26 February 2021

#AntarcticLog: Canaries in the Coal Mine

Posted by Shane Hanlon

#AntarcticLog is a series of comics by Karen Romano Young. You can find the originals here

When it come to climate change and its impact on the animal world, there’s more than one “canary in the coal mine.” To mix a few potent metaphors, the dominoes are falling — and, if it’s true that God is in the details, it’s fair to say that individual animals help tell the story. As I work to make climate change science accessible and comprehensible through #AntarcticLog, I’ve found myself leaning on keystone species. The assortment featured here tell separate stories about the effects of global warming, and they add up to a clear picture of what’s happening. 

The story on which the first comic is based, of a wombat enduring Australian wildfires in early 2020, brings the threat of fire to life through one animal’s experience. 

Yes, polar glaciers are thawing, adding to sea level worldwide. But fresh water is also sequestered high in the mountains of the Himalayans, giving me plenty to yak about. 

And finally, there’s a story I’ve watched unfold in my own life… first, pelicans were threatened by DDT, and I grew up never seeing any on my favorite beach in Maryland. Then, because people changed the way they did things, brown pelicans rebounded. As I sat on the beach, flocks of pelicans fished the coast. Now they’re moving northward as new conditions shift their habitat. 

It seems like everyone I know has a story of some animal undergoing change or behaving differently on account of the climate. Tell me yours! 

Karen Romano Young is a writer, artist, deep-sea diver, and polar explorer. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram