Is the energy transition funny? This cartoonist thinks so

Industry insider Wes Andrews’ Climatoonist pokes fun at climate and cleantech absurdity.

Supported by

  • Link copied to clipboard

Canary Media’s Friday Social column explores the intersection of energy, climate and social media. Canary thanks Silverline Communications for its support of the column.

In my first-ever newsletter for Canary, I joked that I had pitched an energy and climate meme category for the website and was shot down by Canary management. While that never actually happened, one thing I did pitch was a recurring New Yorker–style energy and climate cartoon feature.

Subscribe to receive Canary's latest news

The team was interested in the idea, but ultimately, it fell off the radar as we all pursued so many other projects.

A year later, I came across the Twitter account Climatoonist. Its bio reads, Cartoons from the front lines of the energy transition.” Its content, like that of satire site The Sunion, is clearly created by someone intimately involved in renewable energy projects.

a cartoon of people sitting on the beach looking out to sea with text A live look at U.S. developers waiting for solar panels
"Tariff Relief," Climatoonist.com

While we wait for the cartoon feature idea to climb the priority ladder at Canary, I figured I’d highlight the work of Climatoonist.

I reached out to its creator via Twitter direct message, and we later chatted on video.

Climatoonist is the work of Wes Andrews, a Texas-based renewable energy project developer with Torch Clean Energy. A lifelong doodler, Andrews originally considered pursuing art in college but ultimately ended up as an environmental science major. He was, however, able to scratch his artistic itch by drawing editorial cartoons for the University of Virginia’s student newspaper.

More recently, Andrews realized there was a gap in climate media.

He explains:

I felt like climate was a space that no one’s really doing cartoons about in a consistent and focused way. And I thought that I have a unique perspective as an industry insider and also being pretty passionate about cartooning and believing in the art form.

After our conversation, I can confirm that he is definitely an industry insider. He expounded on the recurring nightmares that project developers in Virginia have from losing acreage due to wetland delineation. This, we agreed, was probably too niche a topic for a cartoon.

Some of his cartoons are for a wider audience than just energy and climate professionals. As a project developer, he regularly works with community members who often have concerns about adding a large-scale renewable energy project in their town. 

Andrews elaborates:

The [energy] transition is playing out at a hyperlocal level, and the projects I work on — I don’t even talk about climate change. At that level, you’re talking about, like, somebody doesn’t want to see solar panels from their backyard. So it’s more about negotiating with them about how you can screen the project. Once that’s acceptable to them, you can get a project approved.
An angry woman holding a sign that says "Climate Action Now! As long as I can't see wind turbines from my beach house
"NIMBY 101," Climatoonist.com

I asked Andrews if he had a message for Canary’s audience. He talked about the importance of having a sense of humor, particularly in the face of challenges when working on renewable energy projects at the local level.

He went on:

Ultimately, it’s going to take a lot of unlikely alliances and collaboration to get projects built in a way that benefits everybody. The folks that have gone to bat with you on a project are often not the ones you’d expect. For example, in a very red county, you may have right-leaning people who are cheering you on to build your project because they see it as a business opportunity that will benefit their locality and landowners. And on the other side of the table might be an environmental organization that is more aligned conceptually with the idea of clean energy but is pushing back due to land-use restrictions, zoning or other reasons. It can be frustrating because it feels like we should be all pulling together, but I think it’s also really interesting, which has led to some of my sketches.
A man and woman survey wreckage. The woman says "you know, shadow flicker from those wind farms doesn't seem so bad anymore"
"Perspective," Climatoonist.com

While on the video call, Andrews showed me a sketch he was working on. It was of a homeowner who had recently installed solar on their rooftop, but instead of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, it was a concentrated solar power (CSP) plant.

I loved it. I’m sure I’m not the only one banging my head when I see mainstream media using stock photos of CSP plants while discussing solar PV projects. This is the same observation, but funnier.

I asked if we could publish the cartoon on Canary first, and the Climatoonist happily obliged.

Andrews said he’s influenced by Tom Fishburne’s Marketoonist, the frumpy characters and humor of Gary Larsons The Far Side, and many New Yorker cartoonists, especially George Booth.

Perhaps you’ll see some of that inspiration below in more cartoons from the Climatoonist. 

A woman says, "Cool wind farm! Will this power my hose soon?" A man says, "Nah, sorry, this is all for the metaverse."
"Hungry, Hungry Data Centers," Climatoonist.com
A woman at a lectern wearing a hard hat tells a small crowd: Who's ready to turn some sunshine into sweet, sweet tax dollars?
"Shine, Baby, Shine!" Climatoonist.com
Two men stand at a charcoal grill. One says: "Nothing says peak summer like a cookout during rolling blackouts!"
"Grid Growing Pains," Climatoonist.com
A man with a rope, shovel and bucket tells a woman, "If anyone needs me, I'll be out back sequestering carbon"
"Ecoxiety," Climatoonist.com
A man with label 'oil' says to a man labeled "utility-scale solar": Lemme guess, you thought they'd treat you like a hero.
"Solar Permitting Woes," Climatoonist.com

Follow Climatoonist on Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with the latest cartoons.

***

Silverline Communications, the supporter of this column, is a climatetech and ESG communications firm with deep experience in all facets of the clean economy. Learn more about how Silverline connects clients with stakeholders on social channels and beyond.

Mike Munsell is director of growth at Canary Media.