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April 04, 2013

Colorado Activist 'Tooned In

Colorado native Jim Anderson, a volunteer leader with the Sierra Club's Rocky Mountain Chapter, gives voice to his activism in an unconventional way: cartooning for the chapter's Peak & Prairie newsletter.


A graphic designer and a commercial and editorial artist by trade, Anderson's corporate graphic design job was "outsourced" in 2011. He chose to turn the situation into a positive.

"I've been a Sierra Club member since 1996," he says. "When my job was outsourced it finally gave me the time to volunteer. It was a great opportunity to work for a good organization that mirrored my values and interests, and to collaborate with intelligent, hard-working people. And it allowed me to reboot my cartooning, which had been on very long hiatus while I made a living and raised a family."

The result is "'True' Tales of Eco-Disaster," a monthly cartoon feature in Peak & Prairie.


"Doing environmental editorial cartoons for the Sierra Club is sort of preaching to the choir," Anderson says, "but my hope is that readers will look at my 'toons, have a chuckle, and continue on with their activism with a bit more enthusiasm."


"Cartoons and humor in general can be a way to raise issues while entertaining," he says. "Perhaps some people who are not presently environmentally concerned will see the cartoons and become more aware of the issues I present. And that's a good first step to becoming involved. And we all need to be involved -- saving the environment is not only a moral issue, but one of enlightened self-interest."


Anderson's grandparents were farmers on Colorado's Western Slope, and late in life his grandfather worked for the local soil conservation district. "I observed that one could make a living from the land and have a good life by living frugally, both in an environmental and a financial sense," he says. "I saw that proper practices could preserve the environment and that individuals and government could work together to accomplish this."

For family vacations, Anderson and his wife and kids threw their camping gear into the car and took off to explore different national and state parks. "I feel an obligation to see these treasures preserved for future generations of Americans," he says.

Anderson was also inspired by his uncle John Wade, an activist Presbyterian minister whom he greatly admired, who was very involved with the Sierra Club. "His example made me look at volunteering there," Anderson says. "Over my life, I've seen this state grow and change, and not necessarily for the better. I've seen the population grow tremendously, and I've seen a lot of 'empty' natural spaces filled in with urban growth. Growth can't be stopped, but it ought to be managed in a sustainable and decent manner."


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