Adrian Raeside on the environment

There is nothing funny about environmental concerns, so it might seem odd that over the past 40 years, one of our most outspoken advocates for sustainability has been cartoonist Adrian Raeside.

But let’s be clear: The cartoons that appear on editorial pages are not like the ones on comics pages. Comics are supposed to make you laugh; cartoons are supposed to make you think. Cartoons can cut to the chase in a way that news stories or columns cannot.

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Raeside’s work first appeared in the Daily Colonist in 1979, and after a break of a few years, we have been using his cartoons again. (Basically, I am trying to get a measure of reader interest in them.)

For the past 20 years, climate change has been at the top of his mind. Through the years, however, Raeside has dealt with many issues he felt strongly about, including over-fishing, poor logging practices, the seal hunt and animal rights. And Clayoquot Sound. We can’t forget what happened there.

“It was the 1993 Clayoquot Sound logging protests on the west coast, where grandmothers were being arrested for preventing a logging company access to an old-growth forest, that really excited me,” Raeside says. “I pitched the TC’s editor-in-chief with the crazy idea of sending a cartoonist to cover a news event.

“I must have caught him at a weak moment because a few days later, I arrived in Tofino with my sketch pads and watercolours (this was before computers) to witness every morning, scores of folks of all ages and walks of life sitting on a dirt road, being removed by the RCMP and hauled off to jail in buses.

“They didn’t shout or resist, they just sat quietly, waiting to be arrested. It was a most extraordinary sight and by the end of the summer, more than 800 people were arrested.

“Those 800 people were the catalyst to the change in attitudes towards how we were treating our environment in the province. And from then on, my environmentally themed cartoons became more prevalent.”

One of Raeside’s frequent targets was Mike Harcourt, the premier at the time of the protests, who had sided with the logging company.

“I skewered Harcourt mercilessly in cartoons,” Raeside told me. “Years later, I met him and he seemed pleased to see me. He gave me a bone-crushing handshake, leaned in to me and said: ‘I hope that’s your drawing hand.’ ‘Sorry Mike,’ I said, ‘I’m left-handed.’ ”

We are featuring a selection of Raeside’s work on the environment over the years. They reflect his strong views on the topics at hand and, we hope, provoke a bit more thought about where we are headed.

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