Get a grip on the natural world with this beautiful manual for the planet

Without functioning ecosystems, "everyone's poop would be everywhere," says Rachel Ignotofsky, the author and artist behind the new book The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth . "The world does not work if things do not break down," she says.

It is one of the many benefits that human beings obtain from our environment that explore the pages covered by Ignotofsky. The book covers the ecosystems of the whole world, reducing the complex trophic networks to the size of the bottles of the specimens. "It was kind of a whimsical idea that if it was small enough to see, then you could understand it and take care of it as easily as you could care for a fish in your aquarium or a plant on your desk," Ignotofsky said. The Verge .

Published by Ten Speed ​​Press, the new book will be available on September 18. It is written at the middle school level, says Ignotofsky, but he expects the book to be accessible to all ages and backgrounds. "It's like a reinvented textbook," she says. "But really, it's just a beautiful and illustrated journey through our world."

The ecosystem of the Arctic Circle.
Reprinted with permission from The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth, by Rachel Ignotofsky, copyright © 2018 Rachel Ignotofsky. Published by Ten Speed ​​Press, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

The stops on that trip include explanations of how carbon, water and nutrients pass through our environment. That could sound as dry as a middle school science class, but Ignotofsky encourages the concepts by illustrating them, showing how coal moves through a sheep eating grass, pooping on the ground and exhaling into the ground. air. That is one of the few sections where illustrations are not contained in a jar or terrarium, a visual theme that otherwise extends through the pages. "The metaphor throughout this book is that the Earth is precious and needs our protection," says Ignotofsky. "And it's in the palm of our hands."

The Verge spoke with Ignotofsky about velvet worms, how art is like a scab and why mistakes are a key part of the style.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

What drove you to write a book about the planet?

There were two main things. One is the largest and largest, and I think the biggest problem we face is climate change and the excessive use of our limited natural resources. And the first step to adequately protect our planet is to educate people about exactly how it works, how energy and matter move through our environment and why it is important to protect them. Secondly, writing Women in Science and learning about some of the great conservationists throughout history, such as Rachel Carson, Sylvia Earle, Jane Goodall and Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and how the public could see their investigation. powerful people So I hope that this little book of cartoons comes to the hands of as many people as possible and they are excited to learn.

The tropical Andes.
Reprinted with permission from The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth, by Rachel Ignotofsky, copyright © 2018 Rachel Ignotofsky. Published by Ten Speed ​​Press, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

What is your favorite page?

That is a difficult question. I do not want to choose between my children. But I will say that one of my favorites to draw and learn should be the temperate tropical forest of Tasmania, mainly because the fun facts about the animals were just great. I could not stop watching videos of little Tasmanian demons screaming. And I think my favorite animal of all time is on that page: the velvet worm.

The velvet worm is what we should all aspire to be. One: they are, like, older than dirt. They are living fossils, and they are still doing their thing. Two: they are matriarchal and hunt in packs like wolves. And they cover their prey in disgusting slobber that shoots out of their face, and I'm like, "These fierce and wise old queens are doing their thing, still moving in the temperate rainforest of Tasmania"

which section kept you awake at night?

The phosphorus and nitrogen cycles. I had it quadrupled by a group of scientists, a group of teachers. The nitrogen cycle is such a complicated cycle, and I am trying to get it so that even a second-grade child can understand all the different routes that nitrogen must take so that plants can access it. Just explaining that kept me awake at night.

It's really important. It is easy to look around nature and say: "This is very beautiful". This is so majestic. "But in reality, every day, the cycles of life and death, the relationships between the predator and the prey, the way life has evolved at this time on this planet, allows us to be The only reason we have access to some of the basic components of life is due to the small microbes that are on the ground, so I hope that all the hard work I did to explain these complicated cycles will allow people understand a little more deeply why these animals and plants and all this biodiversity is so important.

The carbon cycle.
Reprinted with permission from The Wonderful Operation of Planet Earth, by Rachel Ignotofsky, copyright © 2018 Rachel Ignotofsky, published by Ten Speed ​​Press, a division of Penguin Random House LLC

How do you approach the illustrations?

Actually, I am very old compared to other art. istes at this time. First I use it in Adobe Illustrator, and I expose it with basic forms: where the type will go, what size the type will be, where all the information will be placed. There is so much information on each page, and the hierarchy of information is so important to me. Then, I printed it, and I use a Micron pen and a tracing paper, and I draw with my own hands all the little happy faces and the squirrels and the skulls.

Then, I take it to the computer, and clean it up. Basically I'm using Photoshop as if it were Microsoft Paint. But the reason why I still do so much by hand are those happy accidents, and I do not want to lose my mistakes completely. Especially with going completely digital, I think it is very easy to make your things look homogenized and like those of others. And at the end of the day, nobody is going to be your little hand moving on the page. I think there's something to be said about having confidence in yourself and your lines and knowing that even if you "mess up" when you're drawing, it's actually part of the process, and that's what makes it great. People like to scratch their works of art as if they were scabs, and I try not to do that.

What surprised you when you were working on this book?

What scared me the most was that reading about these different places around the world is how they have been so deeply affected by climate change in many different ways, whether we are talking about the acidification of the oceans, what It is causing the coral reefs to bleach, or the animals in the Alps to be like, "It is not cold enough for it to survive." I have to keep moving forward or migrating more and more to the north. "Or the biggest, which is the fact that our sea levels are rising, we are having more extreme storms, and our ice sheets are melting, droughts are more severe in places that are more prone to drought. I was surprised, per se, but it really shocked me, after people read it, I want people to leave, saying: "Climate change is real. This is a big problem. "

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