?
A: I've written/drawn/published over 10,000 cartoons since Bizarro was first syndicated in 1985 and this one stands out as one of my all-time favorites. It isn't "funny" per se, but it is poignant and the message could not be more timely. For centuries, we have considered ourselves to be the most successful species that ever lived by virtue of our highly versatile brains. It is true that no other species has dominated the planet and altered its environment as effectively as humans have, but if the resulting world that our big-brains have created ends up poisoning us to the point of extinction after only a few million years on Earth, one could argue that we will have actually been the least successful species to have ever lived. As things stand now, we are well on our way to "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory," as the saying goes. The fact that this image is so simple, familiar, and without language, makes it instantly understood by anyone, regardless of their cultural origin or native language.
Q: What are you hoping people feel...or do...when they see this image?
A: My greatest hope for this image is that it will remind people that the planet and its flora and fauna are not here for us as much as with us. We are all on a tiny ship floating in an infinite sea and our habit of drilling holes in the bottom of the boat has got to stop.
Q: What inspired you to use your creative talents to speak on behalf of causes you believe in?
A: A syndicated cartoonist whose work appears seven days a week has to create 365 new ideas each year. When you're on this kind of relentless schedule, everything that crosses your mind is inspected for possible cartoon ideas. Since environmental stewardship is a concern of mine, it ends up in my cartoons from time to time in one form or another, as do all of the other issues I care about. I don't think of it as preaching or evangelizing, as much as hoping that my cartoons make people think about important things and come to their own conclusions.
Q: Why do you think comics are a good medium for spreading this type of message?
A: I've long believed that humor is a terrific way to introduce ideas that people may not be comfortable with. A bit like the cherry flavoring of cough syrup.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists who might want to use their creations to promote causes? Dr. Jane often talks about how every individual makes a difference. How can young people perhaps use art to make a difference?
A: In my opinion, the best thing any creative person can do is create on a regular basis, and create from the heart. Don't think about who will see it or what message you might be sending, just create regularly and from your heart. Write songs you want to listen to, paint or draw pictures you want to look at, write things you would like to read. Then toss it out into the world (easy nowadays with the Internet) and see how people react. You can't control how people will view your creations, just put them out there and let the chips fall where they may. That's the creative process in a nutshell.
Q: You’ve inspired us with your illustrations, how has Dr. Jane inspired you?
A: Dr. Goodall's dedication to her career is profound and rare. Anytime the world can witness a person applying herself to a single endeavor over a period of decades, it inspires the rest of us to ask ourselves "is there anything so important to me that I could dedicate my life to it?" If not, why not?
Q: How did you hear about Roots & Shoots?
A: I've been a fan of Dr. Goodall's work all my adult life but it was my domestic partner, Christy Higgins, who told me about Roots & Shoots. We both believe that educating the coming generations is among the most effective ways to improve the world.
You can get Dan’s comic on a t-shirt and be a walking reminder that humans ought to be kinder to the Earth. Because Dan believes in the work that YOU are doing, he is donating 20% of t-shirt sales to the Jane Goodall Institute! Join us in sending a big “THANK YOU” to Dan and Christy for their donation - we’re excited to welcome them into the Roots & Shoots global family.